# how much further maths comes up in a physics degree?

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Thread starter 8 months ago
#1
I'm considering of not doing FM because idk if i could handle it/ have that much love for maths - just wanted to know how much FM comes in a physics degree because sometimes it may seem like i memorising random formulae ( btw i just finished GCSES).

Any help would be appreciated!
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8 months ago
#2
(Original post by Azimbrook1)
I'm considering of not doing FM because idk if i could handle it/ have that much love for maths - just wanted to know how much FM comes in a physics degree because sometimes it may seem like i memorising random formulae ( btw i just finished GCSES).

Any help would be appreciated!
a lot and it goes well beyond FM so if you dont love maths, physics aint for u at degree level
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Thread starter 8 months ago
#3
(Original post by Physikoi)
a lot and it goes well beyond FM so if you dont love maths, physics aint for u at degree level
I absolutely loved physics at GCSE, and I'm doing it for a level, but I like applying equations in real life situations far more than solving them - I just don't get how something like 'completing the square' at GCSE helps with physics?
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8 months ago
#4
(Original post by Azimbrook1)
I absolutely loved physics at GCSE, and I'm doing it for a level, but I like applying equations in real life situations far more than solving them - I just don't get how something like 'completing the square' at GCSE helps with physics?
what? no one said comleting the square will neccesarily help with physics. If you're inferring pure mathematics does not help with physics, then you're greatly mistaken. Physics at degree level is an extension of further mathematics in a sense
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8 months ago
#5
A close friend of mine did a Physics degree at Oxford. He always describes it as just having done a lot of maths...
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Thread starter 8 months ago
#6
(Original post by Quick-use)
A close friend of mine did a Physics degree at Oxford. He always describes it as just having done a lot of maths...
could I have an example of how something like matrices has anything to do with physics, I think I might get how differentiating and integration in used.
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8 months ago
#7
(Original post by Azimbrook1)
could I have an example of how something like matrices has anything to do with physics, I think I might get how differentiating and integration in used.
matrices and transformation used heavily in different reference points in theory of relativity lol
1
8 months ago
#8
Maybe consider doing something with less maths. Not sure but I assume engineering degrees aren't as maths-heavy as physics(?).
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8 months ago
#9
(Original post by Quick-use)
Maybe consider doing something with less maths. Not sure but I assume engineering degrees aren't as maths-heavy as physics(?).
Engineering is still mostly maths, it's just slightly different things are used more commonly (less integration and linear algebra, more differential equations). That said the further maths-y stuff tends to be a bit less common, and the calculus etc, is a bit more routine, in my experience. Of course I didn't have to do PDEs in any form (evading thermofluids by switching to EE in second year ) so it can vary depending on discipline.

(Original post by Azimbrook1)
I absolutely loved physics at GCSE, and I'm doing it for a level, but I like applying equations in real life situations far more than solving them - I just don't get how something like 'completing the square' at GCSE helps with physics?
Completed square form, as with much of the "pure" maths at GCSE/A-level (which isn't really pure maths, just mathematical methods - the kind of stuff you use constantly in numerate degrees like physics and engineering) can be useful to rewrite something into, because it allows you to simplify something or apply a substitution you couldn't otherwise (or that you could, but you couldn't see as being something you could do).

Another example is, you could have some integral (which come up all the time) and need to use a tangent half-angle substitution (a FM topic) to solve it. Although you probably won't think about the entire process leading up to this, you will need to have learned about trigonometric functions, their identities, integration, and specifically integration by substitution, to be able to apply that to solve a problem. It all ties in together, in the end, even if it doesn't immediately seem applicable (unlike degree level maths, which is generalised abstract nonsense that the mathematicians loathe to allow to be sullied by such things as physical application ).

As above, relativity is all tensors (which aren't actually matrices, but related to them), which uses matrix methods and principles a lot. Quantum mechanics is all matrices (linear algebra is actually pretty fundamental to the structure of quantum theory, and you'll normally learn the matrix formulation of QM sooner or later). Also vector problems (ubiquitous in electromagnetism work, also pretty common in general, although physicists tend to prefer analytical dynamics over vector mechanics at higher levels for standard mechanics stuff) can use linear algebra methods, and linear algebra is in a sense "abstract matrices" (vectors, matrices, and tensors being the same type of mathematical thing, just in different dimensions, essentially).

Matrix methods can also be used (of course) for solving systems of linear equations, which may come up in various ways and forms. Matrix forms are also usually how problems are expressed when you want to use computational methods (computers are very good at matrix computations), e.g. expressing some problem involving differential equations as a matrix problem.

Generally physics at degree level is very different to GCSE, and even A-level. There is a lot less learning formulae, and a lot more learning principles, many of which are mathematical, and then figuring out how they apply to the problem at hand. This is partly just for practical purposes; nobody can memorise every physical equation or formulae, and you'd spend half your life looking them up otherwise, so you just learn a core set of principles and formulae, and then learn how to derive the rest from those.

FM isn't necessary to get onto a physics degree, but you will cover much of the content of FM sooner or later on any physics degree. So while you don't need to do it now, you need be prepared with the eventuality that you will study that material sooner or later. If that's something you can't or won't do, then you may need to rethink your planned degree course. However, you still have all of 6th form to figure things out, and as above FM isn't required for most (if any) physics degrees. You may find the A-level Maths curriculum ignites your interest in maths as a subject unto itself, as well as a tool for other subjects (which is what I found; I thought GCSE Maths was very tedious and uninteresting, and found the A-level content much more engaging).
Last edited by artful_lounger; 8 months ago
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8 months ago
#10
Just finished my first year doing undergrad physics at the University of Leicester.

I found that our Maths 1.1 module was basically a level maths, and the 1.2 module was basically a level further maths.

Doing further maths will help a lot, especially for 2nd year maths.
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Thread starter 8 months ago
#11
(Original post by Physikoi)
a lot and it goes well beyond FM so if you dont love maths, physics aint for u at degree level
so, Ik that alot of FM comes in degree level physics, but what percentage (roughly) of FM topics come up?

also, I'm planning to do Physics maths and FM, is that a good combo?- as I don't enjoy anything else
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8 months ago
#12
(Original post by Azimbrook1)
so, Ik that alot of FM comes in degree level physics, but what percentage (roughly) of FM topics come up?

also, I'm planning to do Physics maths and FM, is that a good combo?- as I don't enjoy anything else
not sure what percentage mate i dont do a physics degree, im doing it at a level now.

Thats the perfect combo for physics, I do the same + econ so its a good choice.
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8 months ago
#13
(Original post by Azimbrook1)
so, Ik that alot of FM comes in degree level physics, but what percentage (roughly) of FM topics come up?

also, I'm planning to do Physics maths and FM, is that a good combo?- as I don't enjoy anything else
Looking at the AQA syllabus (I assume the others will be somewhat similar), it has the following topics:

• A: Proof ; you won't directly be proving things in physics, although some of the reasoning associated may be used
• B: Complex numbers ; ubiquitous in anything involving QM, might come up in relation to electronics stuff, so you'll cover all this
• C: Matrices ; crop up everywhere, so you'll cover this
• D: Further algebra and functions ; series, moduli, graph transformations, and inequalities are all fairly standard fare. The stuff on polynomials maybe not so much
• E: Further calculus ; all of this will be covered, and used, frequently
• F: Further vectors ; you'll learn and use all of this (even intersections of lines and planes, relevant to crystallography/condensed matter stuff)
• G: Polar coordinates ; essential, you'll frequently be using polar/cylindrical/spherical coordinate transformations for particular problems (or to simplify things)
• H: Hyperbolic functions ; I don't think these come up as much, but you'll probably learn them in the degree (but maybe never use them)
• I: Differential equations ; you'll cover all of this, especially SHM. "Everything is SHM" was a running joke among my physics friends
• J: Numerical methods ; you'll probably cover this (at least to some extent), and it might be very relevant to computational projects (but maybe less so otherwise)

So basically, every topic will be taught sooner or later in a degree in physics except maybe proof (still often covered briefly as I can tell), and all will be used to some extent (many to a very large extent).

Physics/Maths/FM is a perfectly fine combination if you're confident in those subjects. It's one of the more common combinations taken by physics applicants, especially for those applying to Oxbridge and Imperial. It's also probably the most relevant combination you could take.
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