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Thread: Mathematician v.s Physicist

  1. #1 Mathematician v.s Physicist 
    Forum Ph.D. Heinsbergrelatz's Avatar
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    This question has always been lingering in mind, whether mathematicians are better or physicists. I know they are two completely different occupations with different skills, but still the main key is "mathematics" right? Who would be better? Also there is always some tension between mathematicians and physicists,this is so evident that it even exists in our school community. In my school there is a thing between maths teachers and physics teachers, its been like that to almost every school(i think).

    This might be a very biased question, and maybe even stupid, but i would appreciate no criticisms and would enjoy reading your opinions on this matter.


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  3. #2 Re: Mathematician v.s Physicist 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heinsbergrelatz
    This question has always been lingering in mind, whether mathematicians are better or physicists. I know they are two completely different occupations with different skills, but still the main key is "mathematics" right? Who would be better? Also there is always some tension between mathematicians and physicists,this is so evident that it even exists in our school community. In my school there is a thing between maths teachers and physics teachers, its been like that to almost every school(i think).

    This might be a very biased question, and maybe even stupid, but i would appreciate no criticisms and would enjoy reading your opinions on this matter.
    Mathematicians are better at mathematics.

    Physicists are better at physics.

    They are two different things. Mathematics is used in physics, but physicists are interested in different things than are mathematicians. Physicists tend to be rather sloppy with their mathematics. Mathematicians have a higher standard of rigor and of proof. On the other hand experiment is a critical element of physics, while experiment has no role in mathematics.


     

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    Ive recently changed what i want to become when i grow up, and i actually want to be a mathematician. Im sure there are few mathematicians in this forum too, or not.

    Dr rocket, are you a physicist, or a mathematician, or neither?, judging by your active role in the physics and mathematics subforum, you certainly do show knowledge on both these subjects.
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  5. #4  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heinsbergrelatz
    Ive recently changed what i want to become when i grow up, and i actually want to be a mathematician. Im sure there are few mathematicians in this forum too, or not.

    Dr rocket, are you a physicist, or a mathematician, or neither?, judging by your active role in the physics and mathematics subforum, you certainly do show knowledge on both these subjects.
    I am a mathematician, with a specialty in functional analysis and representation theory. But I also have an advanced degree in electrical engineering and quite a bit of experience with a broad range of science and technical issues including some physics, astrodynamics, explosives, etc.

    There is another mathematician who sometimes participates in the forum, although he has been absent for a while -- salsaonline. He is also very strong in physics. River Rat, who seems to participate only infrequently is a either a graduate student or a recent PhD graduate in mathemtics, I think with a specialty in topology.

    You have plenty of time to decide what you want to do. You do not have to decide yet. I suggest that you study both mathematics and physics and make your decision much later. You don't even have to decide for sure until you are in graduate school. I switched even later than that.
     

  6. #5  
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    I am a mathematician, with a specialty in functional analysis and representation theory. But I also have an advanced degree in electrical engineering and quite a bit of experience with a broad range of science and technical issues including some physics, astrodynamics, explosives, etc.

    There is another mathematician who sometimes participates in the forum, although he has been absent for a while -- salsaonline. He is also very strong in physics. River Rat, who seems to participate only infrequently is a either a graduate student or a recent PhD graduate in mathemtics, I think with a specialty in topology.

    You have plenty of time to decide what you want to do. You do not have to decide yet. I suggest that you study both mathematics and physics and make your decision much later. You don't even have to decide for sure until you are in graduate school. I switched even later than that.
    wow...you are a mathematician,you must have spent most of your life studying judging by the fact you have so many areas of specialty.
    How about arcane_mathematcian, do you know him? he seems also to be quite a helper in mathematics too.

    Im currently doing Mathematics HL and physics HL, and they both seem to show incredible amount interest to me. But still mathematics do seem to be my number1 subject,actually the maths im doing at my school now does not satisfy me, so im doing alittle self study to broaden my knowledge in mathematical philosophy and many other techniques.

    For my extended essay im trying to do mathematics, where i will look in to the "Goldbach's conjecture." -though i know it will be pretty tough
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  7. #6  
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    I'm an undergrad wit ha heavy interest in mathematics. I don't have a degree beyond an associates, which just says I went to college for 2 years. I'm still a student, like you, no where near a PhD
    Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools, because they have to say something.
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  8. #7  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heinsbergrelatz
    For my extended essay im trying to do mathematics, where i will look in to the "Goldbach's conjecture." -though i know it will be pretty tough
    You can write about the Goldbach conjecture pretty easily. There are lots of discussions about it to use for material.

    But if you are talking about solving it, that is quite a different matter. That conjecture has been around for over 300 years and has attracted the attention of some really good mathematicians -- without success. If you were to solve it, you could pretty well count on being immediately offered a professorship at any number of excellent universities, and the technique that led you to the solution might well also garner a Fields Medal. This is, to put it mildly, rather unlikely.
     

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    If physicists were better at mathematics than mathematicians, then there wouldn't be much of a reason to pick mathematics as main subject would it? :wink:

    Physicists often have more experience of making approximations and finding symmetries. But when it comes to more rigorous mathematics, proving theorems for example, mathematicians are generally far ahead.
    "Complexity is stupidity disguised as intellect."
     

  10. #9  
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    Quote Originally Posted by jakotaco
    Physicists often have more experience of making approximations and finding symmetries. But when it comes to more rigorous mathematics, proving theorems for example, mathematicians are generally far ahead.
    That depends on the situation . Mathematicians are pretty good at identifying symmetries. In fact the whole notion of gauge symmetries was known to mathematicians in the context of principal fiber bundles many years before they were discovered by physicists.

    Baasically mathematicians and physicists look at mathematics differently. With some notable exceptions (Ed Witten leaps immediately to mind) physicists tend to focus on symbol manipulation, while mathematicians focus on deeper aspects of mathematics and the interplay between the main branches of mathematics -- algebra, analysis, topology and geometry. Mathematicians also have a higher standard of rigor that they require before a statement can be accepted as proved and "true". That standard is what is responsible for the integrity of mathematics, but it can sometimes result in somewhat slower progress on the frontiers of research. On the other hand the mathematics literature can usually be trusted, while one cannot say that for the literature in theoretical physics.
     

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    Generally those who have a strong understanding of advanced physics have an excellent knowledge of mathematics. They need it. I currently have twice as many mathematics modules (which I share with those studying only mathematics) as I have physics modules, despite the fact that I study Theoretical Physics. Mathematics and physics are intricately linked, and so are the titles "mathematician" and "physicist". They each possess a vast quantity of overlapping content, but develop it into somewhat different areas.
     

  12. #11  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yieri
    Generally those who have a strong understanding of advanced physics have an excellent knowledge of mathematics. They need it. I currently have twice as many mathematics modules (which I share with those studying only mathematics) as I have physics modules, despite the fact that I study Theoretical Physics. Mathematics and physics are intricately linked, and so are the titles "mathematician" and "physicist". They each possess a vast quantity of overlapping content, but develop it into somewhat different areas.
    To some extent that is rue. But physicists comonly overestimate their understanding of mathrmatics. This is reflected in the number of mathematical mistatements in physics texts and in the physics literature.
     

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    Studies of physics and studies of mathematics trains quite different skills in mathematics. I have for example been presented a lot more tricky integrals in when studying physics than I have in mathematics. In physics you do lots of calculations. Mathematics encompasses a lot more than calculations that the phycisist may not get to apply in his field.
    "Complexity is stupidity disguised as intellect."
     

  14. #13  
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrRocket
    If you were to solve it, you could pretty well count on being immediately offered a professorship at any number of excellent universities... [t]his is, to put it mildly, rather unlikely.
    Much cheaper than paying for college, though.
     

  15. #14  
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    I've pondered this very question. I recently considered moving into maths from physics but decided against it.

    The mathematical leap would have been to great for me, and on top of that I think I would have found it dull in general, though maths on its own can be interesting.

    So in my opinion Theoretical Physics is better than Mathematics.

    In terms of difficulty I guess it's even Steven.

    Maths is probably the more abstract of the two, but physics is more confusing because the maths means something in reality, so this often leads to bizarre ways of looking at things and to very weird, out of the ordinary results.

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    Oh and with regards to who would be better at maths between a mathematician and a physicist, the answer is mathematician obviously.

    He'd swoop the rug up from under the physicists feet.

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    I would say mathematician's and physicist's are like chicken's and egg's, they are mutually codependent. Without math, physics is just philosophy. Without physics, math is just Sudoku. Imagine GR without either Einstein or Riemann.
     

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    Hmm. It's quiet a difficult question, both of them match to each-other. But I would say Physisict. I say physicist because they use math to give a explanations.. and they make things reality, of what we can't say for Mathematicians. But i'm still in love with both of them.
     

  19. #18  
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    Quote Originally Posted by GiantEvil
    I would say mathematician's and physicist's are like chicken's and egg's, they are mutually codependent. Without math, physics is just philosophy. Without physics, math is just Sudoku. Imagine GR without either Einstein or Riemann.
    While some problems in mathematics arise from physics, that is not true of all mathematical problems. Not by a long shoy. Mathematics is largely independent of physics.

    On the other hand, physics is strongly dependent on mathematics. Physicists also tend to be rather sloppy with their mathematics.

    Your chacterizzation of mathematics without physics reveals profound ignorance of both subjects.
     

  20. #19  
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrRocket
    Quote Originally Posted by GiantEvil
    I would say mathematician's and physicist's are like chicken's and egg's, they are mutually codependent. Without math, physics is just philosophy. Without physics, math is just Sudoku. Imagine GR without either Einstein or Riemann.
    While some problems in mathematics arise from physics, that is not true of all mathematical problems. Not by a long shoy. Mathematics is largely independent of physics.

    On the other hand, physics is strongly dependent on mathematics. Physicists also tend to be rather sloppy with their mathematics.

    Your chacterizzation of mathematics without physics reveals profound ignorance of both subjects.
    Wrong.
     

  21. #20  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ellatha
    Quote Originally Posted by DrRocket
    Quote Originally Posted by GiantEvil
    I would say mathematician's and physicist's are like chicken's and egg's, they are mutually codependent. Without math, physics is just philosophy. Without physics, math is just Sudoku. Imagine GR without either Einstein or Riemann.
    While some problems in mathematics arise from physics, that is not true of all mathematical problems. Not by a long shoy. Mathematics is largely independent of physics.

    On the other hand, physics is strongly dependent on mathematics. Physicists also tend to be rather sloppy with their mathematics.

    Your chacterizzation of mathematics without physics reveals profound ignorance of both subjects.
    Wrong.
    the only issue being is he has credibility where you don't. How is he wrong?
    Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools, because they have to say something.
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  22. #21  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arcane_Mathematician
    Quote Originally Posted by Ellatha
    Quote Originally Posted by DrRocket
    Quote Originally Posted by GiantEvil
    I would say mathematician's and physicist's are like chicken's and egg's, they are mutually codependent. Without math, physics is just philosophy. Without physics, math is just Sudoku. Imagine GR without either Einstein or Riemann.
    While some problems in mathematics arise from physics, that is not true of all mathematical problems. Not by a long shoy. Mathematics is largely independent of physics.

    On the other hand, physics is strongly dependent on mathematics. Physicists also tend to be rather sloppy with their mathematics.

    Your chacterizzation of mathematics without physics reveals profound ignorance of both subjects.
    Wrong.
    the only issue being is he has credibility where you don't. How is he wrong?
    No issue arises because of a piece of paper with someone's name on it; stop sucking up, and pretending you know me.
     

  23. #22  
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    Mod note to all:, Please do NOT use embedded quotes, i.e. quotes of quotes of quotes of..... At best it simply wastes bandwidth, and at worst makes the discussion impossible to follow - who is responding to whom and on what point?

    Ellatha: Any post that is limited to the single word "wrong" is unhelpful in the extreme. If you believe someone to be mistaken (and we all here are from time to time) please explain why you think so.

    Plus your general attitude is not helpful to rational discussion. A little less aggression might be in order. And please don't bother with the "He started it first" routine.
     

  24. #23  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Guitarist
    And please don't bother with the "He started it first" routine
    I'm sure you make this final statement because you are aware that Dr. Rocket has made such posts far more than I ever have. What I'm curious about, however, is why am I warned when I do so once yet very rarely in his case? Although, you're one of the few members that seems to actually acknowledge his ignorance in some instances, as you have noted in the past. One thing that irritates me is when he claims not to recognize the insulting nature of his posts, yet it is very clear that when he first became a member his posts were of a much more friendly nature and changed gradually.
     

  25. #24  
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    Mathematics is largely independent of physics.
    Sir Issac Newton invented what mathematical discipline, before Leibniz did, to solve what physical problem? Early civilization solved the physical problem of "How many herd animals?" with the mathematical application of "one to one" correspondance of calculi(stones). I don't mean to assert a relationship of total codependance, but I still assert a significant codependance.

    Physicists also tend to be rather sloppy with their mathematics.
    If physicists are so sloppy with their mathematics then why does my optically stored media(CD's, DVD's, etc...) perform so reliably?

    Your chacterizzation of mathematics without physics reveals profound ignorance of both subjects.
    Admittedly "Soduku" could be construed as a derogatory chacterizzation, but I meant it "tounge in cheek". I thought I was being fairly democratic with my characterization of physics as philosophy. That statement should make Mr. Feynman roll over in his grave. With all due respect to both fine disciplines I still assert their mutual value and equality.
     

  26. #25  
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    Quote Originally Posted by GiantEvil
    I don't mean to assert a relationship of total codependance, but I still assert a significant codependance.
    That isn't true though. Most of maths has no dependence on physics and hasn't descended from physics.

    Quote Originally Posted by GiantEvil
    If physicists are so sloppy with thir mathematics then why does my optically stored media(CD's, DVD's, etc...) perform so reliably?
    Sloppy does not neccesarily mean wrong. I could wash my dishes and leave them streaky, but that doesnt mean they aren't clean. It is true that physicists are sloppy with mathematics. For the most part they take everything as a given and dont define anything in the rigorous way a mathematician would.

    Go and compare a mathematicians textbook on physics subject and a physicists textbook on the same subject. The mathematics is much more formal in the mathematicians textbook while the physicists textbook will use less formal mathematics and more worded descriptions.

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  27. #26  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ellatha
    Quote Originally Posted by DrRocket
    Quote Originally Posted by GiantEvil
    I would say mathematician's and physicist's are like chicken's and egg's, they are mutually codependent. Without math, physics is just philosophy. Without physics, math is just Sudoku. Imagine GR without either Einstein or Riemann.
    While some problems in mathematics arise from physics, that is not true of all mathematical problems. Not by a long shoy. Mathematics is largely independent of physics.

    On the other hand, physics is strongly dependent on mathematics. Physicists also tend to be rather sloppy with their mathematics.

    Your chacterizzation of mathematics without physics reveals profound ignorance of both subjects.
    Wrong.
    As always you have no idea what you are talking about. As high school fool you have no basis from which to make an informed opinion.
     

  28. #27  
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    Okay, so mathematics can be engaged in without involving physics. But what would a person do with mathematics if they aren't using it to quantify the observed physical relationships that define the existential?
    Is Mr Roger Penrose more of a mathematician or a physicist? If you asked him which discipline he would sacrifice for the sake of the other, what answer would he give? (Of course my apologies to the honorable Mr Penrose for dragging him into this without his permission.)
    I submit that there is no universal quantifier(sloppiness, profound ignorance, better, etc..) that we may apply wholly to either physicists or mathematicians, and in that spirit I engage in the moral cowardice of fence sitting and continue to argue a general equality and value for both disciplines.
     

  29. #28  
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrRocket
    Quote Originally Posted by Ellatha
    Quote Originally Posted by DrRocket
    Quote Originally Posted by GiantEvil
    I would say mathematician's and physicist's are like chicken's and egg's, they are mutually codependent. Without math, physics is just philosophy. Without physics, math is just Sudoku. Imagine GR without either Einstein or Riemann.
    While some problems in mathematics arise from physics, that is not true of all mathematical problems. Not by a long shoy. Mathematics is largely independent of physics.

    On the other hand, physics is strongly dependent on mathematics. Physicists also tend to be rather sloppy with their mathematics.

    Your chacterizzation of mathematics without physics reveals profound ignorance of both subjects.
    Wrong.
    As always you have no idea what you are talking about. As high school fool you have no basis from which to make an informed opinion.
    Wrong, as usual, I already graduated.
     

  30. #29  
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    Sigh I repeat myself; please, please PLEASE do not embed quotes. Is this an unreasonable request?

    PS If my requests as moderator here continue to be ignored, then I may as well cash in my chips. But as long as I have the power, I am locking this ill-tempered thread.

    So there. Boo
     

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