Mathematical Methods for Physics and Engineering: A Comprehensive Guide 3rd Edition
Book Preface
As is natural, in the four years since the publication of the second edition of this book we have somewhat modified our views on what should be included and how it should be presented. In this new edition, although the range of topics covered has been extended, there has been no significant shift in the general level of difficulty or in the degree of mathematical sophistication required. Further, we have aimed to preserve the same style of presentation as seems to have been well received in the first two editions. However, a significant change has been made to the format of the chapters, specifically to the way that the exercises, together with their hints and answers, have been treated; the details of the change are explained below.
The two major chapters that are new in this third edition are those dealing with ‘special functions’ and the applications of complex variables. The former presents a systematic account of those functions that appear to have arisen in a more or less haphazard way as a result of studying particular physical situations, and are deemed ‘special’ for that reason. The treatment presented here shows that, in fact, they are nearly all particular cases of the hypergeometric or confluent hypergeometric functions, and are special only in the sense that the parameters of the relevant function take simple or related values. The second new chapter describes how the properties of complex variables can be used to tackle problems arising from the description of physical situations or from other seemingly unrelated areas of mathematics. To topics treated in earlier editions, such as the solution of Laplace’s equation in two dimensions, the summation of series, the location of zeros of polynomials and the calculation of inverse Laplace transforms, has been added new material covering Airy integrals, saddlepoint methods for contour integral evaluation, and the WKB approach to asymptotic forms.
Other new material includes a standalone chapter on the use of coordinatefree operators to establish valuable results in the field of quantum mechanics; amongst the physical topics covered are angular momentum and uncertainty principles. There are also significant additions to the treatment of numerical integration. In particular, Gaussian quadrature based on Legendre, Laguerre, Hermite and Chebyshev polynomials is discussed, and appropriate tables of points and weights are provided.
We now turn to the most obvious change to the format of the book, namely the way that the exercises, hints and answers are treated. The second edition of Mathematical Methods for Physics and Engineering carried more than twice as many exercises, based on its various chapters, as did the first. In its preface we discussed the general question of how such exercises should be treated but, in the end, decided to provide hints and outline answers to all problems, as in the first edition. This decision was an uneasy one as, on the one hand, it did not allow the exercises to be set as totally unaided homework that could be used for assessment purposes but, on the other, it did not give a full explanation of how to tackle a problem when a student needed explicit guidance or a model answer. In order to allow both of these educationally desirable goals to be achieved, we have, in this third edition, completely changed the way in which this matter is handled. A large number of exercises have been included in the penultimate subsections of the appropriate, sometimes reorganised, chapters. Hints and outline answers are given, as previously, in the final subsections, but only for the oddnumbered exercises. This leaves all evennumbered exercises free to be set as unaided homework, as described below.
For the four hundred plus oddnumbered exercises, complete solutions are available, to both students and their teachers, in the form of a separate manual, Student Solutions Manual for Mathematical Methods for Physics and Engineering (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006); the hints and outline answers given in this main text are brief summaries of the model answers given in the manual. There, each original exercise is reproduced and followed by a fully worked solution. For those original exercises that make internal reference to this text or to other (evennumbered) exercises not included in the solutions manual, the questions have been reworded, usually by including additional information, so that the questions can stand alone.
In many cases, the solution given in the manual is even fuller than one that might be expected of a good student that has understood the material. This is because we have aimed to make the solutions instructional as well as utilitarian. To this end, we have included comments that are intended to show how the plan for the solution is fomulated and have given the justifications for particular intermediate steps (something not always done, even by the best of students). We have also tried to write each individual substituted formula in the form that best indicates how it was obtained, before simplifying it at the next or a subsequent stage. Where several lines of algebraic manipulation or calculus are needed to obtain a final result, they are normally included in full; this should enable the student to determine whether an incorrect answer is due to a misunderstanding of principles or to a technical error.
The remaining four hundred or so evennumbered exercises have no hints or answers, outlined or detailed, available for general access. They can therefore be used by instructors as a basis for setting unaided homework. Full solutions to these exercises, in the same general format as those appearing in the manual (though they may contain references to the main text or to other exercises), are
available without charge to accredited teachers as downloadable pdf files on the passwordprotected website http://www.cambridge.org/9780521679718. Teachers wishing to have access to the website should contact [email protected] for registration details.
In all new publications, errors and typographical mistakes are virtually unavoidable, and we would be grateful to any reader who brings instances to our attention. Retrospectively, we would like to record our thanks to Reinhard Gerndt, Paul Renteln and Joe Tenn for making us aware of some errors in the second edition. Finally, we are extremely grateful to Dave Green for his considerable and continuing advice concerning LATEX.
Ken Riley, Michael Hobson,
Cambridge, 2006
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December 16, 2018 
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