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Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences 3rd Edition



Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences 3rd Edition

Author: Mary L. Boas

Publisher: Wiley

Genres:

Publish Date: July 22, 2005

ISBN-10: 9780471198260

Pages: 864

File Type: PDF

Language: English

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Book Preface

This book is particularly intended for the student with a year (or a year and a half) of calculus who wants to develop, in a short time, a basic competence in each of the many areas of mathematics needed in junior to senior-graduate courses in physics, chemistry, and engineering. Thus it is intended to be accessible to sophomores (or freshmen with AP calculus from high school). It may also be used effectively by a more advanced student to review half-forgotten topics or learn new ones, either by independent study or in a class. Although the book was written especially for students of the physical sciences, students in any field (say mathematics or mathematics for teaching) may find it useful to survey many topics or to obtain some knowledge of areas they do not have time to study in depth. Since theorems are stated carefully, such students should not need to unlearn anything in their later work.

The question of proper mathematical training for students in the physical sciences is of concern to both mathematicians and those who use mathematics in applications. Some instructors may feel that if students are going to study mathematics at all, they should study it in careful and thorough detail. For the undergraduate physics, chemistry, or engineering student, this means either (1) learning more mathematics than a mathematics major or (2) learning a few areas of mathematics thoroughly and the others only from snatches in science courses. The second alternative is often advocated; let me say why I think it is unsatisfactory. It is certainly true that motivation is increased by the immediate application of a mathematical technique, but there are a number of disadvantages:

1. The discussion of the mathematics is apt to be sketchy since that is not the primary concern.
2. Students are faced simultaneously with learning a new mathematical method and applying it to an area of science that is also new to them. Frequently the difficulty in comprehending the new scientific area lies more in the distraction caused by poorly understood mathematics than it does in the new scientific ideas.
3. Students may meet what is actually the same mathematical principle in two different science courses without recognizing the connection, or even learn apparently contradictory theorems in the two courses! For example, in thermodynamics students learn that the integral of an exact differential around a closed path is always zero. In electricity or hydrodynamics, they run into 2π 0 dθ, which is certainly the integral of an exact differential around a closed path but is not equal to zero!

Now it would be fine if every science student could take the separate mathematics courses in differential equations (ordinary and partial), advanced calculus, linear algebra, vector and tensor analysis, complex variables, Fourier series, probability, calculus of variations, special functions, and so on. However, most science students have neither the time nor the inclination to study that much mathematics, yet they are constantly hampered in their science courses for lack of the basic techniques of these subjects. It is the intent of this book to give these students enough background in each of the needed areas so that they can cope successfully with junior, senior, and beginning graduate courses in the physical sciences. I hope, also, that some students will be sufficiently intrigued by one or more of the fields of mathematics to pursue it futher.

It is clear that something must be omitted if somany topics are to be compressed into one course. I believe that two things can be left out without serious harm at this stage of a student’s work: generality, and detailed proofs. Stating and proving a theorem in its most general form is important to the mathematician and to the advanced student, but it is often unnecessary and may be confusing to the more elementary student. This is not in the least to say that science students have no use for careful mathematics. Scientists, even more than pure mathematicians, need careful statements of the limits of applicability of mathematical processes so that they can use them with confidence without having to supply proof of their validity. Consequently I have endeavored to give accurate statements of the needed theorems, although often for special cases or without proof. Interested students can easily find more detail in textbooks in the special fields.


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