Physics 785: Theoretical Physics.

Dr. Susan Lea

 Tu Th  12:30 pm-13:45 pm
Room: TH 425

Note:  Please check all the links in this document:  they refer to important information.

e-mail me your questions and I'll post the answers here:

 Questions and Answers

Required Text: Mathematics for Physicists. Susan Lea
Available from me as PDF if you cannot find it on line somewhere.
Optional Text: Physics: the nature of things.  Susan Lea and John Burke, Brooks/Cole Publishing Co or The Feynman Lectures on Physics

Mathematics is the language of Physics, and in this course we shall learn some of that language. The course will be an overview of some of the more commonly used techniques of theoretical physics. Emphasis will be on application of the techniques rather than the rigorous mathematical foundation.  More than that, I hope you will learn how to write a complete solution to a problem, formulating your arguments clearly and concisely.

Learning objectives:
After successfully completing this course you should be able to:

Identify the appropriate mathematical tools needed to solve a given physics problem.
Execute the required mathematical steps accurately.
Use appropriate numerical tools both in computation and in display of results.
Correctly formulate logical arguments.
Perform a thorough analysis of the result, including understanding how physics principles effect the evolution of the system under study.
Produce a clear discussion of both the physics of the system and the methods used to solve the problem.

Graduate students should produce solutions with more elegance and completeness than is expected for undergraduate students.  Graduate students should go beyond the explicit requirements of each problem, to investigate and explore the problem in detail.

Course procedures
We shall cover chapters 1 through 8 of the text, and additional topics as time permits. We shall look at applications in electromagnetic theory, mechanical waves, heat flow, etc. The class reading listed in the class schedule must be completed prior to each class. We will be solving problems in class that require this knowledge. There will be a quiz on the reading at the beginning of each class, so read thoroughly! Work through all the examples. Homework will also be assigned weekly. You are urged to discuss the problems among yourselves and with me. But please get them done! The only way to become comfortable with the material is through practice. I am looking for an honest effort, with a growth in capability throughout the semester. You are not required to get everything right at the first attempt. I shall not accept late homework except in the case of illness or similar circumstances. 

Use of any solution sets of any kind and from any source is strictly forbidden!  Your work must be your own. Please review the department's plagiarism policy.

Grading will be based on class participation (20%), homework exercises (15%), a mid-term (closed book, in class - 20%), project (5%) and an in-class plus a take home final examination (40%). In problems I am looking for a clear discussion of the issues and an accurate computation.  Details.  Your discussion should be clear, complete, yet concise.  Avoid  superfluous or counterproductive phrases!  Here is a partial list of things to avoid.

Please talk to me early in the semester to be sure you understand all class requirements.  Check my office hours and plan to attend regularly.

If you do not already have one, talk to me about getting a department computer account. Some of the problems require numerical computation and/or graphics.

If you choose to use a computer typesetting program to do your assignments, you are responsible for proper formatting, line breaks and so on as well as including necessary diagrams.  Since the purpose of this class is to learn mathematical technique, computer programs and published tables are not to be used to do integrals, sum sums, or especially to do algebra.

Text: Mathematics for Physicists. Susan M. Lea

Prerequisites: Physics 360 or consent of instructor.

Co-requisites: Concurrent registration in, or completion of, Physics 460 is required.

Additional reference materials:

See the bibliography in the text.

Lea and Burke Physics: the nature of things Good review of all the basic physics.

Butkov: Mathematical physics.  Previous text for this course

Apostol:Analysis. If you have never had a course in real or complex analysis, I recommend that you buy this book and read it carefully and thoroughly.

Margenau and Murphy: The Mathematics of Physics and Chemistry. Old but good

Mathews and Walker. Written as the text for this course at Caltech.

Courant and Hilbert: Reference work that has everything, but it's heavy going. 2 volumes.

Morse and Feshback: Methods of Theoretical Physics. See comments above.  I prefer this book.

Jeffreys and Jeffreys. Methods of Mathematical Physics - dots the i's and crosses the t's. You may enjoy the quotes that start each chapter.

Arfken and Weber.  .It's all in there, but the organization can be hard to follow sometimes.

Schaum's Outlines has texts on both Fourier and Laplace transforms. Good for extra examples.

Boas This text is at a slightly lower level.

Pages 31-49 in this newsletter give a good summary of scientific writing dos and don'ts.

There are many other useful texts with similar titles.

Class Schedule for Fall 2019

Office hours

Errata in text

Students with disabilities who need reasonable accommodations are encouraged to contact the instructor.  The Disability Programs and Resource Center (DPRC) is available to facilitate the reasonable accommodations process.  The DPRC is located in the Student Services Building and can be reached by telephone (voice/TTY 415-338-2472) or by email (