The Connection between Math and Physics


Christina Sng for Maths@Singapore

Many people think that math and physics are closely interlinked, and they are right. But they are also very different in many ways.

In an article published in Penn Today, a central difference is clearly described from the viewpoint of their practitioners:

“For physicists, math is a tool used to answer questions. For example,  Newton invented calculus to help describe motion.

For mathematicians, physics can be a source of inspiration, with theoretical concepts such as general relativity and  quantum theory providing an impetus for mathematicians to develop new tools.“

In terms of how they are practiced, their  research methodologies differ greatly:

“As the systematic study of how matter behaves, physics encompasses the study of both the great and the small, from galaxies and planets to atoms and particles.

Questions are addressed using combinations of theories, experiments, models, and observations to either support or refute new ideas about the nature of the universe.

In contrast, math is focused on abstract topics such as quantity (number theory), structure (algebra), and space (geometry).

Mathematicians look for patterns and develop new ideas and theories using pure logic and mathematical reasoning.

Instead of experiments or observations, mathematicians use proofs to support their ideas.“

In addition, physicists don’t strive for an understanding of abstract mathematics. Instead, they seek answers by working the computations.

On the other hand, mathematicians need to understand everything completely before they do the computations.

Which are you more like? A mathematician or a physicist? Or a bit of both?

Read more on this intriguing topic at https://penntoday.upenn.edu/news/where-math-meets-physics

Thanks to Giammarco @giamboscaro for making this photo available freely on Unsplash