Course Information

PH561 – Mathematical Physics - Fall 2012

Instructor: Ethan Minot, Weniger 417

Class times: MWF 11:00-11:50am, Weniger 201

Course credits: 3

Office hours: Thursday 2-4pm

Additional office hours: Justyna Zwolak, Weniger 309, Wednesday 2-3pm.


  • “Mathematical Physics” by Eugene Butkov.
  • “Street-Fighting Mathematics”, a free textbook by Sanjoy Mahajan

Useful complements to Butkov:

  • “Mathematical Methods for Physics and Engineering” by Riley, Hobson & Bence, 3rd Edition.
  • “Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences” by Mary L. Boas, 3rd Edition.


New graduate students enter with a variety of mathematical backgrounds. Not everybody comes direct out of college. The goal of this course is to get you thinking about mathematics again, but in the context of skills needed for graduate school.

The goals of this course are:

  • To become familiar with some mathematical techniques used in the graduate classes.
  • To understand the background and context of these mathematical methods, and to know when they apply and when not.
  • To analyze models in physics and relate to mathematical methods.
  • To learn to use computer tools for quick numerical calculations.

Course Work:

  • Homework should be turned on the day it is due. The solutions will be posted promptly, after which homework is considered late. If your homework is late, I may grade it if you have an acceptable excuse. You will receive fewer points, though. I will be dropping your lowest homework score. This allows you to skip one homework without any penalty. Many people will have a week where too many things are getting in the way of homework. The “drop-one-homework-score” policy is meant to give you some flexibility.
  • This is a mathematical physics class, and homework solutions should be presented in analytical form, and not be obtained from packages like Maple, unless stated differently. Of course, those packages are very important, and I would certainly use them to check your answers.
  • Science is inherently a social and collaborative effort, each scientist building on the work of others. Nevertheless, each student must ultimately be responsible for his or her own education. Therefore, you will be expected to abide by a number of ground rules.
  1. We strongly encourage students to work with each other, more advanced students, and the professor, when they get stuck on assignments (including computer work). Each student, however, is expected to turn in assignments that have been independently written up (unless instructed differently). In other words, the final synthesis must be entirely your own. This applies also to, and especially to, computer generated worksheets. If you work with someone on a computer project, do not get locked in to writing the solution together. You will end up turning in the same assignment.
  2. Sources must be appropriately documented. If you find a homework problem worked out somewhere (other than homework solutions from previous years), you may certainly use that resource, just make sure you reference it properly. If someone else helps you solve a problem, reference that too. In a research paper, the appropriate reference would be Jane Doe, (private communication).
  3. Plagiarism – representing someone else's work as your own – is unethical, but collaboration and exchange of ideas is healthy. You can avoid collaborative efforts taking on the look of plagiarism by acknowledging sources and by writing up your work independently.
  4. If you find that you have worked on a problem for an hour without making any progress, it would be a good idea to stop and seek help.

Course Evaluation:

50% Homeworks and reading assignments

50% final

Students with Special Needs:

Students with documented disabilities who may need accommodations, who have any emergency medical information which the instructor should know of, or who need special arrangements in the event of evacuation, should make an appointment with the instructor as early as possible, no later than the second week of the term. The official university policy is as follows. Accommodations are collaborative efforts between students, faculty and Disability Access Services (DAS). Students with accommodations approved through DAS are responsible for contacting the faculty member in charge of the course prior to or during the first week of the term to discuss accommodations. Students who believe they are eligible for accommodations but who have not yet obtained approval through DAS should contact DAS immediately at 737-4098.

Academic Integrity:

You will be expected to conduct yourself in a professional manner. Academic dishonesty such as plagiarism and cheating will not be tolerated. Therefore, students are expected to be honest and ethical in their academic work. Academic dishonesty is defined as an intentional act of deception in areas including the following:

  • cheating- use or attempted use of unauthorized materials,
  • fabrication- falsification or invention of any information,
  • assisting- helping another commit an act of academic dishonesty,
  • tampering- altering or interfering with evaluation instruments and documents,
  • plagiarism- representing the words or ideas of another person as one's own.

For more information about academic integrity and the University's policies and procedures in this area, please refer to the Student Conduct web site at: and the section on Academic Regulations in the OSU Schedule of Classes.

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