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Mathematical Methods for Physicists: A Comprehensive Guide Hardcover – Jun 21 2005

3.0 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Jun 21 2005
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1200 pages
  • Publisher: Academic Press; 6 edition (June 21 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0120598760
  • ISBN-13: 978-0120598762
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 19.6 x 7.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 717 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #789,519 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"As to a comparison with other books of the same ilk, well, in all honesty, there are none. No other text on methods of mathematical physics is as comprehensive and as complete...I encourage the students to keep their copies as they will need it and will find it an invaluable reference resource in later studies and research."
- Tristan Hubsch, Howard University

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I had used Arfken as my source text for the mathematical physics option of the first year undergraduate physics course at Oxford back in 1990. For this purpose at least, the text had seemed perfect. It covered all of the required mathematical techniques (only the chapters on Group Theory, Integral Equations, and Nonlinear Methods were unnecessary) at just the right (i.e. rather fast) pace and with just the right amount of detail. The exercises were chosen well to ensure that underlying concepts became vividly engraved into ones mind and provided fine preparation for the examinations ahead. I should confess to having thoroughly enjoyed working through the algebraic-manipulation-filled exercises in Chapters 9 (Sturm-Louiville Theory) through 13 (Special Functions) - which perhaps says something about the kind of people who might enjoy this book.
The conciseness of the text (which is the reason it has been possible to cover so much ground) is probably most useful only to students of well-above-average mathematical ability, and may provide insufficient support to those who find themselves struggling with the concepts introduced. Nevertheless, more able students can expect rapidly to become proficient in tackling the kinds of problems which arise in mathematical physics and engineering in later life.
I give the book five stars as I still have great fondness for it from my undergraduate days, and continue to refer to it (and indeed to refer my students to it) today for the vast array of useful mathematical techniques which it covers. While it may not be the best book for those who find mathematics a chore, it should be a delight for those with a natural flair for the subject and with a mathematical physics bent.
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Format: Hardcover
The best thing that can be said about this book is that it reads like some kind of encyclopedia of physics math ( and not a complete one at that). There is a lot here but the author is another one of those who believes the student is best served by working it out for himself. That may be true but it is also the easy way out for textbook writers and teachers. Also, the course should at least be set up so that the student can find out the correct answer. My experience is that the mathematical physics courses that use this book are not. At the time this book first came out there was no other suitable book. That, unfortunately, is how so many of the physics texts become classics, not by being useful or good. Also, the treatment is mostly of very classical mathematical physics. I pity the student who attempts to get a good background in group theory from this book for use in GR or particle theory. Better books exist nowadays partly as a reaction to this book. Find one you like and use it.
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Format: Hardcover
Arfken's book is not meant for anyone who has his mind set on theoretical physics, be it superstrings or quantum chaos or anything of the sort, simply because of its use of the old methods of vector calculus (and its brother, tensor calculus). Instead of discussing differential forms, lie groups, differentiable manifolds and things of theoretical interest, he spends hundreds of pages on all sorts of odd equations which you'll probably never run into during your lifetime except in a course on mathematical physics. Perhaps engineers might adopt a different view, since they tend to deal more with differential equations - I'm talking from the theoretical perspective. I would recommend Hassani's book instead of Arfken's for these matters. Make sure you check it out before you decide on buying Arfken's book!
I will not deny it has its value as a reference, but even as such it also has its faults -many results are not demonstrated or even stated in the text, and are left as exercises for the reader. If this is supposed to be a reference, where are the results???
Another problem this book has is that it lacks any sort of unifying theme, e.g., recasting mathematical physics using exterior calculus, or using vector spaces. Again, this might be a good thing when using it as a reference, but then again, I already mentioned it stinks as a reference as well. There are many books out there that summarize neatly the properties of all of the special functions you'll need in your lifetime.
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Format: Hardcover
I've tried to use Arfken's book for learning new mathematical concepts. For this it is totally useless. There are only few examples, and they are not very informative. Important theorems are sometimes only quickly mentioned, some are only implicitly suggested. And the exercises seem to expect a whole lot more mathematical knowledge than the text gives. Of course there are no answers to most of the exercises.
Especially undergraduates (at least not the very brilliant ones like me) should really, REALLY get themselves some other book. Try related titles from Schaum's Outline series, for example.
However, I've also used this book later on as a reference text when I've forgotten some concept that I had already learned earlier. For this purpose Arfken is ok. Usually you find the information you are looking for quickly and find a formula or two you can use.
But all things considered it really isn't worth the money. Arfken is a terrible example of the way text books should not be written.
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