Physics 231: Methods of Theoretical Physics (Fall 2018, UC Riverside)

View the Project on GitHub Tanedo/Physics231-2018

Methods of Theoretical Physics

Physics 231, Fall 2018
Prof. Flip Tanedo; office hours by appt.
TA. Ian Chaffey; office hours Tue 1-3pm (Physics 3004S)


Please see the schedule of meetings below.

Note that there will be no meeting on the following days:

Course Description

This is a crash course in (a) mathematical methods for physics and (b) necessary science communication for your Ph.D. The topics are selected to be useful in your graduate coursework and research. This is not a mathematics course, it is boot camp for physicists.


There is no required textbook, though I particularly like Mathematics for Physics & Physicists by Appel (ISBN: 9780691131023).

I strongly recommended that you have access to at least one general “math methods for physicists” reference. If you have a favorite one from undergrad, you may use that (e.g. Arfken & Weber or Boas). The book by Byron and Fuller is a solid choice and is inexpensive as a Dover edition. You can also find many free digital references through the UCR library.

If you find references that you really like, please feel free to e-mail me to share them. (Bonus: make a GitHub pull request to add it to the list.)

It may be useful to refer to last year’s course notes. The 2016 version if this course was more [differential] geometric, though also more prone to have errors.


  1. Short Homework due Wed, Oct 3: dimensional analysis
    Long homework due Mon, Oct 15: linear algebra

  2. Short Homework due Wed, Oct 17: Green’s Function Primer
    Long homework due Mon, Oct 29: What’s a Green’s Function

  3. Short Homework due Wed, Oct 31: Analytic Functions are Too Nice
    Long homework due Mon, Nov 12: Complex Analysis

Talk Schedule

Topics to be assigned and discussed in our meetings. The order was determined using and then the undergrads were rearranged to talk first. Suggested topics are listed.


Five homework assignments (two parts each) will be assigned every other Monday. These will consist of a short homework (5 points, due the following Wednesday) and a long homework (20+ points, due in 2 weeks).

In addition, each students will give one five minute talk (25 points) over the course of the quarter. Periodic in-class assessments in the form of index cards (1 point) will help me tailor the course trajectory as we go. There will be no exams.

I strongly encourage you to work together. Please abide by the UCR Academic Integrity Policies.

“Lecture” Notes

These notes are provided as is and may have errors. They also do not include the questions and discussions from class. The most meaningful parts of this class (like grad school as a whole) will be unscripted.