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Foundation Mathematics for the Physical Sciences by K. F. Riley, M. P. Hobson

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2

Preliminary algebra

It is normal practice when starting the mathematical investigation of a physical problem to assign algebraic symbols to the quantity or quantities whose values are sought, either numerically or as explicit algebraic expressions. For the sake of definiteness, in this chapter, our discussion will be in terms of a single quantity, which we will denote by x most of the time. The extension to two or more quantities is straightforward in principle, but usually entails much longer calculations, or a significant increase in complexity when graphical methods are used.

Once the sought-for quantity x has been identified and named, subsequent steps in the analysis involve applying a combination of known laws, consistency conditions ...

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