Many of us who studied physics as undergraduates were encouraged to take a course in mathematical methods. The one I took, at MIT, was called Advanced Calculus for Application and was taught by Francis Hildebrand using his textbook of the same title (Prentice-Hall, 1962). Here we first probed the mysterious Bessel and Legendre functions, learned to steer integration paths around the complex plane, and learned to transform x to k (and t to omega) and back again with abandon. We all found this stuff rather mysterious and intimidating. Oddly, I used rather little of it in subsequent physics courses (which...

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