It seems that https://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/3710/field-in-physics-vs-field-in-math was closed by the single vote of a moderator. This is unfortunate. There is an actual question there. While I do agree that it should not be tagged as math-physics it is rather rash to close a question asking for a clarification of terms. This is a question I once asked some of my friends in physics, and I believe I know a decent answer, which I alluded to in the comments.

I also am bothered that this question was confused for a linguistic issue. On other SE sites it is not uncommon to see a question of the form "Are X and X' related? The terminology suggests they are." This is hardly a linguistic issue since people picked the names of X and X'. They possibly did so because they thought that they were related, or know that they are.

Further, I find the closure of such a good faith question by a single moderator who does not seem to understand the question very troubling. It can be seen that the question was closed 5 minutes after it was asked at the same time that the moderator left a comment saying why he was closing it.

I find this situation troubling. I know I haven't been here for a while, maybe I have missed some change in the FAQ.

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    $\begingroup$ As said in comments, some other languages have different words for these terms so there is no particular relation between two. $\endgroup$
    – gigacyan
    Feb 13, 2011 at 20:24
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    $\begingroup$ just because some languages have a distinction does not seem to imply to me that there can be no relation. $\endgroup$ Feb 13, 2011 at 23:17
  • $\begingroup$ just because some languages haven't a distinction does not seem to imply to me that there can be a relation. $\endgroup$
    – Kostya
    Feb 14, 2011 at 11:39
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    $\begingroup$ The point is that the answer to the question is that i don't think there is a relation, but that does not make it a bad question! $\endgroup$ Feb 14, 2011 at 14:05
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    $\begingroup$ Using words is risky with Noldorin around (-; $\endgroup$
    – user68
    Feb 14, 2011 at 21:53
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    $\begingroup$ The Q&A police are on the prowl! Don't let it get ya down. $\endgroup$ Nov 9, 2020 at 14:19

1 Answer 1


I don't find that question very enlightening.

The distinction between a physical field and a mathematical field is the same as the distinction between a physical scalar and a mathematical scalar:

The physics one is alleged to represent something in some sense real, and is assumed to be affected by a set of rules beyond those imposed by mathematics.

But you haven't learned anything there, you've simply described physics.

  • $\begingroup$ This does not seem like you have described a mathematical field. The term field is used frequently in physics to mean something specific: a section of some bundle. The type of field that one is interested in often determines the bundle. Also, what do you mean by physical scalar and mathematical scalar? $\endgroup$ Feb 13, 2011 at 23:20
  • $\begingroup$ I am also confused about those scalars. What do you mean? $\endgroup$
    – Marek
    Feb 16, 2011 at 17:17
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    $\begingroup$ You didnt actually answer the question. The mathematical definition of "field" is according to the field axioms. In physics, we don't usually talk about "field axioms." Instead, we talk about tensors. So making the connection clear and concise would be how to answer this question I think. If it's obvious for you, then it should be easy to write the answer. $\endgroup$ Nov 9, 2020 at 14:21

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