Programming Physical Problems
Using Mathematica and C
by. Wolfgang Kinzel, Georg Reents
Nowadays the computer is an important tool in physics. The acquisition and analysis of extensive experimental data and the control of complex experiments are hardly imaginable without the use of computers. In theoretical
physics the computer has turned from a mere calculator to a comprehensive tool. Graphical displays, numerical and algebraic solutions of equations, and extensive simulations of microscopic models have become important methods for the exploration of the laws of physics.
The computer, however, is not just a tool, it also offers new perspectives and opens new areas of research. Until recently physicists generally described nature with differential equations; nowadays discrete algorithms are also used.
For some apparently simple physical models there are only numerical answers so far. We know universal laws that any high school student can reproduce on a pocket calculator, for which there is, however, no analytical theory (yet?).
In addition to this, the computer opens up new fields to physics: neural networks, combinatorial optimization, biological evolution, formation of fractal structures, and self-organized criticality are just some of the topics from the growing field of complex systems. (more…)
by: Rubin H. Landau
Professor of Physics Oregon State University
Applying computer technology is simply finding
the right wrench to pound in the correct screw.
This is not the book I thought I’d be writing. When, about a decade ago, I initiated the discussions that led to our Computational Physics course, I thought we would teach mainly physics in it. The Computer Science Department, I
thought, would teach the students what they needed to know about computers, the Mathematics Department would teach them what they needed to know about numerical methods and statistics, and I would teach them what I knew
about applying that knowledge to solve physics problems using computers.
That’s how I thought it would be. But, by and large, I have found that the students taking our Computational Physics course do not carry the subject matter from these other disciplines with them, and so a lot of what I have put into this book is material that, in a more perfect world, would be taught and written by experts in other fields. (more…)