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Physics by Computer

Programming Physical Problems
Using Mathematica and C

by. Wolfgang Kinzel, Georg Reents

Preface
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…)