Computer Applications for Scientists

Physics 381

 


Descriptions

Organization

Requirements

Course Web Site


Descriptions

This course is an introduction to computer programming applications, numerical problem solving, and data analysis for the physical sciences. Currently, it is by means of a computer that numerical problems are solved, and numerical data is analyzed. Solving new problems, or analyzing new data requires the development or the modification of a computer program. This course will introduce the techniques required to solve such problems.

Historically, this course has been a FORTRAN course. While FORTRAN continues to be one of the finest computer languages for analyzing numerical data or developing numerical simulations, there are now available some analysis systems that, at least for simple problems, provide easier approaches to solutions. These newer analysis systems are also more commonly available and are far less expensive than FORTRAN compilers. These newer analysis systems generally require the same mental processes of the developer as those required of a FORTRAN developer. That is, even these newer systems require that a computer "program" be developed. A computer program, after all, is simply a set of computer instructions that will achieve a desired result.

Since the primary goal of this course is to provide exposure to and experience with computer systems that can solve numerical problems and analyze numerical data, this course will introduce several such systems. For each system, students will develop procedures to solve problems, simulate physical situations, or analyze numerical data. That is, students will develop computer "programs" for these systems.

The systems to be covered that can solve numerical problems and analyze numerical data will include:

We will introduce each of these systems and have assignments and problems to solve using each system. In addition, each student will be required to develop a semester computer project which uses one or more of these systems. The semester projects should be based on a topic that is of special interest to you. Projects may be developed by individuals or by teams. Projects may be developed in conjunction with other courses, or with other faculty and researchers.

We will also cover:

The numerical techniques used as examples will be chosen from:

  • Interpolation
  • Systems of linear equations
  • Curve fitting
  • Transendential equations
  • Numerical differentiation and integration
  • Differential equations

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Organization

The lecture time will generaly be devoted to the presentation of one or more new concepts, topics, or applications. We will also cover problem solving techniques and have time for questions and answers. The lab time will be devoted to demonstrations, but will primarily be time for you to work on assignments and projects for the course. All class participants are encouraged and expected to share with the class special discoveries about our computer systems, the languages and development environments we will cover, and any special programming techniques.

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Requirements

This is a "doing" course since "doing it" is the only reasonable way to learn how to construct programs and to solve numerical problems using computers. You will be evaluated on the basis of the programs and applications that you develop! The evaluations will consider both the correctness of your results plus the techniques and style utilized to obtain your results. There will be more-or-less weekly programming assignments and a semester computer project that you will develop. The semester project will have substantial weight in the determination of your final course grade. The final exam will be a 5-10 minute oral presentation of your semester computer project to the class.

There will be no exams except for the final exam. There are no formal textbooks, but it is expected that individuals may wish to purchase documentation for one or more of the software systems we will be considering. Alternatively, students may wish to purchase books which cover numerical analysis, or books related to the selected semester projects. The instructor will provide recommendations for various guides, manuals, and texts that would be useful for reference purposes.

Each student will be expected to have a personal copy of Microsoft Office (which includes Excel). Current versions of this software are available for free to students enrolled at any CSU campus.

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Course Web Site

All the materials and information for this course will be available from the course web site. This material includes details about the assignments and projects, resource materials, documentation for software systems, plus course notes.

The course web site will also be used for posting results of assignments and projects for review and comment by the instructor and by class participants. Standard online communication tools such as private email, bulletin boards, and chat will also be available.

The URL for the course web site is...

http://webct.sonoma.edu:8900/public/Phys381/index.html

 

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ggs
Jan 2000