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Basics
Basics
of Computational Physics
of Computational Physics
±
What is Computational Physics?
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Basic computer hardware
±
Software 1: operating systems
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Software 2: Programming languages
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Software 3: Problemsolving environment
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What does Computational Physics do?
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Atomic Physics studies atoms
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Nuclear Physics studies nuclei
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Plasma Physics studies plasmas
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Solid State Physics studies solids
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Computational physics does not
study
computers
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Journalist’s questions
Journalists check the coverage of their stories by
making sure
that they answer six questions –
What? When? Where? Who? How? Why?
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What is Computational Physics?
“Computational physics is a synthesis of
theoretical analysis, numerical algorithms, and
computer programming.”
P. L. DeVries Am. J. Phys., vol. 64, 364 (1996)
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What is Computational Physics?
Computational physics is a tool for solving
complex numerical problems in physics
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+
=
+
=
few analytically
solvable problems
solutions to very
many problems
Example: university physics courses
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Why do we need computational physics?
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In physics we answer how nature works.
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Quite often we need equations
(
unless you are a poet or a philosopher
)
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Using equations we create models to describe
nature
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Exact (analytic) solutions are very rare unless
a model is a very simple one
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We need computational physics when
– we cannot solve problems analytically
– we have too much data to process
Many, if not the most, problems in contemporary
physics could never be solved without computers
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Computational physics in contemporary physics
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Numerical calculations:
solutions of well defined
mathematical problems to produce numerical solutions
Examples: systems of differential equations, integration,
systems of linear equations, …
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 Fall '09
 Godunov
 Physics, Computational Physics

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