PHYS 140: Computational Methods in Physics, Fall 2013

Time: Tuesday, 1:30-5:20pm; Thursday, 1:30-2:20pm

Location: Incubator Classroom, Clark 111

Supplemental URL:


This course provides an introduction to traditional numerical analysis techniques in the
context of a modern computational environment for physicists. The primary emphasis is
on learning to program with Python, and on computer-driven communication and
problem solving in general, including use of Unix and LaTeX.

This semester the course meets in the Incubator Classroom, which provides a state-of-the-art technology-assisted, flexible learning environment, with facilities such as screensharing, multiple projectors, smart boards, and lecture capture. For further information, see

Prerequisites include the calculus-based introductory physics sequence. Linear algebra
and ordinary differential equations are strongly recommended.

Course Goals and Learning Outcomes

The critical goals of this course are to (1) gain basic competency with a widely used
computer language, Python, for both general and scientific programming, (2) understand
and apply fundamental numerical analysis methods used by physicists, (3) become
familiar with other standard scientific software tools, and (4) improve skills in scientific

After this course, the students will (1) be capable of writing a Python program to solve a
research problem, (2) be able to recognize basic numerical problems and program
solutions for them, (3) be able to navigate basic Unix commands, and (4) produce
scientific reports with LaTeX.

Syllabus available here.