[Beowulf] Teaching Scientific Computation (looking for the perfect text)

Nathan Moore ntmoore at gmail.com
Tue Nov 20 16:23:36 EST 2007


I'll have to check the language reference.  To me, "simple" is something I
can talk about for 20 minutes in class and the students will understand it
completely.

On Nov 20, 2007 2:43 PM, Gerry Creager <gerry.creager at tamu.edu> wrote:

> Ooh!  Flamebait!
>
> Nathan Moore wrote:
> > I regularly teach a college course in a physics department that deals
> > with scientific computation.  After students take the course, I expect
> > that they'll be able to write simple "c-tran" style programs for data
> > analysis, write basic MD or MC simulations, and be fairly fluent in
> > Mathematica.
> >
> > In the past, I figured that with the breadth of topics included in the
> > course, Fortran, specifically the basic, simple, and reliable F77
> > dialect (w/ some F90 conveniences) was the language to teach.  In my own
> > head, my rationale was:
> > - Most students can grasp the basics of fortran in half a day's reading,
> > so I can spend more class time on science and math (probably because
> > there are no pointers - I think that C is much harder for students and
> > sometimes "seems" less like mathematical syntax than f77)
> > - "Classical Fortran" is a great text and is readable for self-study (I
> > know of no such text for C/C++)
> > - several free compilers exist (g95 seems ok so far)
> > - Netlib, lapack, and numerical recipes cover the math library
> adequately
> > - F77 is compiled (Perl/python are too slow for an MD/MC sim and I
> > figure that students should know at least on compiled language and one
> > scripting language to be competent)
> > - MPI is a relatively basic addition to the language (again, no
> > pointers, allocation, or addressing)
> >
> > After reflection though, I've started to wonder about the wisdom of my
> > choice.  Specifically (like RGB), I love the GSL library, and extending
> > GSL to fortran in an intro class is non-trivial.  Additionally, most
> > vendors supply "fast" hardware libraries in C (I may be ignorant, but if
> > a student wants to call an AMD ACML fast-math function(
> > http://developer.amd.com/acml.jsp), or write a linear algebra function
> > to run on a graphics card(http://developer.nvidia.com/object/cuda.html
> > <http://developer.nvidia.com/object/cuda.html>), the vendors seem to
> > assume that you'll write the code in C).
> >
> > Also, and more relevant, I assume that most employers word-associate
> > "Fortran is to backwards as C is to competence".
> >
> > So, I'm thinking about reworking the class to favor C, and fearing 3
> > weeks of pointer and addressing hell.  For those of you who teach
> > scientific computation (and also those of you who hire undergrads), I'd
> > be grateful for your thoughts.  One specific question I have is what
> > text covers scientific programming and touches on MPI using the C
> language.
>
> With the advent of F90 and F95, the ability to call a C/C++ library
> routine became significantly simpler.  That said, it's not ever
> "exactly" simple to port someone else's libs from one language to
> another, but it's not really that hard, either.
>
> In the atmospheric sciences community, well, call us backward, but most
> of our applications are still coded in the arcane language of our
> fathe... er, in Fortran.  Mostly for the reasons you originally cite.
> and, no, they haven't changed.
>
> As for an employer looking for a C-competent programmer over a
> Fortran-competent programmer, well, they'd not get  a great deal if they
> want someone to work with a suite of models in the "wrong" language.
> They should be looking for someone who's able to deal with the language
> of interest... and perhaps to pick up a new language if the new model of
> the day warrants it.
> --
> Gerry Creager -- gerry.creager at tamu.edu
> Texas Mesonet -- AATLT, Texas A&M University
> Cell: 979.229.5301 Office: 979.458.4020 FAX: 979.862.3983
> Office: 1700 Research Parkway Ste 160, TAMU, College Station, TX 77843
>
>


-- 
- - - - - - -   - - - - - - -   - - - - - - -
Nathan Moore
Assistant Professor, Physics
Winona State University
AIM: nmoorewsu
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