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

Jim Lux james.p.lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Tue Nov 20 19:02:24 EST 2007

Quoting Joe Landman <landman at scalableinformatics.com>, on Tue 20 Nov  
2007 02:39:29 PM PST:

> Nathan Moore wrote:
>>     > Nathan,
>>     > I'm sure you'll get lots of very experienced responses but if I may:
>>     > 1. Book. K&RC is the best book ever, on any subject.
>>     > 2. Demographics. It looked to me that engineers were typically
>>     > learning and using C (C++, C with Classes, sometimes Java) more than
>>     > Fortran. I would have expected similar among physicists, but I
>>     > understand that a lot of Fortan is still extant and vital. Also there
>>     > is some convergence, ultimately it won't matter much.
>>    But for solving a problem (as opposed to learning to get a job
>>    programming) what about something like Matlab?  It's procedural, there
>>    are compilers (sort of), and it automatically does stuff with matrices
>>    in sensible ways.
>> No site license for matlab here - I generally have my students couple
> Octave: http://www.gnu.org/software/octave/

Octave is nice, but.... the graphics are MUCH better in Matlab, and  
there's all those toolboxes full of cool stuff (signal processing,  
control systems, maps, etc.)

And, an academic license for Matlab is only $100.  That's less than  
the textbook likely costs.  Granted Matlab isn't quite as cool as the  
symbolic manipulators.  It's sort of like a procedural programming  
language in an interpretive/JITcompile environment with a HUGE and  
useful subroutine library.

I also ran across an interesting Matlab program/application that did  
*symbolic* manipulation of the matrices in linear circuit theory.   
Matlab isn't the most pleasant environment for string manipulation,  
and this was an amazing work of art and craft in many dimensional  
arrays of characters.

> After taking students through the joys of programming, I showed them
> how to do masses with springs on Octave.  What a difference.  As Jim
> Lux noted, you spend less time dealing with the vagaries of the
> language and more time helping them articulate a solution (though this
> particular example is bad in that you have many signs you need to
> correctly and carefully account for ... sign errors are a bear in any
> language)

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