This is not the book I thought I’d be writing. When, about a decade ago, I initiated the
discussions that led to our Computational Physics course, I thought we would teach mainly
physics in it. The Computer Science Department, I thought, would teach the students what they
needed to know about computers, the Mathematics Department would teach them what they
needed to know about numerical methods and statistics, and I would teach them what I knew
about applying that knowledge to solve physics problems using computers. That’s how I thought
it would be. But, by and large, I have found that the students taking our Computational Physics
course do not carry the subject matter from these other disciplines with them, and so a lot of
what I have put into this book is material that, in a more perfect world, would be taught and
written by experts in other fields.
While that is why I feel this is not the book I thought I would be writing, I believe it’s
probably for the better. On the one hand, having a basic research physicist tell students they
need to know “this” in computer science and “that” in mathematics, gets the message across
that “this stuff really matters.” On the other hand, it’s useful to have the physics, mathematics,
and computer science concepts conveyed in the language of a natural scientist and within the
context of solving a problem scientifically. |