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

Peter St. John peter.st.john at gmail.com
Tue Nov 20 13:56:03 PST 2007

Jim, Nathan,

> 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.
I can't speak to symbolic packages. I've touched MACSYMA and Maple,
but I write so much C I think that way now more than as a chalk-dust

> > 3. Pedagogy. When computational efficiency is important, the
> > distinctions bettween sending data, and sending references to data, is
> > real important. I think it can be made vivid, early; what's the
> > difference between my handing you a card with the shipping address of
> > the warehouse that has the gravel you need for your construction
> > business, and handing you one thousand wheelbarrows full of gravel?
> > Either way can be right in the circumstances, but the difference is
> > obviously very relevant and should be taught even if you use a
> > language that hides the distinctions.
> I like that example.
Thanks, I liked that example too and I'm glad it's well-received. If
it helps just one kid at one lecture it will all be worthwhile :-)

> > advocate presenting some of the shorter but fundamental algorithms in
> > two languages, if you have time, but time is scarce and it's a physics
> > course, not a programming course.
> No, no... force a bizarre abstraction of no possible commercial value.
>  Make them do it in MIXAL. Programming as *Art*, not engineering or
> science. What do you think this is, some sort of trade school? <grin>

I think somewhere there are two algorithms, one which is succinct and
elegant in C, the other in LISP, and expressing each of them in both
languages side by side would be worth one chapter in ANY text book on
ANY subject.
But yeah we can't teach everything everywhen.

> > 5. Choose C because there is no real choice, but I don't have time to
> > explain that in the margin of my email :-)
> no time because you're working out a concise proof regarding the sums
> of integer powers of integers, perhaps?
yeah that was the reference :-) I feel I'm finally very close, just
need to check a few more references from that lemma that some guy at
Princeton did a few years ago.


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