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

Donald Shillady quantummechanicsllc at msn.com
Tue Nov 20 14:32:06 PST 2007

Hi, I am one of those old grey-haired Professors who spent years since 1963 using variants of FORTRAN with time out for four years of enforced Burroughs ALGOL and then back to FORTRAN.  In Chemistry education there is an added problem of students who want to avoid mathematics.  I taught Physical Chemistry Laboratory for some 30 years and found BASIC/GWBASIC is a way to introduce students to sequential coding that could lead to later use of other languages such as f77, C++ or PASCAL.  In a lab course it is easy to write some special purpose program in GWBASIC for a given lab report and the concept of programming takes second place to the formulas used; often such programs are less than a single page.  In my area of Quantum Chemistry there are a few folks pushing C++, but I would estimate that 95% of most huge programs such as GAMESS or GAUSSIAN are in some form of FORTRAN.  Personaly I want to "think" in formulas not in pointers and the pointers just add another layer of complexity to what is probably already complicated mathematics.  After all that is where the acronynym came from: "Formula Translation".  The idea is to think in math terms and let the compiler translate the formulas to machine code.  Another factor is the ability to just create variables as desired without all the declarations required in PASCAL and ALGOL.  Finally, for a long, long time the machine code produced by various fortran compilers was testably faster and PASCAL would be a counter example of lucid slowness!  As far as a text, I never used one, I am coasting along on a two week course in FORTRAN II in 1963 and along the way just looking at published routines and learning what works and what does not.  For learning I would still suggest BASIC/GWBASIC.
Don Shillady
Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, VCU
Ashland VA (working at home)> Date: Tue, 20 Nov 2007 13:26:08 -0800> From: lindahl at pbm.com> To: diep at xs4all.nl> Subject: Re: [Beowulf] Teaching Scientific Computation (looking for the perfect text)> CC: Beowulf at beowulf.org> > X-Frumious: Bandersnatch> > On Tue, Nov 20, 2007 at 09:46:41PM +0100, Vincent Diepeveen wrote:> > There is several ways to look at this issue.> > Suppose your students totally fail as physics student and even more > > as future manager/teamleader and continue as computer science students.> > > > Then what language can they use best?> > ... then they'll be studying many languages, and it won't be any big> deal that they studied Fortran, Python, and Mathematica in their first> course.> > It's dumb to act as if these students are never learning another> language.> > -- greg> > _______________________________________________> Beowulf mailing list, Beowulf at beowulf.org> To change your subscription (digest mode or unsubscribe) visit http://www.beowulf.org/mailman/listinfo/beowulf
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