[Beowulf] about clusters in high schools

Joshua Halpern jhalpern at howard.edu
Mon Jan 30 05:54:08 PST 2006

Robert G. Brown wrote:

> On Fri, 27 Jan 2006, Gerry Creager wrote:
>> Mathcad and MatLab both have their uses but I'm not real happy seeing 
>> MatLab now seen as a parallelizable modeling tool.  We're installing 
>> it for our Civil Engineering dept. so they can run some code they 
>> have, so I'll have more opinion about it shortly.  What I fear is 
>> that, in using such a high-level "language" to script their models and 
>> analyses, the students... and the prof's... will have failed to 
>> understand the errors when they make 'em.
> Duke's engineering school uses matlab ditto, and we've started using it
> (or octave, the OS variant) to a limited extent in physics courses.  And
> we've use Mathematica for many years in upper level courses.
> I think a fair way to view the use of things like matlab, octave, visual
> python, mathematica, maple is that they are at best very mediocre
> programming environments -- that isn't really their purpose.  So much so
> that it isn't really fair to call them a "programming language" although
> they have many of the features of one and can be used as one.
> What they are "good" for is teaching physics (or, I'm sure, certain
> parts of engineering), especially where visualization or certain kinds
> of numerical exploration are the object of the exercise.  

They are really good at solving "one time" problems or ones where the 
optimization you can get from coding does not justify the investment in 
time needed for coding (or learning how to do so). This takes them 
considerably beyond being just teaching tools.

Josh Halpern

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