Computational Physics Hardcover – 22 Mar 2007
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'The growing importance of computational physics to physics research as a whole will depend not only on increasingly powerful computers, but also on the continuing development of algorithms and numerical techniques for putting these machines to use. Furthermore, physics departments will need to augment their curricula to provide students with the skills needed to perform research using computers … In Computational Physics, [Jos] Thijssen has produced a book that is well suited to meeting these needs … This book makes it easier to approach a new topic and encourages the reader to consider a modular approach when writing programs.' Physics Today
'… I find this book very useful since it provides a thorough discussion of the computational methods used in physics combined with an extensive presentation of the underlying physics … On the one hand an experienced researcher can easily transfer the obtained knowledge from this book to a particular research topic, while on the other hand a newcomer in the field will benefit from the presentation of the subject from first principles.' Lampros Nikolopoulos, Contemporary Physics
First published in 2007, this second edition was fully updated with several new sections and chapters. It covers many different computational methodologies and will interest graduate students and researchers in theoretical, computational and experimental physics with a background in elementary programming, numerical analysis, and field theory, condensed matter theory and statistical physics.See all Product Description
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The introduction states that this text is intended for graduate students in physics, chemistry, materials science, or electrical engineering, and who have taken classes in numerical analysis. I think a more appropriate wording is that this text is for someone versed in all of these listed fields. There is extensive use of thermodynamics, symmetry and crystal structure, linear algebra, statistical mechanics, quantum mechanics, etc... This book should not be used as an introductory guide to computational physics or related fields. The necessary prerequisite knowledge is quite extensive.
The intro should specify at least 2 college classes in computer programming as a prerequisite for this book. The programming assignments included at the end of each chapter are quite challenging, and should not be attempted by someone without previous experience in writing mathematical codes. This here lies another problem with the approach taken by this book. Most science and engineering majors will take 1-2 courses in programming as part of their university education, but these classes often emphasize business applications such as reading / writing to a text file, creating and using databases, formatting of screen output, linked lists, etc... These skills are not very useful in writing a code to do computations. For the latter, needed skills include parsing data, recognizing patterns, using built-in functions, importing and using algorithms from online libraries. utilizing large matrices and vectors, etc...
What the author should have done for each computational homework problem is to write out the solution (code) himself, add in the documentation, and then removed the code while leaving the documentation intact. The student can then use the documentation to craft his/her own solution.
For the difficulty of the computing problems, and of the text in general, I dock another star.
Therefore, I rate this book 3 out of 5 stars.
There are inevitable errors, some of which would take a bit of effort to fix were it not for the error web page the author maintains.
Many problems in condensed matter are tackled, always with a view toward implementing an actual numerical investigation (this may sound like a given, but several other texts seem to shy away from actually using a computer, exploiting some variant of 'computational' in the title as an excuse to write yet another redundant physics text that is only cursorily computational). Often, nice snippets of pseudocode are presented, along with suggestions for numerical control parameters to use and the corresponding numerical results obtained - so one can try things out and check the answer. Indeed, the book is best used if one sets about to write code to solve problems, both in the main text and in the exercises at the chapter ends. As is often the case, however, getting a piece of new code to behave correctly can be a bit of a pain, which becomes easier only with experience.
In a real sense, the text helps bring some physics to life, and one is rewarded, I think, with a clearer understanding, and some powerful tools at one's disposal.
Though it doesn't have any real competitor, there is room for a second edition: along with correcting errors, several subjects could do with a bit more discussion or even extensive treatment, and other things could profitably be included, e.g., a DFT implementation of Car-Parrinello quantum atomic dynamics.
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