Physics 5071 : Computational Physics

Fall 2016
Instructor Prof. Ch. Elster
Office 265 Clippinger
Class MWF 8:35-9:30 am, Clip 133 and 257(W)
T 10:30-11:30 am, Clip 354
Office Hours W 10:30-11:45 and by appointment
TA: Nilaj Chakrabarty Clip 349-B (e-mail:
Help Sessions Th: 5:00 - 6:30 pm

Computational Physics, 1st Ed. by Rubin H. Landau, Manuel J. Paez
e-book library Ohio University
Computational Physics, 2nd Ed. by Rubin H. Landau, Manuel J. Paez, Cristian C. Bordeianu
Numerical Recipes 2nd Edition, W.H. Press, et al., in Fortran 77 , and Fortran 90. (Follow the instruction for installing the plugin for your Adobe Reader)
Numerical Recipes, W.H. Press, et al., in Numerical-Recipes-in-C-Fortran

Additional References
Fortran 90/95 for Scientists and Engineers, Stephen J. Chapman , McGraw-Hill 2003
Fortran 95 Handbook: Complete ISO/ANSI Reference, Jeanne Adams, MIT Press, 1997
e-book library Ohio University
Fortran 90 P.P. Bhat, Rice University
Abramovitz and Stegun, Handbook of Mathematical Functions:
Table of Contents
A Guide to LaTeX: Helmut Kopka and Patrick W. Daly, Addison-Wesley 2003

Extended Syllabus


Problem sets and small projects worth 10 points each,
Midterm and Final project 20 points each.
Passing the class requires more than 50% of the total points.
Letter grades will be given according to the following general guide:
A > 90%, B > 75%, C > 60%, D > 50%.

Homework and small projects

Homework will be assigned in general once per week, and will be due Monday morning 8:00 am unless otherwise indicated on the homework sheet. Late homework will not be accepted, unless there is special prior announced reason for being late. If it is turned in later than the printed due date, this will lead to a loss of 1 point per day of delay. Homework is to be prepared and turned in electronically.

Course Content

Computational physics is now widely accepted as a `third' discipline in physics, equally valid and complementary to the traditional experimental and theoretical approaches to physics.

The course intends to show how numerical methods are used to solve the problems physicists face.

The students are introduced to the process of approaching problems from a computational point of view:

  • Understanding the physics and
  • describing it in mathematical terms,
  • manipulating the mathematics to the point where a numerical method can be applied,
  • obtaining a numerical solution, and
  • understanding the physical problem in term of the numerical solution that has been generated.

During the course the students will be introduced to the different computational facilities available in the department and learn their elementary use.

During the first half of the course students will be introduced to a variety of computational methods, like differentiation, integration, monte carlo methods, differental equations, linear algebra methods, and will be able to estimate computational errors. In the second half those methods will be applied to problems common to quantum mechanical sitiuations. E.g. each student should be able to numerically solve the Schroedinger equation for a given potential and determine e.g. its bound state solutions.

Additional Remarks
  • Homework and help material are available on-line. It is expected that students will review the relevant sections in the textbook or the additional references.
  • It is expected that students familiarize themselves with the additional material at the beginning of each week, since the class will refer to it, and not go through all details.
  • Please arrange to obtain computer access either on helios, plato or the PC lab.
  • Please familiarize yourself with access to e-books at, and gain access to the textbook. You will need to create an account for yourself.

Useful References:

Unix/Linux Tutorial
Unix Commands Cheat Sheet
Unix Help and Information, Collection Department of Physics
GNU Manual for Make
Short Reference for the vi editor
VimDoc - Documentation for Vim
Short Reference for the emacs editor
Introduction to F95 by Janet A. Nicholson
Introduction to Fortran 90 by D. Ennis, OSC
F95 Primer
Fortran Best Practices
Portland Group Documents
Useful gfortran flags
GNU gprof
Grace User Guide
Special Characters in Grace
Gnuplot Info , Gnuplot Tutorial, Demos
Octave -- Getting Started
GNU Octave Manual Version 3
SAGE: open sorce mathematics software

Class & Homework

Charlotte Elster
M Aug 24 19:00 EST 2016