The University of Iowa
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Department of Physics and Astronomy

29::196 Computational Physics

Spring  Semester 2009

Instructor: Prof. Yannick Meurice


Prof. Yannick Meurice

Course Content

An introduction to the contemporary use of computers by physicists.  Basic programming techniques will be introduced from the beginning; No previous knowledge of programming language is assumed. The course will focus on basic concepts used in the study of dynamical systems, numerical solutions of ordinary differential equations in classical mechanics, boundary value problems in electricity and magnetism, eigenvalue problems in quantum mechanics, Monte Carlo simulations in statistical mechanics and methods of data analysis. The languages used will be Mathematica and C++.   The course will also provide a practical introduction to the use of open source codes such as Linux. Prerequisites: 29:115, 29:129, 29:140. May be repeated.


Main textbooks (on reserve at the Physics Library):

N. Giordano and H. Nakanishi, Computational Physics,  second edition, Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006
D. Yang, C++ and Object Oriented Numeric Computing,  Springer, 2001

Other textbooks:

R. Zimmerman and F. Olness, Mathematica for Physics, Springer,  Second Edition 2001  (for Mathematica 5).
The  input  code used in that book is available at
D. Yevick, Computational Physics and Object-Oriented Programing with C++,  Cambridge 2005.
J.Newman,  Monte Carlo Methods in Statistical Physics, Oxford University Press, 1999.
W. Press, S. Teukolsky, W. Vetterling and B. Flannery, Numerical Recipes in C++,  Cambridge,  2003.


Reading assignments and  problem sets will be provided each week. They will be posted at .  These assignments must be completed individually (see note on plagiarism below).  Several individual projects will also be assigned.  

Examinations and Final Grade

The final grade will be based on the homework assignements (40 percent), individual projects (50 percent), short presentations related to the individual  projects and in-class participation (10 percent).

Class Attendance

Attendance at lectures is required.
You are strongly encouraged to ask questions during the lectures. There are no ``stupid questions''.

Computer Lab

Part of the individual assignements will be to install software on departemental computers available for this purpose. 
This will be done with small groups of students in VAN 407E.
If time permits at the end of the semester, several computers will be configured as a cluster and used for parallel programming.


The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Policies and Procedures

Administrative Home
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is the administrative home of this course and governs matters such as the add/drop deadlines, the second-grade-only option, and other related issues. Different colleges may have different policies. Questions may be addressed to 120 Schaeffer Hall or see the CLAS Academic Handbook.



Electronic Communication
University policy specifies that students are responsible for all official correspondences sent to their standard University of Iowa e-mail address ( Students should check their account frequently. (Operations Manual, III.II.15. 2. k.11.)

Academic Fraud
Plagiarism and any other activities when students present work that is not their own are academic fraud and are considered by the College to be a very serious matter. Academic fraud is reported by the instructor to the departmental DEO who enforces the departmental consequences. The Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs and Curriculum is also informed. The Associate Dean enforces collegiate consequences which may included suspension or expulsion. See the CLAS Academic Handbook.

Making a Suggestion or a Complaint
Students with a suggestion or complaint should first visit the instructor, then the course supervisor and the departmental DEO. Complaints must be made within six months of the incident. See the CLAS Academic Handbook.  

Accommodations for Disabilities
A student seeking academic accommodations should register with Student Disability Services and meet privately with the course instructor to make particular arrangements. For more information, visit this site.

Understanding Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment subverts the mission of the University and threatens the well-being of students, faculty, and staff. All members of the UI community have a responsibility to uphold this mission and to contribute to a safe environment that enhances learning. Incidents of sexual harassment should be reported immediately. See the UI Comprehensive Guide on Sexual Harassment at for assistance, definitions, and the full University policy.

Reacting Safely to Severe Weather
In severe weather, the class members should seek shelter in the innermost part of the building, if possible at the lowest level, staying clear of windows and free-standing expanses. The class will continue if possible when the event is over. (Operations Manual, IV. 16.14. Scroll down to sections e and i for severe weather information.)

*The CLAS policy statements have been summarized from the web pages of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.