For PHYS 3317, we will have our recitations in Phillips 318. This is a computer lab, and most of our recitations will be run as computer labs. It is very empowering to discover how to use computers to solve physics problems.
We will use the Python programing language in the IPython Notebook environment for all of our computational needs. Much of the scientific programing framework we use is modeled after Matlab. The computer activities are structured so that you do not need prior programing experience. However, I do recommend that students taking PHYS 3317 first take some sort of programing course.
One reason for working with Python is that it is easy to learn. Google has an online Python course, which is supposed to take two days to complete – though it does assume you know a tiny bit about programming. I will not bother extolling the virtues of the language, but if you do want to hear some thoughts about why it is a good language to use for science, go to http://scipy-lectures.github.io/. That link also shows some cool tricks.
Recitations will be held in Phillips 318. The software is also on most of the CIT computer lab computers. Feel free to bring your laptop to class and use it instead.
Starting IPython Notebook
.pynb file that you will be using in the lab, and any other required files.
If you use Anaconda (recommended) there will be an icon "Jupyter Notebook" which will start the software. Assuming your paths are correctly set up, you can also run it from the command line by typing
Jupyter Notebook .
Installing Python on your laptop
The simplest way to get a complete distribution of Python (which includes all of the necessary scientific computing modules, and the notebook environment) is from Anaconda. You will want version 3.6 or later.
If anything does not work right, just ask. One year there were students who went through most of the year with messed up fonts, and never thought to ask to have them fixed.
You will need to download ".ipynb" files and ".py" files. If you just click on the links you will likely just see nonsense in your browser. Instead right-click on them and select "save as". On most operating systems the extensions of the ".py" files will be changed to something like ".py.txt" during this process. This is a safety mechanism: your computer is trying to make sure that you don't run possibly malicious code. You need to change it back to ".py" before you can use it. Different operating systems use different mechanisms for this -- but one universal approach is to use the "Jupyter Launcher". Click the box beside the file, and a "rename" option should appear.