Science and programming

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v1nsai
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Science and programming

Postby v1nsai » Wed May 12, 2010 11:03 pm UTC

Im a programming major trying to figure out what to minor in. Ive taken college physics and college bio and loved them both, I think it would be pretty awesome to combine some field of science with programming. Is there a need for programmers in the world of science?
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Jplus
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Re: Science and programming

Postby Jplus » Wed May 12, 2010 11:28 pm UTC

Yes, in the sense that being able to write a program is useful for science. Scientist often want to calculate or model something and then they usually write a program. There exist specialised disciplines where a computational approach is taken or where computational methods to the specific field are studied, such as bioinformatics and computational linguistics. And of course there is computer science, which is pretty much purely about programming.

Why not ask around at the institute you're studying at?
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Carnildo
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Re: Science and programming

Postby Carnildo » Thu May 13, 2010 2:25 am UTC

Jplus wrote:And of course there is computer science, which is pretty much purely about programming.

Wrong. Computer Science is pretty much purely about the theory of computation. At the higher levels of study, you don't write actual programs if you can possibly avoid it.

mouseposture
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Re: Science and programming

Postby mouseposture » Fri May 14, 2010 12:22 am UTC

Jplus wrote: There exist specialised disciplines where a computational approach is taken or where computational methods to the specific field are studied, ... Why not ask around at the institute you're studying at?


Even better: find a field of science where a computational approach is not usually taken, but where it would be useful. This is hard. Or, rather it's easy to do badly.

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Re: Science and programming

Postby Coffee » Fri May 14, 2010 2:51 pm UTC

v1nsai wrote:Is there a need for programmers in the world of science?


Oooooooh yeah. Genetics comes to mind.
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BlackSails
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Re: Science and programming

Postby BlackSails » Sat May 15, 2010 2:25 am UTC

Computer science is as much about programming as astrophysics is about telescopes.

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Solt
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Re: Science and programming

Postby Solt » Sat May 15, 2010 3:55 am UTC

You could try engineering too. Automatic control systems comes to mind. In the aerospace industry your code needs to be rock solid, so a lot of time and money is spent on it.
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rho
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Re: Science and programming

Postby rho » Sun May 16, 2010 12:07 pm UTC

Complex Systems.

There's also a lot of complex systems research at the Physics/Biology interface. Simulation is central.

e.g. CoMPLEX

There's a lot of bullshit out there too though, be wary.
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Re: Science and programming

Postby Ended » Sun May 16, 2010 12:34 pm UTC

I think most areas of computational science benefit from having some good programmers around, since in my experience scientists tend to write pretty bad code from a usability/maintainability point of view (and I include myself in this). From what I've heard, I think the same goes for a lot of the data processing and analysis software at big experiments (CERN and the like). Be prepared to study a lot of science and maths if you take this route!
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Styhn
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Re: Science and programming

Postby Styhn » Thu May 20, 2010 12:37 pm UTC

I'm thinking about learning C++ for the same reasons the thread starter mentioned. I'm a math student and I've taken two courses on programming (introductory courses, really) in Java but I keep hearing about how C++ is used a lot in scientific programming. Is this true?

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SWGlassPit
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Re: Science and programming

Postby SWGlassPit » Thu May 20, 2010 1:43 pm UTC

Depending on the code you're looking at, you may find that FORTRAN is used more commonly. In the end, it largely doesn't really matter what language you use as long as you are not working extremely large scale problems. My research uses code written in FORTRAN 77 for simulations, code written in C for visualization, and C++ for various utilities.
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big boss
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Re: Science and programming

Postby big boss » Fri May 21, 2010 4:51 am UTC

From my research experience (I currently do astrophysics research) C++ and java are the main languages ive seen.
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Birk
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Re: Science and programming

Postby Birk » Fri May 21, 2010 5:04 am UTC

It's incredible how varied the landscape can be. I do astrophysics research and its about 90% fortran with a dash of perl, C, and python.

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Jplus
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Re: Science and programming

Postby Jplus » Fri May 21, 2010 9:08 pm UTC

Yes, C++ is used a lot in scientific programming, and so are all the other languages mentioned above (among others). If you're interested in C++ then by all means just learn it, because it will never harm you. The same applies to most other languages.

Sometimes it can really matter what language you choose, but most often it won't. If you have to use a lot of memory, Java won't be a good choice, and if you are writing a relatively large program Fortran might be less fit because it doesn't offer very good modularity, and if you're doing huge calculations that in any case take huge amounts of time then C or C++ will probably be best.
Knowing Java won't be a handicap in scientific programming, that's for sure.

What's probably most important is the convention in the research group that you'll eventually join. You can't anticipate that, in theory they even could use COBOL.
"There are only two hard problems in computer science: cache coherence, naming things, and off-by-one errors." (Phil Karlton and Leon Bambrick)

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