Preface of Programming for Computations – MATLAB/Octave: A Gentle Introduction to Numerical Simulations with MATLAB/Octave by Svein Linge
Computing, in the sense of doing mathematical calculations, is a skill that mankind has developed over thousands of years. Programming, on the other hand, is in its infancy, with a history that spans a few decades only. Both topics are vastly comprehensive and usually taught as separate subjects in educational institutions around the world, especially at the undergraduate level. This book is about the combination of the two, because computing today becomes so much more powerful when combined with programming.
Most universities and colleges implicitly require students to specialize in computer science if they want to learn the craft of programming, since other student programs usually do not offer programming to an extent demanded for really mastering this craft. Common arguments claim that it is sufficient with a brief introduction, that there is not enough room for learning programming in addition to all other must-have subjects, and that there is so much software available that few really need to program themselves. A consequence is that engineering students often graduate with shallow knowledge about programming, unless they happened to choose the computer science direction.
We think this is an unfortunate situation. There is no doubt that practicing engineers and scientists need to know their pen and paper mathematics. They must also be able to run off-the-shelf software for important standard tasks and will certainly do that a lot. Nevertheless, the benefits of mastering programming are many.
The book outlines the shortest possible path from no previous experience with programming to a set of skills that allows the students to write simple programs for solving common mathematical problems with numerical methods in engineering and science courses. The emphasis is on generic algorithms, clean design of programs, use of functions, and automatic tests for verification.
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