Physics 240 Syllabus (Spring 2000)

Course description: This course will present an introduction to a variety of numerical methods applied to problems in physics. An undergraduate background in science or engineering and some familiarity with computer programming is required.

Enrollment: The course is open to any SJSU student; others should enroll through Open University.

Textbook: Numerical Methods for Physics, 2nd Edition, A.L. Garcia, Prentice Hall (2000). For info on the text, go to

Language: You may use any language you wish to complete the assignments. I regularly use C, C++, FORTRAN and MATLAB but can also read several others. A student edition of MATLAB, which includes a manual, is available in the bookstore (look under the computer science or engineering textbooks). For information on how to download the programs in the textbook go to

Homework: Exercises will be assigned continuously. Most of the exercises involve programming projects. The homework will count 85% of the course grade. Homework exercises may be turned in by fax (408-924-2917) or by e-mail sent as PDF files (please limit attachments to less than 2 Megabytes). Late homework will not be accepted.

Exams: There will be one midterm exam that counts for 15% of the grade; there is no final exam.

Computer Access: You may use any computers at your disposal.

Emergencies: If you hear a continuous alarm or are told to evacuate the building, walk quickly to the nearest stairway at the end of each hall. Do not use the elevator. Take your personal belongings with you. Be quiet and follow instructions. Move away from the building and do not return until informed by police or coordinators.

Homework Assignments

AssignmentExercisesDue date
11.9Tuesday 1/30
21.3aThursday 2/1
31.7, 1.15, 1.18Tuesday 2/6
41.21Thursday 2/8
52.1, 2.3, 2.6aTuesday 2/13
62.12(a,b)Thursday 2/15
72.15, 2.21, 3.3Tuesday 2/20
83.8, 3.10(a)Thursday 2/22
93.15, 3.23, 3.25Tuesday 2/27
104.2, 4.5Thursday 3/1
114.8, 4.9, 4.11, 4.14Tuesday 3/6
124.17Thursday 3/8
135.4, 5.7(b), 5.11Tuesday 3/13
145.15, 5.16Thursday 3/15
155.17(d), 5.20, 5.27Tuesday 3/20
---MIDTERM (No homework due)Thursday 3/22
---Spring Break---
166.1Tuesday 4/3
176.7(a,b,d)Thursday 4/5
186.8, 6.11(a), 6.12(a)Tuesday 4/10
197.5Thursday 4/12
207.7, 7.8, 7.11Tuesday 4/17
218.2Thursday 4/19
228.10, 8.13, 8.14Tuesday 4/24
239.2Thursday 4/26
249.12, 9.13(a), 9.14(a,c)Tuesday 5/1
2510.3Thursday 5/3
2610.13, 10.15, 10.18Tuesday 5/8
2711.4Thursday 5/10
2811.7, 11.13, 11.18Tuesday 5/15

Tentative schedule of lectures

1Basic elements of MATLAB1.2
2Basic elements of C++1.3
3Simple programs; Precision & round-off1.4-5
4Projectile motion; Simple methods for ODEs2.1
5Simple pendulum; Verlet's method2.2
6Kepler problem3.1
7Runge-Kutta methods3.2
8Adaptive methods3.3
9Lorenz model3.4
10Steady states; Linear systems of equations4.1-2
11Linear systems of equations (cont.)4.2-3
12Solving nonlinear equations4.4
13Analysis of data; Curve fitting5.1
14Fast Fourier transforms (FFTs)5.2
15Normal modes; Leeway 5.3
16MidtermCh. 1-5
17Fundamentals of PDEs 6.1
18Diffusion equation; FTCS scheme6.2-3
19Hyperbolic equations 7.1
20Traffic flow 7.2
21Laplace's equation; Relaxation methods8.1
22Poisson's equation; Spectral methods8.2
23Von Neumann stability9.1
24Implicit methods9.2
25Special functions10.1
26Quadrature; Romberg algorithm10.2
27Gaussian integration10.3
28Random number generators11.1-2

Send comments to: