Here’s Why You Should Be Coding In Your Physics Course

Like data science, Physics too involves a lot of data analysis. They deal with nuclear data from detectors and astronomical data from telescopes to perform all sorts of analysis and studies needed. So they too need to upskill themselves with programming, at least with the very basic languages useful to them for analysis like Matlab and Python.

If there is someone in this background of Physics who does not know programming, he is really lagging a big time in his field. Even if they think that they know the theory and practical behind their subject of interest, programming does come in handy to for a number of reasons. In this article, we will give you five reasons to learn programming being a Physics student.

Reasons To Learn Programming

1.Data analysis: At the end of the day, physicists have to deal with data and make interpretations out of it. Many such experimental as well as theoretical physics fields have data to deal with. Astrophysics has satellite data that has terabytes of information regarding different parameters which they import in a language, program it and make sense out of it. Data is also taken in nuclear physics of the different ground-based detectors that we have, which is then used to analyse it. More or less all kinds of branches in physics involve this kind of work. Physicists are not going to able to take this huge data one by one, put into mathematical models and make sense out of it, without the use of computers; it will take them ages. In astrophysics, for example, if you have to take data from NASA’s Fermi satellite and further put it into some mathematical model plot graphs and interpret results. Data analysis is a compulsion in most subjects and if you do not not programming, you will just have to quit your aspirations here.

X-ray data from NASA’s Fermi, RXTE, and Swift satellites and the European Space Agency’s International Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory (INTEGRAL) confirm that the Crab Nebula’s output. Image credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

2.Saves time:

Many branches of physics, specially theoretical physics, requires a high amount of complex equations to be dealt with. Particle physics, for example, has many lagrangian equations to solve that can go upto as complex as hundreds of powers. Lagrangian of the Standard Model which describes the collection of fundamental particles currently thought to make up our universe, is an example of one such complex equation. These equation are very difficult to solve with a pen and a paper or with a normal scientific calculator, and some are even impossible to solve. Some complex differential equations cannot be solved on paper. Programming language in this case comes in as the most handy tool, as it gives most reliable results, of course if you know to program correctly, and it also gives the advantage of saving your time in solving these complex equations.

3.Simulation: Classical mechanics. increase students’ understanding of physical concepts
by building programs that allow them to vary inputs in the simulations. Simulations are important to understand various machines or classical mechanics or quantum mechanics concepts, and fir you to make proper, calculated simulation, one must have a deep programming knowledge.

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4.Interfacing: Experimental physicists will need computing for interfacing their equipments. In experimental physics you will want to program for data analysis, data collection, and even for controlling experimental instruments. Programming comes in very handy for such situations and is one of the most powerful skills that you can acquire.

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5.Creates opportunities: Lastly, knowing a programming language opens up a lot of opportunities. If in case you do want to switch your career at the end of your program, you can very well do that if you know key programming skills and are strong at it. Your mathematical and reasoning skills that you gained at physics will add the cherry on the cake, and the world will have greater opportunities presented in front of you.

What Can Be Done?

Virtually all physicists are competent programmers. Computational physics should be made compulsory in all the beginner physics programs, which isn’t not the case in most educational institutes in India. Apart from that, programming also allows students to improve critical reasoning through coding challenges, something that physics students already experience dealing with their problem. Not including the subject in the curriculum cuts down opportunities and largely limits your potential to do research.

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