Physics 330, Computational Physics Lab 2


Welcome to Physics 330. This course is designed to teach you to use a symbolic mathematics program and programming in MATLAB to analyze physics problems in terms of ordinary differential equations and solve them numerically.


This is a course on nonlinear dynamics, differential equations, and programming in Mathematica and Matlab. You will be expected to learn how to use computational methods in both languages to demonstrate the basic ideas of nonlinear dynamics.

As you do the programming exercises, pay attention to the physical effects that your programs display. It is important to read and understand the material on nonlinear dynamics instead of just treating the course as a series of programming exercises.  The final will test your knowledge of these concepts, as well as your ability to use Mathematica and Matlab.

This course is taught as a lab instead of as a lecture/homework course because it can often take hours to find and fix simple programming mistakes without help. The lab setting provides a learning environment where problems are encountered, discussed by lab partners, TAs, and the instructor, and solved. Occasionally mini-lectures at the board in the classroom will be given to explain difficult concepts or to teach good programming practice.

Come to class. If you don't, you will almost certainly do poorly in the class. Grades of UW and E are the usual result of not showing up. 


There are three texts for this course.

  1.  Introduction to Matlab (paper copy handed out in class)
    As you work through this booklet you will learn the basics of Matlab, a powerful programming language, with easy-to-use graphics and many useful commands doing things like minimization, taking Fourier transforms, and solving differential equations.
  2. Computational Physics 330, (paper handed out in class)
    This is the lab manual for the course. It contains the assignments for each laboratory period.
  3. Differential Equations with Mathematica
    An electronic Mathematica textbook that goes through the basics of differential equation solving

Electronic copies of the texts and other resources are available on the Physics 330 web site. Please buy a three-ring binder to keep the printed copies in. You will want hard copies of these books (at least for the open book, closed computer final).


Labs are due on the day they are assigned (except lab 13 which takes two weeks).  If you don’t finish a lab during the assigned class period, you may pass it off during the first hour of the subsequent class period with no penalty. After that, no late work will be accepted. Any exceptions to this policy should be arranged in advance unless it is a genuine emergency.

Lab 1 April 26  
Lab 2 April 28  
Lab 3 May 3  
Lab 4 May 5  
Lab 5 May 10 Take-home Exam 1
Lab 6 May 12  
Lab 7 May 17  
Lab 8 May 19  
Lab 9 May 24  
Lab 10 May 26  
Lab 11 May 31 Take-home Exam 2
Lab 12 June 2  
Lab 13 June 7  
Lab 13 June 9  
Final Exam June 16 (Thursday, 1:00 p.m. to 2:50 p.m.)


Your grade in the course will be determined by three things.

  1. Your performance on the laboratory exercises. You will be graded mostly on how many you complete, but the TA’s or I will also assess your understanding of the lab material by asking periodically asking questions. Lab grades will comprise 60% of your final grade.
  2. There will be two short take-home exams given during the semester. These will consist of a few problem to be solved using the computational methods you have learned up to that point in the course. Take home exams will comprise 20% of your final grade
  3. There will be a final exam during our scheduled final exam time. The first part will be closed book and will test your knowledge of the physics principles encountered during the course (use the index of the lab manual Computational Physics 330 as a guide for what you should know). The second part will have several short programming exercises in Matlab. This part will be open book, meaning that you can use both Introduction to Matlab and Computational Physics 330. The final will be 20% of your final grade.

Minimum guarantees: A = 94%; A- = 90%; B+ = 86%; B = 83%; B- = 80%

University Policies


Harassment of any kind is inappropriate at BYU. Specifically, BYU's policy against sexual harassment extends not only to employees of the university but to students as well. If you encounter sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination, or other inappropriate behavior, please talk to your professor, contact the Equal Employment Office at 422-5895 or 367-5689, or contact the Honor Code Office at 422-2847.


BYU is committed to providing reasonable accommodation to qualified persons with disabilities. If you have any disability that may adversely affect your success in this course, please contact the University Accessibility Center at 422-2767. Services deemed appropriate will be coordinated with the student and instructor by that office.

Children in the Classroom

The serious study of the physical and mathematical sciences requires uninterrupted concentration and focus in the classroom. Having small children in class is often a distraction that degrades the educational experience for the entire class. Please make other arrangements for child care rather than bringing children to class with you. If there are extenuating circumstances, please talk with your instructor in advance.