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An interview with author Hans Petter Langtangen

Mar 15, 2012, 14:01 (0 Talkback[s])
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"F4S: How did you get involved with open source software?

"In the 1990s I was one of two developers of the Diffpack programming environment ( for numerical solution of partial differential equations. Diffpack was commercialized in 1997 and I worked closely with the company that developed and distributed Diffpack. My experience with commercializing Diffpack led me to the belief that the open source software model was better model for development and distribution of such advanced mathematical software. The software itself can benefit greatly from openess, while the competence needed to apply it to solve particular industrial problems is naturally offered in a commercial setting.

"F4S: Tell us the story behind your book A Primer on Scientific Programming with Python.

"At the University of Oslo, we started reforming science education in 2003. Our reform consist in using numerical methods and programming as basic tools in science courses, from day one in the programs at the bachelor level. The students must then learn to program, and to solve mathematical problems via programming, when in the very first semester. Before 2007, our first programming course, given by computer science professors, taught Java in the context of examples with no mathematical content. Such a standard course is not well suited for introducing the computer as an effective tool to solve mathematical problems. Therefore, we decided to design a new course tailored to the needs in the reform. We wanted to use a high-level language, much because of the huge success Matlab, Octave, Scilab, IDL, and R have had in computational science. Moreover, we wanted to teach ?Matlab-style? programming as well as Java/C++-style object-oriented programming. Python, with its growing popularity and support for scientific computing, was then the language of choice. We needed a book that reflected the contents of the course: learn Python in the context of solving mathematical problems. As such a book was not available, I decided to write it."

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