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 (diffpack.com) 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
"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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