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Homework Help: Choosing topic for physics/comp sci project, looking for ideas.

  1. Oct 12, 2013 #1
    I am a second year Physics student at UBC, and we are programming in Matlab for the second half of one of my courses (the first half was on Unix/Maple/Python). I am looking for some advice on a good end of year project. Basically, we have to model some sort of physical system on matlab.
    A lot of people do N-body problems, modelling how particles interact gravitationally/electromagnetically.
    Some excerpts fromt the course website:
    "each student must choose a topic for a term project in some area of computational physics or closely related field, prepare and present a proposal to the class, carry out the project and produce a write-up of it in the basic style of a scientific/technical paper."

    "In keeping with the spirit of the course, all term projects should involve programming to a significant extent, and students are encouraged to use MATLAB, or possibly Maple, to implement their projects: assuming that you do so, you are expected to do more than use some built in MATLAB/Maple facility to perform the bulk of your computations."

    Does anyone have any ideas on interesting topics to pursue? I am interested in ice hockey, so modelling something related to shooting a puck could be interesting, but it has to have well defined math behind it.

    For reference, I have taken Calculus 1 and 2, and am currently taking multivariable calculus. I have basic knowledge of differential equations, but nothing too in depth.

    Other than this course, my only experience in any program is a first year program design course, so I am still a beginner. I haven't done much in Matlab but we have more than a month for this project and I am willing to learn.

    Here are a list of the standard topics: http://laplace.physics.ubc.ca/210/Term.html

    I'd like to do something interesting, any ideas would be greatly appreciated!
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 12, 2013 #2


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    Try ray tracing through an optical system; or for something not on the list, ray trace an unpolarized beam through a birefringent crystal ... calcite would do, but perhaps make it general where the axes and coefficients are input.
  4. Oct 12, 2013 #3
    Thanks! I haven't done any optics yet though. First year was a lot of E&M, lots of dynamics, angular momentum... First term this year is Special Relativity.
  5. Oct 14, 2013 #4
    Any more ideas? Thanks!
  6. Oct 14, 2013 #5


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    I looked at your list; a good traffic simulation would be interesting, and you might learn something from it. I would allow some different driver responses (tail-gaters, follow at recommended distance, travel with the traffic, etc) and then allow a random selection of drivers with specified probabilities for getting each type - and see what happens when you have all one type, or various splits.

    There are two different scenarios: highway driving with traffic entering, leaving, and changing lanes, and local driving with traffic stops and cross streets with traffic.
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