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Correct usage of Calculation, Computation and Simulation

  1. Jan 11, 2012 #1
    Dear All,

    I started to look around for a reliable definition of the differences between Calculation, Computation and Simulation, but I'm not satisfied with what I've found. In your view, what are the correct usages of these terms? When something becomes more than a computation or calculation and becomes a simulation? To have a definite question: if I'm solving a differential equation system with a series approximation numerically, what is the correct term for it?

    Thanks for the answers in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 14, 2012 #2

    Stephen Tashi

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    Science Advisor

    In my view, I don't know of any mathematics that requires making a distinction among those terms, so whatever distinction should be made is an ordinary question about the the use of language - i.e. it isn't a question about distinguishing among technical terms such as "confidence interval", "prediction interval", "credible interval".

    To me, simulation is doing some process which imitates some other process. You might do it by a computer program or a board game or role playing. The intent to reproduce significant aspects of one phenomenon by using a different phenomenon is what makes something a simulation. Among computer specialists, simulation means using computer programs to accomplish this. Among wargamers, it means using games.

    I think of calculation as performing mathematical steps that don't involve much branching logic and computation as doing mathematic steps that do. The mathematical steps can involve arithmetic or symbolic manipulation. The output can be numerical or symbolic.
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