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Is learning programming a good idea?

  1. Aug 7, 2012 #1
    I don't intend on taking computer classes, just learning as much programming on the side as I can before going to school as well as learning maths, is this a good idea since I am looking at physics, or engineering?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 7, 2012 #2
    Yes it is.

    R&D in engineering and also scientific research use a lot of computers. Mostly ready-made software packages, but especially in scientific research, there's the occasional need to write custom software to solve problems and test hypotheses.

    Maths knowledge and quantitative skills are essential for all natural sciences and engineering, even though most practice and research relies on experimentation and theory.
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2012
  4. Aug 7, 2012 #3


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    Since you mention physics and engineering, I'd say it is, at least in some cases, a defacto requirement that you will have to learn in one form or another anyway.

    Also even if you don't actually end up writing hundreds of lines of C++ code, doing simulations in something like MATLAB, or trying to take say a custom database format and hook that into something like MATLAB to get results requires a good enough knowledge about basic procedural programming.

    The other thing is that if you know how procedural programming works and you move to some other platform that uses procedural constructs in its own language, then the migration will be fairly straightforward in comparison to if you didn't know and understanding these things.
  5. Aug 9, 2012 #4
    Yeah, probably. At my school we did a lot of Mathematica stuff even in the lower-division math classes, and programming knowledge would have been helpful (but not necessary) going into stuff like that.
  6. Aug 9, 2012 #5
    Yes, definitely. The important thing is not that you memorize all the little syntax things, but more that you learn how to solve problems with a programming language. By learning one programming language, you're building skills which will help you quite a bit whenever you have to use a computer to solve a problem, regardless of what language you end up having to use. Even if you're not actually writing code, the so-called 'algorithmic thinking' is hugely useful when you're using a computer for computation. And yes, you'll almost certainly be using a computer as an engineer or physicist.
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