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What is the point of computer science?

  1. Apr 6, 2013 #1
    Hello,

    If you are a computer scientist, I did not mean for the title of this thread to offend you. I am genuinely curious as to what I could do if I learned how to code, besides making websites and applications for phones.

    Also, do you think that this website is a good place to learn: http://www.codecademy.com/tracks ? (For some reason, I can't post in the learning materials section). Any other books/videos that anyone recommends for complete novices to computer science?

    Thanks
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 6, 2013 #2

    phinds

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    What is the point of physics?
     
  4. Apr 6, 2013 #3

    trollcast

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    Computer science isn't solely about programming / coding, infact alot of computer science isn't based on programming, the only topic that really studies programming languages is programming language theory which is about different styles of language and how to implement them and issues like that (I'm trying to avoid using any computer science jargon here)

    Computer science however uses programming as a tool to solve and help analyse other problems that it studies.

    For example computer science also covers issues like artificial intelligence (this studies how to make computers "smart" so they can do tasks that a human would normally have to do) and automata (systems which develop over time according to a simple set of rules eg: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conway's_Game_of_Life)

    Other fields of computer science cover things like computer vision which studies image processing and how to enable computers to analyse pictures and recognise features like a human, eg. facial recognition which can be used for security or computer programs that analyse telescope images to find details that a human could miss.

    In all those fields the results are as much about the logic and maths behind the programs as the program itself so you don't necessarily need a programming language to solve them, lots of simple basic comp sci could be solved on paper with a bit of time and care as long as you follow the steps of the algorithm or method as the program would.

    For a more wider view of all the aspects of computer science start here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_science#Areas_of_computer_science
     
  5. Apr 21, 2013 #4

    harborsparrow

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    "Computer science" is a catchall phrase for a very large number of complex topics, including algorithms, programming, and computer architecture. Jobs also range across a very wide number of fields--for example, I have worked on code embedded in phones and phone systems, for network operations management, for learning management systems, for numerical analysis in biology, for databasing and searching, and for the web, just to name a few--and this over 30 years as a computer scientist. One of the areas which benefited me the most was computer architecture, because I often found myself needing to make code run faster, or more safely, and thus it became useful to know exactly what is happening inside the machine's memory when I compile and run a program. These days, knowledge of statistics and probability is very important, as many algorithms involve searching or inference.

    Algorithms and math and theory are just one aspect of a very broad field. Knowledge of operating system and hardware innards can end up being just as important.
     
  6. Apr 24, 2013 #5
    Computer science is applied math.

    Programming is a lemma and corollary at the end.
     
  7. Apr 30, 2013 #6
    Programming is an essential tool for mathematicians and physicists to help computers solve their math problems after writing the code, instead of taking the time to do it all by hand...especially if the problem involves a simple formula, but has to be repeated several thousand times to get more accurate readings and eliminate uncertainties etc.
     
  8. May 26, 2013 #7

    harborsparrow

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    Computer science studies usually include at least three main areas (which are very different from each other):

    1) programming (everybody knows about this one)
    2) theory (lots of abstract math, statistics, algorithms, complexity theory)
    3) how computers work, right down to the processor itself and all the surrounding peripherals (and how networks work, since they are an extension of the computer itself)

    Nowadays, we can add a huge area to that:

    4) Distributed computing
    5) Databases

    This is the shortest list I could possibly devise. Each of these areas requires extensive work to become good at, and a trained computer scientist is expected to have a competency in each of them. Unfortunately, plenty of people still think the whole subject area is still just about programming.

    In this world, if you are trying to make an enterprise-quality distributed system work correctly and operate safely (as in secure) and quickly enough to be useful, you'll need some expertise in every one of the fields mentioned above.
     
  9. May 29, 2013 #8
    There are uses for numerical physics/engineering such as the finite element method and finite volume method. The field called computational fluid dynamics is one of the most exciting fields to emerge from computer science in the last 50 years and within last 10 years it has become possible to possibly run simulations on an iphone since the processor speeds have excelled so fast. There is another field call artificial intelligence which has made possible the study of neural networks and making i robot vacuum cleaners. One day soon we'll have robot slaves and they'll revolt and then this question about computer science will have to be revisited!
     
  10. May 29, 2013 #9
    My interest in this topic has increased a lot recently. I'm actually taking an intro level computer science course thus summer
     
  11. Jun 2, 2013 #10
    In general parlance we use computer science but in reality, the science is information. Information science and computer engineering has a wide range of application in all fields of science and business. What you do in general is try to find the best possible way to solve problems using mathematics and algorithms to combine computers and people into systems which are the most efficient for whatever purpose you have.
    As such, the information scientist won't really be in the business of doing the programming and the networking in the company but rather will devise a best approach to solve problem and lead the different techs to get it done. It's almost more of a people and business field of work than a scientific field.
     
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