Computational physics

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Molecular dynamics

Computational physics is the study and implementation of numerical algorithms to solve problems in physics for which a quantitative theory already exists. It is often regarded as a subdiscipline of theoretical physics but some consider it an intermediate branch between theoretical and experimental physics.

Physicists often have a very precise mathematical theory describing how a system will behave. Unfortunately, it is often the case that solving the theory's equations ab initio in order to produce a useful prediction is not practical. This is especially true with quantum mechanics, where only a handful of simple models admit closed-form, analytic solutions. In cases where the equations can only be solved approximately, computational methods are often used.

Applications of computational physics

Computation now represents an essential component of modern research in accelerator physics, astrophysics, fluid mechanics, lattice field theory/lattice gauge theory (especially lattice quantum chromodynamics), plasma physics (see plasma modeling), solid state physics and soft condensed matter physics. Computational solid state physics, for example, uses density functional theory to calculate properties of solids, a method similar to that used by chemists to study molecules.

Many other more general numerical problems fall loosely under the domain of computational physics, although they could easily be considered[by whom?] pure mathematics or part of any number of applied areas. These include

All these methods (and several others) are used to calculate physical properties of the modeled systems. Computational Physics also encompasses the tuning of the software/hardware structure to solve the problems (as the problems usually can be very large, in processing power need or in memory requests).

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