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Sage for physicists

asked 2013-05-06 12:10:40 -0500

dickfeynman gravatar image

I am a physics undergrad and thinking of learning a CAS. Though, mathematica is a standard choice, I would prefer a free open source software, because of a fetish, and the fact that I can't use mathematica outside my university. Is Python Sage used by physicists? Does it have the same functionality as mathematica.

Could you recommend me an online guide/manual or a book which teaches Sage with an emphasis for physics applications i.e. an equvalent to the A Physicist's guide to Mathematica book?

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answered 2013-05-06 20:57:55 -0500

Congratulations for preferring a free open source software. That's the way to go!

I can't answer all your questions, but I can say this:

  • Yes, Python is used by physicists. More below.

  • Sage's functionality covers a good part of Mathematica's functionality, and it has functionality that Mathematica does not have.

  • I don't know of any "online guide/manual or book which teaches Sage with an emphasis for physics" but an equivalent to A Physicist's guide to Mathematica would certainly be a useful resource.

An example of the use of Python in Physics is at the French CEA.

CEA is the main Atomic energy research body in France, see the CEA website and the CEA wikipedia entry.

Olivier Tache, a research engineer there, in the LIONS lab of the SIS2M unit, wrote about Using Python for science (pdf).

He was in charge of renovating the command-control system for USAXS (Ultra-small-angle X-ray scattering) lab experiments, and based on a study of different command-control systems, he engineered the move to Python and Tango for command-control.

The LIONS lab developed PySAXS, an Open Source Python package and GUI for SAXS data treatment, entirely based on Numpy and SciPy.

Further reading:

Note: I am not connected to CEA. Olivier Tache was our guest at the December 2012 meeting of the Paris area Sage and Scientific Python user group. He talked about the move to Python of the LIONS lab.

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answered 2013-05-07 05:24:56 -0500

Jesustc gravatar image

updated 2013-05-07 15:43:56 -0500

kcrisman gravatar image

Here's another physicist using Sage, in particular doing a PhD, and I can only encourage you to use Sage any time you can :) It cannot do everything that Mathematica does, but it goes the other way around too. For an undergrad, you won't notice the difference if you are patient in learning Sage.

As an approach for using Sage as a physicist, I would recommend simply going through the tutorial, and asking here or in sage-support any particular concern you may have, starting right now!

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@kcrisman. Thanks for the edit! :)

Jesustc gravatar imageJesustc ( 2013-05-07 22:20:09 -0500 )edit

Good to know atleast some physicists prefer sage, I haven't met a single physics student yet who uses sage instead of mathematica. Thanks for the link.

dickfeynman gravatar imagedickfeynman ( 2013-05-08 17:47:22 -0500 )edit

answered 2013-05-08 03:44:58 -0500

twch gravatar image


after my experience sage as a CAS is not (yet!) very spread in the pysics community, however python definitely is!!!

slelievre's list of Physics-goups using python could be extended to infinity, so maybe just one more hint: CERN also provides a python version for their excellent data analysis software ROOT which they use for the data analysis of the LHC, and this software can also (quite) easily used together with sage.

And this is exactly the point why I chose to use Sage as a CAS: via python you can extend your Sage skills to nearly all possilble problems in computational physics or data analysis.

Sage should be used by physicists because:

1) It provides a CAS with all important basic features

2) By learning sage one automatically learns python, one of the most important programming languages in physics

3) As sage is open source and is based on python, one can extend it with all python-packages one likes, and there are many useful packages for physicists. Furthermore, many of them like numpy, scipy and matplotlib are already inculded in Sage!

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Asked: 2013-05-06 12:10:40 -0500

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Last updated: May 08 '13