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Computational physics


Computational physics is the study and implementation of numerical algorithms in order to solve problems in physics for which aquantitative theory already exists.

Physicists often have a very precise mathematical theory describing how a system will behave. Unfortunately, it is often thecase that solving the theory's equations in order to produce a useful prediction is a computationally difficult problem. This isespecially true with quantum mechanics , where only a handful ofsimple models can be solved exactly. Even apparently simple problems, such as calculating the wavefunction of an electron orbiting an atom in a strong electric field , may require great effort to formulate a practical algorithm.

In addition, the computational cost of solving quantum mechanical problems is generally exponential in the size of the system (see computational complexity theory ).

Many other more general numerical problems fall loosely under the domain of computational physics, although they could easilybe considered pure mathematics or part of any number of applied areas. Forexample:

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