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46

I've had good experiences with Inkscape. It has a GUI interface, but allows you to enter coordinates directly if you want, and it's scriptable. There is a plug-in that allows you to enter LaTeX directly (for labels and such). The downside is that it is very much still in development, so sometimes you find that a feature you want is not completely ...


42

I'm learning TikZ (a drawing package for LaTeX) as we speak. It's good for two-dimensional line drawings, the syntax for specifying shapes and curves is extremely versatile, but the learning curve is steeper than LaTeX even. There is a superb gallery of TikZ examples. Here is another collection of neat TikZ examples on SE.tex.


33

I'll interpret your term diagram as "any fancy image that captures some physics". For this I can hardly recommend anything else then MetaPost. It's on par with TeX in being a little hard to learn but once you do master the basics you won't believe you could have ever used anything else (in particular, GIMP and Inkscape; good analogy here would be to TeX vs. ...


27

First of all do not use a raster graphics software like Gimp to draw pictures. This has serious disadvantages when you want to make screen readable documents (the picture pixelizes). For this purpose always use vector graphics. Wikipedia has a nice list of vector graphics software. Among them, I'd recommend the following: Inkscape (Cross-platform): ...


16

Some software I have used or has been recommended to me for physics-related work: WolframAlpha -- when I don't have Maple around, I use it for simple symbolic calculations Maxima -- free open source alternative to Maple/Mathematica Sage -- quite an interesting open source symbolic/numerical package, you can try it online at sagenb.org Scilab/GNU Octave -- ...


12

First off, physics tends to provide a very good background for people who move on to study problems in other areas, which is perhaps why there is a lot of cross-over to computer science. However, there are also a number of areas at the interface of computer science and physics which attract people from both sides: Computer hardware (which is generally ...


12

I would try matplotlib, but first check here and decide if these pictures satisfies your needs. Also click some picture and inspect source code.


11

I'll chip in here because I'm a research student and I work with a stellar evolution code (the Cambridge STARS code) more-or-less daily. Regarding some of the comments to the question, stellar evolution is actually quite fast, depending what code you use. Certainly, it isn't like hydrodynamics or N-body simulations like those used in galaxy ...


9

You can perform $\LaTeX$ search - that is, write formula in LaTeX in an appropriate search engine: http://www.latexsearch.com/ However, as one can type the same expression in different ways and with different symbols, I never used it it practice. (Anyone did?)


9

Related post in SO. My personal favorite is Asymtpote which is like MetaPost on steroids. A gallery is here.


9

Sometimes raster graphics is also necessary. I often used POV-Ray to make some illustrations. It may be prepared with any size using the same script with description of the picture, that avoid scaling problem. But it is not a graphical editor and fast only for preparation of simple pictures.


9

The two main free destop programs that I know about, Stellarium and Celestia, do not include the proper motion of the stars when they move forward and backward in time. At least according to documentation that I've seen. These programs claim to do it but I have no experience with them: Home Planet (free) Starry Night (commercial) The Sky (commercial) ...


9

It most certainly exist outside secret labs :) Like Gerben wrote, the fields are called molecular dynamics (MD) and quantum chemistry which, as computers grow faster, will be essential tools of nanotechnology and medicine. Molecular Dynamics is currently implemented by making certain approximations in that electron motion is not explicitely modelled. In ...


9

Just for completeness, I'll leave this here: It's always possible to compose your illustrations in raw postscript! Postscript is itself a Forth-like programming language. It's particularly useful for illustrations that lend themselves to being generated procedurally. If postscript itself is too low-level, one can often write a script in some other ...


9

First of all, I do not have any experience with this, I am an Astronomy hobbyist at best. So I am just going to present what I found with minimal comment at this time. I found this web page that links to several programs: http://nbody.sourceforge.net/ They link to the University of Washington and their n-body shop. I don't know what your status must be ...


8

It is probably worth your while to buy Mathematica, Maple, or Matlab, depending on your needs. I wish it weren't so, but this is one area in which the commercial tools are still vastly better than their free counterparts. If you are a student, you can buy these at fairly afforable prices. Maple 14 Student Edition is only $99. Mathematica for Students is ...


7

Yes, NASA's FTools software contains a program that will do this for you. Go to the FTools website and download a copy of the HEATOOLS. You want to specify that you want the Fimage package on the download page. Since you're running windows, you'll proabably need to download the PC-Cygwin package and install Cygwin as well as there is no native Windows ...


7

For drawing Feynman diagrams with SVG, I have developed jQuery.Feyn to make it easier (see the screenshot below).


6

I've recently discovered Cadabra. A field-theory motivated approach to computer algebra I'm really impressed.


6

Try Finite Element Magnetics (Link FEMM) Did I mention is free to download and use. Go figure !


6

I've recently been introduced to GeoGebra, and while I haven't yet had the opportunity to use for any work, I love the interface. For geometrical diagrams it looks spectacular. I've also used XFig and gnuplot extensively. Particularly if you use $\LaTeX$, these tools serve their purpose very very well.


6

There are, of course, a lot of codes floating around. Which of them you should choose, depends on what you want to calculate exactly. Here I mention four possibilities: 1) CALHEP - this package takes you from a given Lagrangian through its Feynmann rules to the calculation of cross sections. 2) xloops - this package calculates the 1-PI Feynman diagrams ...


6

This probably isn't exactly what you're looking for, but if you're looking for the time-independent bound states of a system, the Fourier grid Hamiltonian method may be applicable. Here is an application of it to the following strange-looking potential well: Here are a few low-energy bound states: And here are some of the high-energy ...


5

Sage is a Python based system (including Numpy and Scipy) which includes a symbolic computation module. From the Sage homepage: Sage is a free open-source mathematics software system licensed under the GPL. It combines the power of many existing open-source packages into a common Python-based interface. Mission: Creating a viable free open source ...


5

If you don't already have an estimate of where you are pointing, the only other option I know of is WCSFixer. There also used to be the Pittsbugh WCS correction service, but it seems to be defunct now. These tools only work with FITS files, so your first step would be converting whatever format you have into a FITS file. The FITS website has a FITS viewer ...


5

I'd like to add that GNU Octave is a very good free alternative to Matlab. Contrary to Scilab which does not aim at being compatible with Matlab, you can practically run your Matlab scripts with Octave with very few modifications (at least with their latest version).



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