EE Student Information

The Department of Electrical Engineering supports Black Lives Matter. Read more.

• • • • •

EE Student Information, Spring & Summer Quarters 19-20: FAQs and Updated EE Course List.

Updates will be posted on this page, as well as emailed to the EE student mail list.

Please see Stanford University Health Alerts for course and travel updates.

As always, use your best judgement and consider your own and others' well-being at all times.

Programming: A Medium for Clarifying Ideas [AP/Physics Colloquium]

Topic: 
Programming: A Medium for Clarifying Ideas
Tuesday, January 17, 2017 - 4:15pm
Venue: 
Hewlett 200
Speaker: 
Gerald Jay Sussman (MIT)
Abstract / Description: 

We think of computers as compliant slaves that deliver computational power in the same way that a power shovel delivers muscle power. To me programming is a medium for the expression and investigation of ideas, analogous to natural language and mathematics.

In subjects that I teach at MIT, such as advanced classical mechanics, it is easy to get a right answer without real understanding. I use computer programs to communicate a deeper understanding of the material. Programs are for students to read as well as for a computer to execute. Expressing methods in a computer language forces them to be unambiguous and computationally effective. The task of formulating a method as an executable program and debugging it is a powerful part of the learning process. Once formalized as a program, a mathematical idea becomes a tool that can be used to compute results.

I will show how programming can help us to illuminate subjects like Analytical Mechanics and Differential Geometry and make parts of General Relativity come alive.