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Python Crash Course


A quick introduction to Python for Scientists and Engineers

Why Python?

Python is the programming language of choice for many scientists to a large degree because it offers a great deal of power to analyze and model scientific data with relatively little overhead in terms of learning, installation or development time. It is a language you can pick up in a weekend, and use for the rest of one's life.

The Python Tutorial is a great place to start getting a feel for the language. To complement this material, I taught a Python Short Course years ago to a group of computational chemists during a time that I was worried the field was moving too much in the direction of using canned software rather than developing one's own methods. I wanted to focus on what working scientists needed to be more productive: parsing output of other programs, building simple models, experimenting with object oriented programming, extending the language with C, and simple GUIs.

I'm trying to do something very similar here, to cut to the chase and focus on what scientists need. In the last year or so, the IPython Project has put together a notebook interface that I have found incredibly valuable. A large number of people have released very good IPython Notebooks that I have taken a huge amount of pleasure reading through. Some ones that I particularly like include:

I find IPython notebooks an easy way both to get important work done in my everyday job, as well as to communicate what I've done, how I've done it, and why it matters to my coworkers. I find myself endlessly sweeping the IPython subreddit hoping someone will post a new notebook. In the interest of putting more notebooks out into the wild for other people to use and enjoy, I thought I would try to recreate some of what I was trying to get across in the original Python Short Course, updated by 15 years of Python, Numpy, Scipy, Matplotlib, and IPython development, as well as my own experience in using Python almost every day of this time.


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