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Writing Scientific Software: A Guide to Good Style

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The core of scientific computing is designing, writing, testing, debugging and modifying numerical software for application to a vast range of areas: from graphics, meteorology and chemistry to engineering, biology and finance. Scientists, engineers and computer scientists need to write good code, for speed, clarity, flexibility and ease of re-use. Oliveira and Stewart‘s style guide for numerical software points out good practices to follow, and pitfalls to avoid. By following their advice, readers will learn how to write efficient software, and how to test it for bugs, accuracy and performance. Techniques are explained with a variety of programming languages, and illustrated with two extensive design examples, one in Fortran 90 and one in C++: other examples in C, C++, Fortran 90 and Java are scattered throughout the book. This manual of scientific computing style will be an essential addition to the bookshelf and lab of everyone who writes numerical software.

Mathematical algorithms, though usually invisible, are all around us. The microcomputer in your car controlling the fuel ignition uses a control algorithm embodying mathematical theories of dynamical systems; a Web search engine might use large-scale matrix computations; a “smart map” using a Global Positioning System to tell where you are and the best way to get home embodies numerous numerical and non-numerical algorithms; the design of modern aircraft involves simulating the aerodynamic and structural characteristics on powerful computers including supercomputers.

Behind these applications is software that does numerical computations. Often it is called scientific software, or engineering software; this software uses finiteprecision floating-point (and occasionally fixed-point) numbers to represent continuous quantities.
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