I'm wondering whether questions such as these should be considered appropriate on this site:

Mathematica to help for an Hamiltonian problem



They seem like questions which are relevant to physicists (or some subset of physicists) but are really about computing rather than physics. In my view, just because the specific programs or file formats in question are typically used by physicists, it doesn't mean the question is necessarily appropriate here. Sometimes Super User might be a better fit.

What do you think?

As discussed in Noldorin's answer and Tobias's comment, we seem to be taking the position that questions about the interpretation or justification of an algorithm or its results, or about physically motivated algorithm design, are okay, but questions about how to accomplish <task> in <program> (or <programming language>) should generally go to Super User (or Stack Overflow, respectively).

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    $\begingroup$ Note that as of December 2011, Computation Science is in public beta and provides another place to send people. That would appear to be a good place for questions about algorithm selection to simulate a particular system. The nitty-gritty of coding might still go to Stack Overflow. $\endgroup$ Dec 20, 2011 at 1:53

2 Answers 2


I think I agree that these sorts of questions should generally be asked on Super User (if they are specifically related to how to use plotting/CAS/simulation/etc. software); or the Mathematics SE (if they relate to how to perform numerical integration, for example).

There are however some potential cases where computational questions would be quite valid here. For example, you might ask what approximations and numerical shortcuts could be made for simulating a given dynamical system. Or a more obvious example (though perhaps not quite what you mean) - quantum computing.

I suggest we judge relevance on a question by question basis, in any case.

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    $\begingroup$ +1, and I'd also say a question belongs here if it asks for physical motivation / justification of the method / its results $\endgroup$ Nov 4, 2010 at 22:37

If we are trying to make this site useful for actual physics work - much like Stack Overflow for programming work - then I'd say we should allow such questions to a reasonable extent.

I might get a good answer to a Maple or Gnuplot problem on SuperUser or SO, but I doubt I'd get much help with programs like ROOT, Pythia, Athena (to name a few of the less exotic programs used at my place). Another example I just thought about: How to get LabView to work with some rare physicistic equipment?

I guess this would belong better at physicists.stackexchange.com, but since that doesn't exist, this is the next best place.


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