Physics Educational Software
Written by Daniel V. Schroeder and others.
All of this software is available free, as is. Read on to learn more...
JavaScript/HTML5 web apps
These should run in any modern web browser, and even on many mobile devices.
- Interactive Molecular Dynamics simulates up to 2500 interacting particles
in two dimensions, so you can explore phases of matter, emergent behavior, irreversibility, and
thermal effects at the nanoscale.
- Fluid Dynamics simulates a two-dimensional fluid in a wind-tunnel
arrangement using the lattice-Boltzmann algorithm, demonstrating vortex shedding and forces on barriers.
- Ising Model simulates a magnet in two dimensions
using the Metropolis algorithm, with the ability to rescale the lattice at any time.
- Electric Potentials and Fields (by WSU student Nathaniel Klemm) solves Laplace's
equation for the electrostatic potential around an arbitrary arrangment of use-drawn conductors.
- Wave Builder is a computer-aided exploration of
building complicated wave shapes out of sine waves or other simple basis functions.
- Quantum wavefunction simulations in one dimension:
- Spins Laboratory simulation:
- Two-Source Interference is a simple animation of
wave propagation from a pair of identical sources with variable separation.
- Chaotic Pendulum is a simple simulation of the damped,
driven pendulum, with a phase space plot.
- Newton’s Cannon animates Isaac Newton’s famous
thought experiment of firing projectiles horizontally from a high mountaintop.
- U.S. Power Plants, 2012 (interactive map)
If you would like to learn to create your own HTML5/JavaScript simulations, here are the
tutorial materials that I created for a workshop on the topic, first offered
at the summer 2014 AAPT meeting. Prior to that I wrote a
blog article
summarizing my benchmark results with some of these simulations, and
another
blog article listing other HTML5 physics simulations as of October 2013.
Java Applets
For those who still have a browser that will run them...
- Radiation Applet by Andrew Flinders (WSU student):
draws and animates field lines of an accelerated charge.
- Molecular Dynamics Applet:
simulates molecular motions in two dimensions.
- EField Applet:
draws electric fields for any two-dimensional arrangement of charges.
- Sky Motion Applet:
a planetarium simulation designed especially to show heavenly motions.
- Zoomer Applet: a modest
attempt to show earth's place in the universe.
Older Thermal Physics software for Mac and Windows
- Molecules is a two-dimensional molecular dynamics simulation, similar to
the Molecular Dynamics applet listed above.
This version has somewhat different features including the ability to simulate
two types of dissimilar particles.
- Ising is a Monte Carlo simulation of the two-dimensional Ising
model.
Really Old Mac Software
The programs described below were developed for the Macintosh computer
circa 1985-92. They are small, fast, and easy to use, but lack the color graphics that
everyone expects these days. As far as I know, all of them run fine on PowerPC-based
Macintosh systems, including OS X systems under the Classic environment. It might be
possible to run them on Intel-based systems using third-party emulation software, but
I've never tried this. Except for the Radiation and EField Applets (see above), I have no versions
of these programs for Windows
or other operating systems. However, the Spins program has been
ported to Java by a group at Oregon State University.
Click here for
more information about this Java version of Spins.
All of the programs described below, except for the Radiation program, were
written by Dan Schroeder and Michael Martin.
To download an archive of all of these programs,
click here (.hqx format,
213k). The Radiation program is in a separate archive (see below).
- E-Field shows the electric field (represented
by arrows) of an arbitrary two-dimensional distribution of point charges
or of infinite-line charges (running perpendicular to the screen).
It has a very easy user interface and is suitable for high school or
college introductory courses. (Unless you're on a pre-OSX Mac,
use the EField applet instead of this program.)
- B-Field is similar to E-Field but shows
the magnetic field of an arbitrary arrangement of infinite wires
running perpendicular to the screen.
- Radiation draws and animates the electric field lines
around an accelerated point charge undergoing various motions, as
described here.
This program was
created by Blas Cabrera,
Sha Xin Wei, and Jim Terman; it is now in the public domain.
Click
here to download this program (.hqx format, 40k). (Unless you're on a pre-OSX Mac,
use the new Radiation Applet instead of this old program.)
- Fourier analyzes a user-drawn wave form (within a finite
interval) into its first 15 Fourier components, or synthesizes a wave form
from user-specified coefficients.
- Q-Wave is similar to Fourier, but can analyze
a wavefunction using any of three different sets of basis functions, corresponding
to box, harmonic oscillator, and linear potential energy functions.
- Schrodinger animates the time dependence of a
wavefunction built from the first
six basis functions for either the box or harmonic oscillator potential.
(Unless you're on a pre-OSX Mac, use the new Quantum
Square Well and Quantum Harmonic
Oscillator simulations instead.)
- Quantum1D is a bare-bones animation (with no user interface)
of one-dimensional scattering of a wavepacket from a step potential. (Unless you're on a pre-OSX
Mac, use the new Quantum Barrier Scattering
simulation instead.)
- Spins allows the user to link together Stern-Gerlach
devices to explore the mysteries of quantum mechanics for a system that
is mathematically very simple. This program is described in
AJP 61, 798-805 (1993).
Note: a Java version
of this program is now available from Oregon State University.
Last modified on 17 November 2016.