Physical Modeling in MATLAB

(4 reviews)


Allen Downey, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering

Pub Date: 2009

ISBN 13:

Publisher: Green Tea Press

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Reviewed by Katie Sheldon, Adjunct Professor, Central Oregon Community College, on 8/22/2016.

This book covers introductory programming with MATLAB in a methodical manner. This textbook was perfect for students who did not have a programming … read more



Reviewed by Andrew Paluch, Assistant Professor, Miami University, on 8/22/2016.

I currently teach a sophomore-level introduction to MATLAB and numerical methods course for chemical engineers. This text is perfect, and I plan to … read more



Reviewed by Curtis Lipski, Part Time Instructor- Engineering, Portland Community College, on 8/22/2016.

Physical Modeling for MATLAB is a text book that would provide a great reference text book for our Electrical Circuits series courses (three courses) … read more



Reviewed by Anathea Pepperl, Assistant Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University, on 2/9/2017.

The text covers introductory programming appropriately and is an excellent resource for students with no programming background. The author tends to … read more


About the Book

Most books that use MATLAB are aimed at readers who know how to program. This book is for people who have never programmed before. As a result, the order of presentation is unusual. The book starts with scalar values and works up to vectors and matrices very gradually. This approach is good for beginning programmers, because it is hard to understand composite objects until you understand basic programming semantics. But there are problems:

  • The MATLAB documentation is written in terms of matrices, and so are the error messages. To mitigate this problem, the book explains the necessary vocabulary early and deciphers some of the messages that beginners find confusing.
  • Many of the examples in the first half of the book are non-standard MATLAB. I address this problem in the second half by translating the examples into a more idiomatic style.

The book puts a lot of emphasis on functions, in part because they are an important tool for controlling program complexity, and also because they are useful for working with MATLAB tools like fzero and ode45.   I assume that readers know calculus, differential equations, and physics, but not linear algebra. I explain the math as I go along, but the descriptions might not be enough for someone who hasn't seen the material before.   There are small exercises within each chapter, and a few larger exercises at the end of some chapters.

About the Contributors


Allen Downey is an American computer scientist, Professor of Computer Science at the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering and writer of free textbooks. Downey received in 1989 his BS and in 1990 his MA, both in Civil Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his PhD in Computer Science from the University of California at Berkeley in 1997. He started his career as Research Fellow in the San Diego Supercomputer Center in 1995. In 1997 he became Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Colby College, and in 2000 at Wellesley College. He was Research Fellow at Boston University in 2002 and Professor of Computer Science at the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering since 2003. In 2009-2010 he was also Visiting Scientist at Google Inc.