Structure and Interpretation of Classical Mechanics
Structure and Interpretation of Classical Mechanics (SICM) is a classical mechanics textbook written by Gerald Jay Sussman and Jack Wisdom with Meinhard E. Mayer. It was published by MIT Press in 2001. The book (ISBN 0-262-19455-4) is used at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to teach a class in advanced classical mechanics, starting with Lagrange's equations and proceeding through canonical perturbation theory.
SICM explains some physical phenomena by showing computer programs for simulating them. These programs are written in the Scheme programming language, as were the programs in Sussman's earlier computer science textbook, Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs.
Sussman wrote:
Classical mechanics is deceptively simple. It is surprisingly easy to get the right answer with fallacious reasoning or without the real understanding. To address this problem Jack Wisdom and I, with help from Hardy Mayer, have written a book with the title of this talk (Structure and Interpretation of Classical Mechanics) and are teaching a class at MIT that uses computational techniques to communicate a deeper understanding of Classical mechanics. We use computational algorithms to express the methods used to analyze dynamical phenomena. Expressing the methods in a computer language forces them to be unambiguous and computationally effective. Formulating a method as a computer-executable program and debugging that program is a powerful exercise in the learning process. Also, once formalized procedurally, a mathematical idea becomes a tool that can be used directly to compute results.
The entire text is freely available online from the publisher's website.
- Publisher page at MIT Press
- Full text in HTML on co-author Gerald Sussman's site
- SICM full text in PDF format
- Talk on SICM
- MIT course 6.946, "Classical Mechanics: A Computational Approach"
- OCW MIT OpenCourseWare class materials for course 6.946, Fall 2008.
- Review in American Scientist
- Review in Foundations of Physics by Piet Hut, Institute for Advanced Study