The students have been learning SciPy, a python-based scientific programming language. I decided I would use that for my computational neuroscience course. I've been wanting to learn Python for a while, anyway.
On the first day of lectures here, the instructor of the other course, Raouf Ghomrasni, said he is going to use Scilab. He said it's a free Matlab work-alike... I immediately started salivating.
Later that day, I downloaded Scilab, and found it to be excellent. In in that few hours of exposure, I decided to abandon all my SciPy preparation, and instead teach the course using Scilab.
I must admit, I feel a bit bad for the students. They know SciPy, and yet we're thrusting ANOTHER language on them. But I can make myself feel better when I consider that:
- Matlab is one of the most common scientific programming languages, so learning it would be an asset to these budding scientists.
- The students would likely stumble over the same SciPy ndarray/matrix issues I was having.
- Using Scilab will save me a lot of time in the long run. I'll be teaching a course on computational neuroscience at Waterloo in the fall, and I'll use Matlab for that. Investing in a Matlab-like language now will transfer more easily to that course.