Lecture notes given at the 43rd Saas Fee Advanced
School, March 11-16, 2013, Villars-sur-Ollon, Switzerland.
Abstract: Numerical methods play an ever more important role in astrophysics. This is especially true in theoretical works, but of course, even in purely observational projects, data analysis without massive use of computational methods has become unthinkable. The key utility of computer simulations comes from their ability to solve complex systems of equations that are either intractable with analytic techniques or only amenable to highly approximative treatments. Simulations are best viewed as a powerful complement to analytic reasoning, and as the method of choice to model systems that feature enormous physical complexity such as star formation in evolving galaxies, the topic of this 43rd Saas Fee Advanced Course. The organizers asked me to lecture about high performance computing and numerical modelling in this winter school, and to specifically cover the basics of numerically treating gravity and hydrodynamics in the context of galaxy evolution. This is still a vast field, and I necessarily had to select a subset of the relevant material. The written notes presented here quite closely follow the lectures as held in Villars-sur-Ollon, which were meant to provide a general overview about some of the most pertinent techniques that may be relevant for students working on numerical models of galaxy evolution and star formation. The discussion is hence often at an introductory level, giving precedence to a presentation of the main numerical concepts rather than to a mathematically detailed exposition of the techniques.
The paper is in pdf format.