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Visualisation and animation tools

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I am after some free/cheap visualisation and animation tools for explaining mathematics/physics and general science concepts.

Something/things that can fairly quickly and easily make 2d and 3d plots, add text and drawings to them. Basic physics simulation/animation tools would be great, too.

I have tried this in the past with matlab/octave plotting tools and getting decent animations tends to be extremely time consuming, as is drawing things in general tools like CAD.


Can anyone suggest tools, or ways of speeding up the process? Which skills would you recommend acquiring (ie. is 3d modelling/someone's favourite programming language worth the effort?)

Tools for other sciences are welcome too, this may be of interest to others

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Well, since no-one else can help, may as well share what I've found during my search.


Sage Looks like a simple and quick way to generate 2d plots/animations. It also has some 3d and interactive abilities, although they do not seem easy to make accessible outside of a notebook.


Paraview looks time consuming but incredibly powerful


vpython looks to have some uses


I'm interested to note that my search keeps leading me back to python projects. Although I cannot rule out bias, this was in no way intentional on my part. I haven't had much python experience, but I'm starting to see why so many people are python zealots.


The only thing I am missing is quick and easy web 2.0 style stuff that can be embedded in forums/blogs.



Pymol looks pretty nifty if you're a chemist

This is almost perfect for quick and dirty calculations/animations. Easy creation of parametric surfaces with time. Big let down is no scripting/find and replace/bulk editing of parameters so if you want lots of lines you have to edit them all by hand.

Also no simple way to save as a gif (probably patent issues &*#$ compuserve), but that'd just be icing.


Also mathematica keeps popping up as being the best/most recommended for this kind of thing. Anyone have any comments? I found matlab to be fairly efficient if you spent the time to write lots of scripts, but setting things up took some time. Is mathematica useful for small projects?

Edited by Schrödinger's hat
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If you are interested in trying out a new OS look into edubuntu. Ubuntu in general actually has a lot of software that is quite good at modelling physics, biology, chemistry, etc phenomena.


On their software center they have a whole section devoted to science and another to education.


The best part is that its all free and extremely easy to download.



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My ubuntu installation is currently in need of cleaning up and upgrading.

I've used:

Octave, maxima, matlab (not free :( ), and tried a host of others on there.

The only simulation software I could find was quite cumbersome to use and not really any more efficient than doing things in matlab. Any suggestions for specific packages?

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Well to be honest I've only browsed those sections and haven't really invested a lot of time exploring some of that stuff...(I do more with the compilers and txt editors)


If I find anything of interest I'll let you know though...



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