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The Nature of Code

The Nature of Code

In this course, the students learn the basics of programming (variables, conditionals, loops, objects, arrays) as well as a survey of applications related to making interactive projects (images, pixels, computer vision, networking, data, 3D).

The course mostly follows the material found in my intro book Learning Processing; in many ways, The Nature of Code serves as a follow-up. Once you’ve learned the basics and seen an array of applications, your next step might be to delve deeply into a particular area. For example, you could focus on computer vision (and read a book like Greg Borenstein’s Making Things See). In the most basic sense, this book is one possible next step in a world of many. It picks up exactly where Learning Processing leaves off, demonstrating more advanced programming techniques with Processing that focus on algorithms and simulation.

The goal of this book is simple. We want to take a look at something that naturally occurs in our physical world, then determine how we can write code to simulate that occurrence.

So then what is this book exactly? Is it a science book? The answer is a resounding no. True, we might examine topics that come from physics or biology, but it won’t be our job to investigate these topics with a particularly high level of academic rigor. Instead, we’re going to glance at scientific concepts and grab the parts that we need in the service of building a particular software example.

Is this an art or design book? I would also say no; after all, we are going to focus on algorithms and their affiliated programming techniques. Sure, the results will all be visual in nature (manifested as animated Processing sketches), but they will exist more as demonstrations of the algorithms and programming techniques themselves, drawn only with simple shapes and grayscale. It is my hope, however, that designers and artists can incorporate all of the material here into their practice to make new, engaging work.

In the end, if this book is anything, it is really just a good old-fashioned programming book. While a scientific topic may seed a chapter (Newtonian physics, cellular growth, evolution) or the results might inspire an artistic project, the content itself will always boil down to the code implementation, with a particular focus on object-oriented programming.

The Nature of Code

by Daniel Shiffman (Online reading, source files) – 10 chapters

The Nature of Code by Daniel Shiffman