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The Physics of Algorithms PhD course

PhD School at the Faculty of SCIENCE at University of Copenhagen


To provide the students with a toolbox of optimization and modeling algorithms along with a sense of which ones work best in a given situation
To inspire the students to make use of analogies between physics and optimization and develop new ones

Recent methods are covered where physics has contributed significantly to the understanding and development of algorithms. Examples include Monte Carlo type algorithms like simulated annealing and genetic algorithms as well as maximum entropy solutions, information theory, and neural nets. A number of such algorithms will be presented theoretically as well as in practice, and the connections between physics and optimization will be emphasized. Students will get hands-on experience with implementing the methods during the exercise sessions. Students are expected to put serious effort into these implementations.

Learning outcome

The students have completed the course in full when they can:

- Identify analogies between physical phenomena and optimization
- Select and use optimizations methods for a particular problem and argue for their choice
- Identify optimization opportunities in their own field of research

Through this course the student will learn about modeling algorithms, optimization, Monte Carlo calculations, information theory, neural nets, a.o. Emphasis will be on understanding the relationship between physics and optimization. The students will also learn that many traditional physics laws are really optimized outcomes of particular objective functions.

The student will at the end of this course be able to understand algorithms and optimization, see their relation to physics, and especially use these techniques within their own field of research.


Course notes and excerpts from articles and books are available on the course webpage for registered students.

Teaching and learning methods

Mixture of lectures and exercises.


Academic qualifications:
Contents of the first year of the physics bachelor program including supporting courses.


Course dates
14 February 2018 - 23 April 2018
Niels Bohr Institute
7,5 points

If you have any questions about this site, please contact Danske Universiteter via mail: dkuni @