Reading Impractical Python Projects

If you experienced the home and personal computing revolution of the early 1980s, you may have read some books that got you hooked up with programming. These books led you through the intellectual adventure of using computing to explore interesting problem domains.

I got a recent book that brought back that fascination and excitement with programming, Impractical Python Projects: Playful Programming Activities to Make You Smarter by Lee Vaughan.

The cover of the book Impractical Python Projects in the Google Play Books app on a Pixel 2 XL phone.
The cover of the book Impractical Python Projects in the Google Play Books app on my Pixel 2 XL phone.

The book is not a Python tutorial or guide. Instead, it presents stimulating coding projects for non-programmers who want to use Python for doing experiments, test theories, or simulate natural phenomena. This includes professionals who are not software developers but use programming to solve problems in science and engineering.

Exploring and understanding the problem domain is an integral part of the book’s projects along with the coding. This is unlike typical programming books where the examples are often trivial, have little or no domain depth, and are stripped of everything but the essentials.

The science and engineering Impractical Python Projects covers include some great ones that match my interest in astronomy and space such as estimating alien civilizations with the Fermi Paradox, simulating a volcano on Jupiter’s moon Io, simulating orbital maneuvers, and stacking planetary images.

The sample code is straightforward and clear. Since the book is not a language tutorial, it focuses on prototyping and exploration rather than building large and maintainable systems.

This book is worth alone the Humble Bundle of No Starch Press Python programming books I purchased it with.


  1. Thanks for your kind review. There'll be more to come later this year when the sequel, "Real World Python," is published by the No Starch Press. Among the projects will be simulating the Apollo 8 free return trajectory, selecting Martian landing sites using real NASA maps, discovering Pluto with a digital blink comparator, simulating exoplanet light curves, saving shipwrecked sailors with Bayes' Rule, and more.

    1. You're welcome. I really enjoyed the book and the sequel looks even cooler. When it comes out, please let me know.

  2. I haven't acquired this book yet, but I did look at the table of contents and it reminds me of a very old book "Scientific and Engineering Problem-Solving with the Computer" by William Ralph Bennett, Jr.(1976). Written for BASIC, it deals with problems of language (monkeys at typewriters - building smarter monkeys by using correlation matrices, as well as author identification, and was my first introduction to the Voynich Manuscript), dynamics (playing football in high winds, jumping out of airplanes with corrections for air resistance, body position and the use of parachutes), extracting signals from noise, including noise that has no signal, disease propagation by diffusion, and all sorts of other things way beyond a typical book on programming.

    I'm looking forward to acquiring this one.

    1. Thanks for the memories Brian. I haven't read that book but remember similar ones.

    2. You're welcome. And I've now acquired both of Lee's books!

    3. Thanks, Brian. Paola, you should get a complimentary copy of Real-world Python soon.

    4. Thanks Lee, I already bought Real-World Python and it's awesome.


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