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Vpython physutil package released with documentation

May 22, 2011

In the past couple of weeks, when I’ve been swamped with end of year stuff, Danny Cabellero and the computer science undergraduates working with him have managed to publish physutil, a vpython package that is designed specifically for physics teaching and learning.

Physutil allows you to do things like add a timer or axes to a simulation you create in vpython, and drop breadcrumbs to track objects as they move through a simulation. You can also drop any vector you want (like a velocity or force vector) as the object moves, and so you can literally create a simulation of a comet orbiting a star and see how the the velocity changes as the comet orbits the star.

In order to use physutil, you’ll need to install both python and vpython on your computer, and you can find plenty of documentation about that process on

Here’s a video I created to show off some of the features of physutil. The blue arrow represents the net force, and the yellow arrow is the velocity. Total time to code this was less than 15 minutes.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 3, 2015 4:11 pm

    Hey john!
    I downloaded phys util but can’t get my version of Python to find it.
    Do you know what folder it goes into on smack?

    And thanks for having such s helpful blog!

    Jim Cibulka

    • June 3, 2015 4:41 pm

      I always put the physutil files right next to whatever python program I’m running and it works. I think there is a way to add physutil to the python path, but I’ve never bothered to learn it. Also I think physutil and the documentation have gone through a couple of iterations of improvement since I last wrote about it. You can now find it in gihub at

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