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Math Software Upgrades

Mathematica 6 Launched 222

Posted by kdawson
from the simulate-this dept.
Ed Pegg writes "Wolfram Research has just released Mathematica 6. That link, in addition to the usual 'dramatic breakthrough' material, has an amazing flash banner that simultaneously shows a thousand mathematical demonstrations all at once. The animations came from the Wolfram Demonstrations Project, a free service with 1200+ dynamically interactive examples of math, science, and physics, all with code. For the product itself, much is new or improved, with built-in math databases, improved visualizations, and more."
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Mathematica 6 Launched

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @08:48PM (#18949813)
    An article about the demonstrations is at 5_02_07.html []

    That a dollar in nickels needs $1.88 in metal to be made is surprising.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @08:48PM (#18949817)
    check out SAGE: []
  • RTF web site (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @08:58PM (#18949903)
    From the section on 3D improvements, a whole one click away from the summary-linked page:

    "Seamless optimization with graphics hardware on all computer platforms."
  • by metlin (258108) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:09PM (#18949973) Journal
    Ah, if you are looking at VTK based software, you should look at MayaVi []. It lets you do some fantastic scientific visualization and has a neat GUI, too. And oh, you can also do some really cool CFD stuff with it. Check out the screenshots [].

    Back in the day, I used to be friends with the guy who did this stuff (met him at one of the LUGs). Turns out that he's now a prof at one of the better schools in India [].

    Anyway, Mathematica rocks, too. There is a lot more that you can do and it has some pretty neat capabilities. Besides, the strength of Mathematica is not merely the engine, it is the libraries and the wealth of demos and code out there.
  • Re:Cost (Score:2, Informative)

    by ficken (807392) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:13PM (#18950005) Journal
    If you are a student, Wolfram offers some pretty decent site-licensing deals with educational institutions. (Consult your local higher ed facility)
  • I'm torn... (Score:5, Informative)

    by kebes (861706) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:18PM (#18950025) Journal
    Mathematica is an absolutely fantastic package. The symbol manipulation (derivaties, integration, etc.) are outstanding, the graphing is rich (though the options are obscure), and the data-manipulation is great. It's a very useful tool when doing serious engineering and science, plus it's fun to play around with.

    However, I recently ran into one of those "top 10 reasons why proprietary software is annoying" situations. I hadn't used Mathematica in awhile, and wanted to go back to some old code and re-run some analysis. However in the meantime I had migrated from Windows to Linux. No problem--the install disk has the installer for Windows, Linux, and Mac all in one. Great. So I install it in Linux and then get the annoying "you must register this product to use it." (On Windows it gives you two weeks before locking out, but in Linux it won't open unless you enter the code, which changes with each new hardware installation.) The online automatic registration said I had to contact them via email. So I did. Eventually got the reactivation code. Turns out it didn't run properly on Linux. The controls were clunky and I couldn't get individuals block to execute (though I could re-execute an entire workbook.) Okay, no problem--I have a Mac laptop. So I load it up there. Then I have to go through the reactivation process again. Another email, more waiting. Eventually get it running.

    My point is that I had alot of difficulty getting my (legitimately purchased) copy of Mathematica to actually work for me. I was in a hurry and just wanted to run some code quickly. This 10-minute operation turned into a 4-day ordeal, at the end of which I was very frustrated. It really reminded me the great advantages of programming in standards-based languages, that have open-source implementations. If the code had been written in python (using the Gnu Scientific Library), I would have been able to run it without hassles, and I could send the code to others, knowing that installing Python (on the OS of their choice) was always easy.

    I don't want to turn this into a stereotypical OSS vs. proprietary rant... but this very recent experience with Mathematica has left a bad taste in my mouth--and I was previously very much a Mathematica evangelist!
  • Student scam.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Trelane (16124) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:22PM (#18950061) Journal
    I see that the student license still goes away when you graduate. Yuck.
  • Re:I'm torn... (Score:3, Informative)

    by wall0159 (881759) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:27PM (#18950089)

    I sympathise. I'm finishing up a PhD in signal processing, and all my coding has been in Matlab. I love Matlab - it's a fantastic package - but licensing is a pain in the ass. The number of times I've been unable to use (my legitamate copy of) Matlab because of some issue with the license server... It's cost me at least a couple of weeks' productivity. I know many other students in the same boat.

    For my post-doc work, I'll be using another package. I'll definitely be investigating SciPy ( - it looks pretty cool.

    I use Protools, too, for music recording - don't even get me started on that ;-)
  • by alamandrax (692121) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:29PM (#18950109) Journal
    How about Maxima [], or Scilab []? A commenter further down also suggested MayaVi.
  • by hkfczrqj (671146) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:35PM (#18950157)
    I know MayaVi, it's a very cool package, but I wasn't been able to run it before. I should try again.

    Also, speaking of cool VTK stuff, there is VisIt ( []). Seems very cool, and it's BSD-licensed (can they do that? they redistribute Qt with it...)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:35PM (#18950161)
    SAGE actually uses Maxima for doing symbolic computations. In addition, you can easily drop from the SAGE console into a Maxima console. Similarly, SAGE provides consoles for GAP, Mathematica, and Maple amongst others.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:37PM (#18950173)
    No, the version 6 Linux/Unix front end widget set is based on Qt, so it's supposed to look better and be more easily customizable.
  • by Noksagt (69097) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:43PM (#18950203) Homepage

    How about Maxima
    I like maxima quite a bit! For certain operations, it is MUCH faster than Mathematica & other commercial Computer Algebra Systems (CASs). (The most recent example that springs to mind was a relatively simple (symbolic) cardonic equation. Maxima spit it out instantaneously.)

    or Scilab?
    Scilab is mostly a numerical package (similar to matlab). By many people's (OSI, DFSG, FSF, ...) definitions, it isn't free/open source--commercial redistribution of modified versions is prohibited

    A commenter further down also suggested MayaVi.
    MayaVI is a 3Dvisualization package & isn't remotely a CAS. It doesn't even provide analysis.

    For other open source options, see Comparison of computer algebra systems on Wikipedia [].
  • Re:I'm torn... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Trelane (16124) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:55PM (#18950305) Journal

    which changes with each new hardware installation.

    More than that: it changes with network device configuration. If your wireless card changes, or you insert a new one, or they get renamed or whatever, you have to get them to reactivate it. I've only bought Mathematica once--the student version several years ago, and I've not bought a new one since.

    No, wait. I'm wrong. I bought 5.1 or 5.2 because I had 4.something, because 5.whatever had been released and therefore switching notebooks would have cost me $40 all because they were now shipping 5.x and it was an "old" version. I kid you not. I've had to call them several times because some network device was renamed differently (funny, nothing else on my system seems to care what I call my wireless card, and I've switched the name around a few times) and they couldn't cope with the fact that my ipw2100 card was now "ipw2100" instead of "eth2".

    This, however, is only slightly less annoying than Matlab, which requires the effing documentation CD to be mounted in order for it to run thanks to craptastic gaming CD checking technologies. I've not bought another license from them.

    Say what you will about IDL (wow I hate that system) but at least its licensing is straightforward. Heck, I bought it 4 years and a whole notebook (not to mention a plethora of network devices) ago, and it is still running off of the original license file.

    I'm looking into Maple (can anyone tell me what their licensing scam looks like?), but so far the only math/graphing system I've not absolutely hated is the one I've not yet used....

  • by starseeker (141897) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @10:00PM (#18950341) Homepage
    While you're checking out Mathematica, consider taking a look at the major open source computer algebra projects:

    Axiom: [] (formerly known as Scratchpad) was developed at IBM as a commercial system, sold to NAG, and released a few years ago as an open source program.


    Maxima: [] (descended from the pre-commercial Macsyma codebase) was maintained by William Schelter for many years and he obtained permission to release it as open source. Sadly, he passed away a few years later but the Maxima project has grown and now has many active contributors.

    They won't have the glitzy graphics or army of specialized packages Mathematica boasts, but they also don't cost $1500 and (theoretically) can be audited for correctness all the way down to their foundations. I regard the latter as very important for people trying to do scientific research with computer algebra tools, and what's more no commercial company is required for their survival (the story of Macsyma is a very good object lesson.)

    Maxima is the more "engineering" oriented of the two systems and will probably make more sense to Mathematica inclined users - it can use gnuplot, run on Windows and has a decent GUI called wxMaxima: [] Axiom is more oriented towards being "strong" mathematically - it takes more getting used to and has very ambitious goals for long term mathematical research. It is attempting to become a literate program in the tradition of Knuth's TeX system. It doesn't currently have the interfaces to familiar tools the way Maxima does.

    Both systems are already very powerful and while there are many bugs to work out progress is being made. If you're shopping around for a CAS and are interested in open source systems, I highly recommend checking them out.

    (Bias disclosure - I have been a (minor) member of the Maxima project and am currently interested in/doing a little work on/with Axiom, in case the URL in my info doesn't give it away.)
  • by jd (1658) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @10:02PM (#18950351) Homepage Journal
    VTK is amazing and can be used in conjunction with other toolkits, such as ITK, to produce visualization for specific purposes. (ITK was designed for medical work, for example.) Other great visualization tolkits are OpenDX, GGobi, Ballview, ChomboVis and Fityk. This is something that is badly needed, if the number of toolkits is anything to go by. 3D FFTs are often closely associated with scientific visualization, but I've only found one package (P3DFFT) that supports it.
  • by UtucXul (658400) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @10:35PM (#18950649) Homepage

    I like maxima quite a bit! For certain operations, it is MUCH faster than Mathematica & other commercial Computer Algebra Systems (CASs). (The most recent example that springs to mind was a relatively simple (symbolic) cardonic equation. Maxima spit it out instantaneously.)
    Speed isn't the only great thing about maxima. The LaTeX output maxima provides for equations is an awesome feature that wasn't in anything else as of the last time I checked.
  • by highacnumber (988934) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @11:01PM (#18950857)
    Maxima is included in the SAGE project. I strongly encourage anyone interested in open source alternatives to Mathematica to check out SAGE ( It also includes a raytracer, the Gnu Scientific Library, numpy, scipy, singular, gap, and many more open source math projects. It is already very impressive and improving rapidly. I have over 5000 Mathematica notebooks, I've used Mathematica since 1990, and I am preparing to move all of my research and teaching (I am a math professor) over to SAGE.
  • by lbrandy (923907) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @11:24PM (#18951001)
    "Does it run Linux in Rule 110?"

    Not sure how far that kind of nerdery is gonna get you... even on slashdot. Know that you've been modded up in my heart.

    Here's some wikipedia articles for anyone that's dug this far and is wondering what we are talking about: omaton [] [] [] [] _(book) []
  • Re:I'm torn... (Score:3, Informative)

    by bcrowell (177657) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @11:55PM (#18951359) Homepage
    I had a similar problem, but worse, IMO, because Wolfram refused to help me. I bought a copy of the mac version of Mathematica ca. 1992. Later, when I upgraded to a later version of MacOS, Mathematica wouldn't work. Wolfram's response was that I needed to buy a more recent version of Mathematica, at full price. Since then, I've used nothing but OSS (including Maxima) for symbolic math, and have never regretted it.
  • Re:I'm torn... (Score:5, Informative)

    by DynaSoar (714234) * on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @04:52AM (#18953765) Journal
    > There is also a serious scientific issue in using closed-source software for
    > data analysis or theoretical calculations. [etc.]

    I do science in the real world. I can safely say that's a patently ridiculous assertion. We rely on any software we can get to work. Often that's commercial software, because people who develop good software in science frequently take it commercial.

    It's our results that need to be replicated, not our methods. Anyone can do the same thing and get the same result. Doing it by a different method and getting the same result is a much more rigorous validation. As long as it's a different box, it doesn't matter if one or both are black.

    It's also to our benefit to use commercial software because it's cheaper to buy it, including (re)licensing fees and support, because it's cheaper than paying salary to a code hacker to keep things running. Maybe some have the spare time to hack their own code. I wish I did. But I've got more important things to do.

    I've worked in a lab that at first had a EE doctoral student doing Matlab code, and then started using some hardware that required doing analysis in Code Warrior. We needed to get someone else. Not good for the first guy, and expensive in either case for us. I also started collaborating with a lab that used the only open source analysis software in our field (only one other lab used it; the one the lab director came from). I could do by myself what took them 3 people to do, and get it done faster. The collaboration didn't last long.

    The accepted procedure in carrying out and publishing research is to reference the software manufacturers in the text and/or references section. If anyone wants to check the results by getting the same things and doing the samr things with them to check validity, they're welcome to. But they don't. They use what they have and compare results. If they really want to check the validity of results, they can get copies of the validity testing done on the software. Any decent software maker will have already done all the validity testing necessary and is glad to make that data available.
  • Re:I'm torn... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @07:11AM (#18954395)
    What a load of s**t on point 2.
    > the support for it on Linux would have already been better
    When I needed help installing a package (a fairly common library) on my Linux server, I got called a n00b and got no assistance. When my new mouse wasn't supported in Linux and I went to the message boards for the distribution, I got told to "google 'mouse problems linux' and stop wasting our time". Needless to say, this n00b chose a different OS.

    My experience with Linux is, when things are working it's great -- when there are problems you're stuffed. At least this guy got a response from Wolfram which (eventually) solved his issue. In my case, all I got was jeering and a month of pain before I gave up on Linux.

Time sharing: The use of many people by the computer.