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Wolfram Research Releases Mathematica 7 234

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the just-installing-it-would-make-me-feel-dumber dept.
mblase writes "Wolfram Research has released the seventh version of Mathematica, and it does a lot more than symbolic algebra. New features range from things as simple as cut-and-paste integration with Microsoft Word's Equation Editor to instant 3D models of mathematical objects to the most expensive clone of Photoshop ever. Full suites of genome, chemical, weather, astronomical, financial, and geodesic data (or support for same) is designed to make Mathematica as invaluable for scientific research as it is for mathematics."
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Wolfram Research Releases Mathematica 7

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  • Slashvertisement (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bananenrepublik (49759) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @01:27PM (#25820043)
    "[It] is designed to make Mathematica as invaluable for scientific research as it is for mathematics." Cut down the advertising please. Or at least advertize some free software. It's been a while since I needes a computer algebra system. How are the free alternatives coming along? Any recommendations?
    • Maxima (Score:5, Informative)

      by Brain-Fu (1274756) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @01:53PM (#25820533) Homepage Journal

      Maxima [sourceforge.net] is released under the GPL.

      • Re:Maxima (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) <obsessivemathsfreakNO@SPAMeircom.net> on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @03:10PM (#25821713) Homepage Journal

        Maxima also sucks. Here's a session from just this afternoon.

        [omf@midgar 14:45:36 ~]$ maxima
        Maxima 5.13.0 http://maxima.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]
        Using Lisp GNU Common Lisp (GCL) GCL 2.6.8 (aka GCL)
        Distributed under the GNU Public License. See the file COPYING.
        Dedicated to the memory of William Schelter.
        This is a development version of Maxima. The function bug_report()
        provides bug reporting information.
        (%i1) Q=matrix.... .....

        (%i11) Q.T.transpose(Q);
        (%o11) matrix([cos(t) (cos(t) T11 - sin(t) T12)
          - sin(t) (cos(t) T21 - sin(t) T22), cos(t) (cos(t) T12 + sin(t) T11)
          - sin(t) (cos(t) T22 + sin(t) T21), cos(t) T13 - sin(t) T23],
        [cos(t) (cos(t) T21 - sin(t) T22) + sin(t) (cos(t) T11 - sin(t) T12),
        cos(t) (cos(t) T22 + sin(t) T21) + sin(t) (cos(t) T12 + sin(t) T11),
        cos(t) T23 + sin(t) T13], [cos(t) T31 - sin(t) T32, cos(t) T32 + sin(t) T31,
        T33])
        (%i12) trigsimp(%);
        Universal error handler called recursively (:ERROR NIL
        CONDITIONS::CLCS-UNIVERSAL-ERROR-HANDLER
        ""
          "Couldn't protect")
        Universal error handler called recursively (:ERROR NIL
        CONDITIONS::CLCS-UNIVERSAL-ERROR-HANDLER
        "" "Couldn't protect")
        Maxima encountered a Lisp error:

          Error in CONDITIONS::CLCS-UNIVERSAL-ERROR-HANDLER [or a callee]: Caught fatal error [memory may be damaged]

        Automatically continuing.
        To reenable the Lisp debugger set *debugger-hook* to nil.
        (%i13) Q.trigsimp(T.transpose(Q));
        (%o13) matrix([cos(t) (cos(t) T11 - sin(t) T12)
          - sin(t) (cos(t) T21 - sin(t) T22), cos(t) (cos(t) T12 + sin(t) T11)
          - sin(t) (cos(t) T22 + sin(t) T21), cos(t) T13 - sin(t) T23],
        [cos(t) (cos(t) T21 - sin(t) T22) + sin(t) (cos(t) T11 - sin(t) T12),
        cos(t) (cos(t) T22 + sin(t) T21) + sin(t) (cos(t) T12 + sin(t) T11),
        cos(t) T23 + sin(t) T13], [cos(t) T31 - sin(t) T32, cos(t) T32 + sin(t) T31,
        T33])
        (%i14) trigsimp(Q.trigsimp(T.transpose(Q)));
        Segmentation fault
        [omf@midgar 14:48:25 ~]$

        Computer algebra systems are not the best to begin with, but Maxima has a very, very long way to go before it can compete with Mathematica. Most of my analytical work on a daily basis is done using Maxima and I can safely say that the program could be a lot better than it currently is.

        • by bcrowell (177657)

          I've actually had very good experiences with Maxima. I've never seen a crash. BTW, I notice that your version says "This is a development version of Maxima. The function bug_report() provides bug reporting information." Did you try reproducing the problem with the stable version? Did you report the bug?

          The thing that made me vow never to touch Mathematica again was that I owned a MacOS version, and it stopped working when I upgraded to a newer version of MacOS. (This was all back in the 90's, so we're tal

        • by treeves (963993)
          Why do you use it daily if Mathematica is better?
    • Re:Slashvertisement (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Flying Scotsman (1255778) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @01:56PM (#25820579)

      How are the free alternatives coming along? Any recommendations?

      I've used Maxima [sourceforge.net] with good results. Not quite Mathematica, though.

      • Re:Slashvertisement (Score:4, Informative)

        by TiberSeptm (889423) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @02:54PM (#25821505)
        For what it does, Maxima is pretty good. It's fairly easy to use compared to the other big free alternative. That being said, it is fairly limited compared to Mathematica, Maple or Sage. If you need it to be free and need more features, check out sage (www.sagemath.org) but don't expect to produce anything useful in the first minute. If you're looking for a basic accessible CAS, then Sage wouldn't be the answer. In that case, Maxima might do it for you. Sage is more useful for people who need a more robust system, but I have often found I can write my own tools faster than I can do it in some of the free alternatives.
    • Re:Slashvertisement (Score:5, Informative)

      by SQLGuru (980662) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @01:58PM (#25820605) Journal

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_computer_algebra_systems [wikipedia.org]

      Take your pick. Some will obviously be better suited to your needs (or lack of needs) as appropriate.

      Layne

      • by Reziac (43301) *

        Wow, just what a teacher friend wanted. Thanks for the link.

        Now, you don't happen to know of free replacements for Harvard ChartXL, do you? What I really need is 3-D graphing -- to make a long project short, I need to map a 3-D starfield and calculate distances between 'em.

      • Re:Slashvertisement (Score:4, Informative)

        by bcrowell (177657) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:48PM (#25824223) Homepage

        The Wikipedia list is very long. For anyone who's specifically interested in OSS that runs on Linux, here are some of my impressions:

        • Maxima - In my experience, it's very mature and bug-free. It's only suitable for interactice use; e.g., if you do certain integrals, it will ask you whether a particular constant occurring in the integrand is positive.
        • Yacas - Unlike Maxima, is designed to be suitable for both interactive and noninteractive use. Somewhat buggy, and fails more often than Maxima does.
        • Axiom - Has a complete implementation of the Risch algorithm [wikipedia.org], so it can do some integrals that other programs can't. E.g., it can integrate 1/(x^4-8*x^3+8*x^2-8*x+7), and so can Maxima, but Yacas can't.
        • Sage - Pros: Sage lets you program in python, so if you want to mix in some general-purpose programming, python libraries, etc., you can. Sage implements arbitrary-precision arithmetic much more efficiently than programs that use the GMP library. (E.g., sage computes (2^123456789-1)%(2^12345678-1) in about 10 s, whereas ordinary python takes longer to evaluate (2**123456789-1)%(2**12345678-1) than I was willing to wait.) Cons: It's basically a hairball of other math packages, and the interface to other packages often doesn't seem to be very good. It's not packaged properly for debian/ubuntu. The tutorial shows you how to do lots of fancy things using examples from abstract algebra, but doesn't tell you ordinary, useful things, like how to integrate x^a.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      does it matter that it's open source or not? Open source is not inherently better than closed source.

      Not saying open source is bad (AMP stack over IIS any day is one of the best foss examples), but it's also not a metric for quality either (MS Office is definitely better than OpenOffice... well, for now anyways).

      So you call on slashdot to cut down on advertising, I call on slashdot to cut down on religious advocates. Use whats best, and if Mathematica puts open source alternatives to shame... so be it.

      • by navyjeff (900138) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @02:36PM (#25821215) Homepage Journal

        does it matter that it's open source or not? Open source is not inherently better than closed source.

        Being able to show exactly which steps a CAS went through to arrive at a solution can be important. With Mathematica, you have to trust that the methods they use, which you can't see, are legitimate and don't introduce any unforeseen error.
        I don't mean to pooh-pooh Mathematica; it's an excellent program. But being able to show 100% of your work has intrinsic value.

        • by ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) <obsessivemathsfreakNO@SPAMeircom.net> on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @03:22PM (#25821919) Homepage Journal

          With Mathematica, you have to trust that the methods they use, which you can't see, are legitimate and don't introduce any unforeseen error.

          Absolutely.

          I work on pretty much a daily basis with computer algebra systems. In my work, I am using CAS systems to perform integrals on what would be otherwise an unmanageable amount of equations, in order to generate some nice neat, but still quite large matrices. Despite its obvious technical inferiority [slashdot.org], I'm using Maxima to do this. A lot of this has to do with running Mathematica and the like on Linux, which is a painful process, but the peer reviewable nature of an open source system is another major factor.

          I've said this before, but essentially Mathematica is the modern mathematical Oracle at Delphi; arcane, totally inscrutable, and regarded by almost everyone as infallible. You cannot use its results professional for anything other than integral tables or the like. At least, not in mathematics. Maybe physicists use it, but I'd have my doubts. (Engineers? ... well they're a heathen lot anyway...)

          True, Mathematica is useful. But it's closed source nature, combined with its almost universal presence in scientific research is very troubling.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Engineers use Matlab.

      • by mkcmkc (197982) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @02:47PM (#25821373)

        does it matter that it's open source or not?

        It does if you don't have $2400 to spend on a copy of Mathematica.

        • It does if you don't have $2400 to spend on a copy of Mathematica.

          No, that only makes price, rather than freedom, matter.

          Viewable source is strictly better than closed source, at least for technical reasons (and arguably for ethical ones as well). Trust me, on my day-to-day job having source code access to the vast majority of the SAP codebase (ie, everything above kernel level) makes it much, much easier to develop for it. Proper Open Source has, once again, technical advantages (especially BSD-style licenses: it's one of the best ways to make sure that the implementatio

    • Re:Slashvertisement (Score:5, Informative)

      by mblase (200735) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @02:14PM (#25820865)

      No advertising here, just a happy math nerd who was recently investigating alternatives like Maxima and SciLab himself recently, and was impressed that the new version of Mathematica leapfrogged them all by doing much more instead of just doing what it does faster.

      (This despite the fact that Mathematica is, and nearly always has been, far more number-crunching power than I've ever needed in my academic or professional career.)

    • Re:Slashvertisement (Score:5, Informative)

      by Xamusk (702162) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @02:40PM (#25821263)
      Sage http://sagemath.org/ [sagemath.org] is coming pretty good. Version 3.2 will come out in just a few days.

      And you can use Mathematica, Matlab, Maple, Magma, Maxima, etc from inside Sage if you have those programs available.
      • Re:Slashvertisement (Score:4, Informative)

        by lexDysic (542023) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:42PM (#25824097)
        Another vote here for Sage. On the open-source side of things, nothing comes close, because everything else that's any good (Maxima for example) is included within Sage, in a fairly transparent way. (I.e., the user doesn't need to know she's using Maxima.) Secondly, the (free) support is awesome. If you spend a little while learning Python and the basics of Sage, and you still have questions, the response time at sage-support at googlegroups is incredible.
    • Not really a slashvertisment, this IS big news for any mathmatics / physics student (probably comp sci too)

      While ive found wxMaxima to be fairly useful and i use it at home, when im at uni mathmatica is simply much easier to use. Simple science software is an area where I feal that although the underlying software is probably available under the GPL (gnuplot, maxima, etc), because real geeks are happy to use it, not much work is put into producing a simple GUI.

      Perhaps its a simple case of wrong tool for the

    • by HardCase (14757)

      My question is, "Does it come with nutty scientific theories [wolframscience.com] included?"

  • Wolfman? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Xerolooper (1247258)
    Did anyone else read that as Wolfman. Pretty impressive for a shapeshifter.
    Seriously though this has the potential to do for this form of mathmatics what Spreadsheets did for Accounting.
    • Yeah I read Wolfman as well and was thinking that the updates and release cycles would be really long if he could only work on it during full moons.
    • Funny. I clicked on comments and searched for the word "wolfman" just to make sure I wasn't the only one.
  • by muuh-gnu (894733) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @01:35PM (#25820175)

    A slashvertisment suggestion for tomorrow:

    "The Pirate Bay also Releases Mathematica 7"

    • by fm6 (162816)

      That would be nice, but doesn't solve the problem of Mathemitca's notorious copy protection. From what I hear, even legitimate owners often have trouble getting past it.

      • You mean like Windows?? TPB 1337 h@x0rz got around that just fine.
      • by muuh-gnu (894733) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @01:46PM (#25820409)

        >That would be nice,

        It is.

        >but doesn't solve the problem

        It will.

        >of Mathemitca's notorious copy protection.

        The Pirate Bay verison of mathematica usually includes protection from copy protection.

        >From what I hear, even legitimate owners often have trouble getting past it.

        Legitimate owners of ANY copy protection system are generally having orders of magnitude more problems with those systems than users who just get clean copies at their Pirate Bay.

      • by jbolden (176878)

        Add me to the list. I was a mathematica user since 1.3 (386 with math coprocessor). I had a version I bought around 1995 in '99 after time with tech support I basically got an FU in terms of trying to install on my new machine.

        At this point I use maple which is much more reasonable. Mathematica has obnoxious copy protection, strict licensing and the best product out there.

        • by fm6 (162816)

          I'd be very curious to hear your comparison of Maple versus Mathematica.

          Worth noting Maple 12 Pro is not a whole lot cheaper than Mathematica 7. And although the academic version of Maple isn't time limited, it's a lot more expensive than renting the student version of Mathematica for 4 years.

          One thing that's always intrigued me about Mathematica is the programming language, which I mostly know from an article Wolfram published in a computer magazine a long time ago. This is actually my main source of inter

          • by jbolden (176878)

            OK I"ll focus on the programming language. The mathematica programming language is a functional programming language which is semi-stateless . It feels similar to OCaml or Haskell. The maple language is standard procedural. From a programming perspective they both offer hugely powerful libraries of mathematical functions. For really obscure stuff you do better finding Mathematica libraries online.

            In terms of documentation the maple docs are better written the mathematica ones are much more comprehens

  • Refund please (Score:2, Informative)

    by bargainsale (1038112)
    I want a refund on my copy of "A New Kind of Science" before thinking about paying more money to the Wolfram organisation.
    Much handwaving, little meat, astonishing arrogance.

    One of the most overhyped books I've ever actually been suckered into buying.

    I found particularly offputting W's treatment of important parts of his own thesis (computational completeness of some automata) as commercial secrets
  • by thermian (1267986) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @01:37PM (#25820211)

    This just seems like its got so bloated that it will likely be priced beyond the budget of most students.

    I don't see why we have to have these all encompassing suites anyway, what's wrong with small tools at low cost which work together?
    Its most likely that students who want but can't afford this will hit the torrent trackers, which isn't really what we want.

    • by muuh-gnu (894733) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @01:42PM (#25820319)

      >This just seems like its got so bloated that it will likely be priced beyond the budget of most students.

      It isnt aimed at students.

      >what's wrong with small tools at low cost which work together?

      Wolfram does not want you to work with any competitor's product. He wants you to raise a mortgage in order to be able to pay for his "complete solution".

      >which isn't really what we want.

      Except it really is what most of us want. Why shouldn't it?

    • by geekoid (135745)

      No only is nothing wrong with that, it is the smartest way to go.
      They want to be all encompassing to get money currently going to other companies, and the only way they see to do this is by bloating current software.
      Sadly many managers don't see then benefit in several small apps, and many programmers would really know how to to it well.

    • by addaon (41825) <addaon+slashdot&gmail,com> on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @01:54PM (#25820551)

      The student version is cheap (free at most decent universities). The Wolfram folk are great if you need a deviation on the license for student stuff (running on a multi-processor machine before multiple kernel executions were included in the default license); just ask. As a long-time student, Mathematica is the greatest tool out there, and is the only software out there where I'm consistently excited about no versions, and /always/ find ways to incorporate at least a few of the new features in my existing notebooks. With Mathematica 6, Manipulate[] was an absolute game changer. With Mathematica 7, I'm betting ParallelTable[] and the new charting features will be just as big a deal, for me.

      • by Anpheus (908711) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @02:09PM (#25820785)

        Manipulate[] alone beats every chalkboard/whiteboard/overhead projector hands down. I found it to be a profound aid in teaching myself concepts such as curvature on a line or a plane and other things.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        and is the only software out there where I'm consistently excited about no versions, and /always/ find ways to incorporate at least a few of the new features in my existing notebooks.

        You must be really excited considering that every new version of Mathematica programming language is slightly but ever more and more incompatible with the Mathematica language of the previous versions. They don't only add functions and functionalities or whatever, they also change the language.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Just Some Guy (3352)

        Mathematica is the greatest tool out there, and is the only software out there where I'm consistently excited about no versions

        I'd have to agree with you. There are no versions of Mathemetica that excite me, either.

    • by fm6 (162816) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @01:58PM (#25820611) Homepage Journal

      If you're a student, you can get a copy that expires after a year for $150. Not cheap, but in the same range as your (overpriced) physics textbook.

      Me, I have no professional or educational requirement for the thing, but I'd like to have a copy for self-education purposes. But $2K is a bit much. I suppose 5 or 6 would be adequate for that purpose. $150 on eBay.

      It's interesting that Mathematica is still supported on MacOS, Linux (including Itanium!) and Solaris. Support for AIX only disappeared recently. Supporting all those platforms does drive up costs just a bit.

      • by jbolden (176878)

        Mac was the home platform for a while. Windows was the difficult (but essential) port for Wolfram research.

    • by Ecuador (740021)

      I don't get all this bias against Mathematica. So, anything not free & open source is bad?
      Most universities give this for free to their students. At least both my undergrad and my grad did. Even if yours does not give it, it costs $140 for students, not much more than some expensive textbooks. There is even a 1-year time limited version for half the price (although I don't like renting software myself).
      Now, about the software itself, it is almost a decade since I was doing a Physics degree but I still r

    • by zlogic (892404)

      Student editions are much, much cheaper.
      For example, a complete version of Matlab costs around
      $20000 for students
      $50000 for government agencies
      $150000 for commercial organizations
      The only difference is a "student edition" message that is displayed along with the "command prompt initialized" message. And no student will need the $20K copy, probably the needed modules will cost $1000.

  • Fuck Mathematica (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @01:47PM (#25820427)

    and fuck Matlab too, while we are at it. I got a free hit of Matlab in university and then found out how much they charge for licenses only after I was an addict (had a pile of useful code that I didn't want to throw away). I am not going to keep paying for the privilege of running my own code and am busily learning Python.

    Mathematica code belongs to Wolfram Research, Matlab code belongs to the Mathworks, but Python code can be MINE! (and yours too, if I want to give it to you.)

    I don't buy into the virtual machines they are pushing now either; they might be free as in beer, but it is only a short-term solution and is nothing more than "free hits" to generate more addicts that need licenses.

    • Re:Fuck Mathematica (Score:5, Informative)

      by rcallan (1256716) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @01:54PM (#25820553)
      Octave is a free version of Matlab, practically all your Matlab code will work in Octave.
      • by vistic (556838)

        Will it do the audio and image stuff too?

        All the Matlab code I ever wrote was for a multimedia class, like audio compression, implementing Philips' algorithm they use in their HDTVs to make low-def TV look sharper, face recognition, and creating a frame of video from elements of the previous frame.

        In the course of doing practical stuff, there were some neat looking effects I ended up creating that I've thought about applying on some images.

        • by Al Dimond (792444)

          I recall getting doing just about all of the work for my DSP classes in Octave, but some functions are different. I don't remember about my image processing class; most of it was in C++ anyway. To get the DSP and image stuff you'll have to look on octave-forge.

          I also recall, in my DSP class, having the best-looking graphs in the class. I can hardly believe it's impossible to get decent-looking graphs out of Matlab, but nobody in my classes knew how.

      • Not at all true, I've even found that many functions even have different names than those in Matlab.
      • by timeOday (582209) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @03:07PM (#25821679)
        I have found one problem with open source toolchans - producing good quality graphics. At the end of the day you have to present the data, and gnuplot just isn't cutting it anymore.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by dextromulous (627459)

        Octave is a free version of Matlab, practically all your Matlab code will work in Octave.

        ... if you don't use any of Matlab's GUI stuff... or their toolboxes... some of your code MAY be runnable by Octave if you're lucky. I do like Octave and use it myself, but porting Matlab code to Octave doesn't always work.

      • The problem is "practically." I just had to use Matlab over Octave because Octave doesn't fully support the eigs() function. For many things Octave is fine, but it still lags behind Matlab in a lot of areas.

    • Re:Fuck Mathematica (Score:5, Informative)

      by rahuja (751005) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @02:01PM (#25820671) Homepage

      You don't have to throw that code away or port it to an entirely different language (though Python rocks, and I wish my day-to-day job let me use more of it) Try GNU Octave [gnu.org] - that's what I used to back in college because my department didn't have licensed copies of MATLAB installed/available, so-called student versions were insanely impossible and expensive to get hold of (Indian students can't afford $100), and I didn't want to pick a pirated one like the rest of the class.

      Possible the first open-spurce software I practically used (except playing with Linux).

      Code was very cross-compatible between Octave and MATLAB, except say constants like "e" and "exp" (and of course the MATLAB-specific toolkits). The toughest part at that time was explaining to the professor (who had no idea what "open-source" was) that I did *not* use MATLAB, but it would run on MATLAB fine if he wanted to check that my assignments work fine.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dubbreak (623656)
        I'll second the advice on Octave. I used Matlab for some projects in university but quickly switched over to Octave. I did all my work for my numerical methods course using Octave. As the prof and markers never actually ran our code (they just quickly looked over source and results) they didn't even notice it wasn't matlab. As that course was fairly simple pretty much all of it would have compiled under matlab with no changes. Some of the more complex stuff I did for projects would have required a bit of "p
    • I'm sure that the "free hit" is part of their plan. But, once you are working in a position that require Matlab it becomes a business expense. It is no different than the $2,000 workstation in that respect. Presumably your work with it will net you significant profits.

      It is niche market software that costs a lot to develop. The people that need it will pay for it.

  • by TiberSeptm (889423) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @01:49PM (#25820475)
    The closest thing to a free alternative I've been able to find is Sage: http://www.sagemath.org/ [sagemath.org] Compared to MatLab, Maple, and Mathematica (yes I know MatLAB is differently purposed than the other two) the usability of Sage blows. It's pretty powerful sure, but when even Maple is easier to use then you've got a problem. I may give the new Mathematica a try. Integration with Word will make some of my lab writeups go a bit faster. Well, maybe as long as Mathematica doesn't take too long to figure out. Too bad our University doesn't sell it to students for $5 a pop anymore.
    • by muuh-gnu (894733) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @02:02PM (#25820687)

      >the usability of Sage blows. It's pretty powerful sure, but when even Maple is easier to
      >use then you've got a problem

      What do you actually mean by "easier to use", regarding a computer algebra system for doing heavy math? Clicketyclicking around without having to actually learn to use it? This easy to use mem may actually have some validity in desktop environments and generall consumer leisure apps, but I'm wondering to actually see such unwillingness to learn from people doing _MATH_, which are, by definition, required to be curious into how things work and not just clicking around and rotating colorful 3D surfaces the whole day.

      • Just because someone is a dedicated mathematician or scientist doesn't mean they want to deal with a bad UI. It will take time to learn either system, but why would you want to put more effort into doing the same thing? You don't learn Mathematica for the sake of learning it. You learn it so you can work on something else. The more time you have to put into learning software the less you have left for your real interests.

  • Well, to be redundant with my subject... that's a lot of smart programmers. I don't think most programmers go through all that higher level math, and I'm not sure most mathematicians know how to program. No wonder it's expensive.
    • by mblase (200735)

      that's a lot of smart programmers. I don't think most programmers go through all that higher level math, and I'm not sure most mathematicians know how to program. No wonder it's expensive

      That's funny; I've always believed computer science to be just a highly applied form of abstract mathematics. And, of course, there's the simple fact that electronic computers were invented to speed up mathematical computations -- "computer" used to be a job description, remember?

      It's true that most programmers don't bother with high-level math -- although they'd better pass calculus if they want to understand O(n) vs. O(log(n)) -- and most mathematicians don't bother with high-level programming languages.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I completely agree that computer science is related to math. I personally actually like math and physics and whatnot, to the extent that I'm reading a textbook (I guess) on spacetime physics for fun. But I think you have to admit that many aspects of computer science *today* are very far removed from actual mathematical calculations or even mathematical ability (e.g., you don't have to take calculus to write a PHP script). You don't have to have any electrical engineering knowledge to "build" a computer,

        • by mblase (200735)

          But I think you have to admit that many aspects of computer science *today* are very far removed from actual mathematical calculations or even mathematical ability (e.g., you don't have to take calculus to write a PHP script).

          With all due respect (and speaking as an ex-web programmer myself), PHP scripting is about as far removed from computer science as carpentry is from the logging industry. You have to know the difference between an efficient and an inefficient algorithm, but it's a far cry from optimizing the script interpreter itself.

      • It's true that most programmers don't bother with high-level math -- although they'd better pass calculus if they want to understand O(n) vs. O(log(n)) -- and most mathematicians don't bother with high-level programming languages.

        Why? It doesn't have anything to do with calculus.

  • API sucks (Score:5, Informative)

    by pzs (857406) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @02:01PM (#25820679)

    I had to write some code using the Mathematica API once, and it hurt. It provides a pipe of tokens, but if you ask for the wrong token, it hangs. You can peak at the front of the queue, but it's still the case that every time you want to read in a token you have to write code to expect any of a million different types of token for all the crazy error messages you never knew you might get.

    Also, the GUI is awful. That notebook metaphor just does not work. You want to remove a buggy line of code somewhere but it might be attached to another block so it's really hard to get hold of it. The navigation keys (pg up, end and so on) don't work as you'd expect in an editor so you become very mouse reliant, which is awful for anybody used to working in a programming environment.

    In my experience, Matlab is far superior although as others have pointed out, I'd still rather be working in Python. Numpy anybody?

    • by eh2o (471262)

      As of Mathematica 6 they also have an Eclipse-based IDE with an integrated debugger.

      And you don't have to write notebooks at all, you can also write packages.

  • by wickerprints (1094741) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @03:10PM (#25821711)

    I've used Maple, Mathematica, and SAS, among other products, for mathematical and/or statistical analysis. From a programming/features perspective, each has its own strengths--and weaknesses.

    I'll only briefly mention cost. These things are expensive because it's not like any random programmer can build this kind of software. Especially with Mathematica, these are heavily-researched algorithms that are nontrivial to implement. Also, the market is small for such a specialized and sophisticated application. Your average person isn't ever going to be able to use something like this. They barely know what the quadratic formula is. (They should, but that's an entirely different story.) You think they need to invert a 20x20 matrix? Or compute the Galois group of a quintic? Or even do a simple hypothesis test?

    As for the image manipulation stuff, I think that comparisons to Photoshop are a bit naive. Clearly, it's not supposed to be for people who want to do red-eye reduction on their family photos. It's not even for graphic designers or photographers. It's for scientists who want an algorithmic approach to adjusting their images, either for research or for purposes of publication. Could you do these things in Photoshop? Sure. Could you then say what formula or algorithm was applied to the image to produce that specific result? No. And conversely, you wouldn't do layer composition, masking, or on-the-fly tonal adjustments with Mathematica.

    FWIW I hate the copy protection on it too. It's infuriating and a burden to legitimate users while doing little to deter piracy.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      These things are expensive because it's not like any random programmer can build this kind of software. Especially with Mathematica, these are heavily-researched algorithms that are nontrivial to implement.

      This is not entirely true, of course. Mathematica implements tons of well-known many-times implemented classic algorithms that have been and will be implemented, more or less efficiently. Then, it uses LAPACK and ARPACK, etc, etc. There are some original portions of Mathematica I'm sure, but which ones and how original remains buried under the copyright.

      • Where did I say that the algorithms used by Mathematica are unique to Mathematica? I even said heavily-researched. That means things like Grobner bases, Risch integration, numerical methods, differential equation solving, etc. are well-known and understood in the relevant academic circles. Does this mean competing software doesn't exist? Again, NO. Sure, a programmer with the appropriate math background could implement these things as specialized tools, or could even try to make their own comprehensive
  • As much as Adobe would like to sell it as the tool for EVERY purpose under the sun - Photoshop is not really aimed at mathematical/scientific image processing. It was originally aimed at pre-press as a complement to PostScript and Illustrator, and later diversified to web production, etc.

    Photoshop has a severe case of feature creep - resulting in a product that, instead of doing one thing well (it always was the leader in print production), does too many things less well.

    Mathematica's new features hardly am

  • It can be fun playing the waveform of a given function as a sound. Coolest Mathematica feature :D.

  • " ... is designed to make Mathematica as invaluable for scientific research as it is for mathematics"

    The last time I talked to any mathematicians about Mathematica, they rolled their eyes and said that their primary tool was pencil and paper.

How many QA engineers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? 3: 1 to screw it in and 2 to say "I told you so" when it doesn't work.

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