May 22, 2013 — Jon McLoone, International Business & Strategic Development
The benefits of linking from Mathematica to other languages and tools differ from case to case. But unusually, in the case of the new RLink in Mathematica 9, I think the benefits have very little to do with R, the language. The real benefit, I believe, is in the connection it makes to the R community.
When we first added the MathLink libraries for C, there were real benefits in farming out intensive numerical work (though Mathematica performance improvements over the years and development of the compiler have greatly reduced the occasions where that would be worth the effort). Creating an Excel link added an alternative interface paradigm to Mathematica that wasn’t available in the Mathematica front end. But in the case of R, it isn’t immediately obvious that it does many things that you can’t already do in Mathematica or many that it does significantly better.
However, with RLink I now have immediate access to the work of the R community through the add-on libraries that they have created to extend R into their field. A great zoo of these free libraries fill out thousands of niches–sometimes popular, sometimes obscure–but lots of them. There are over 4,000 right here and more elsewhere. At a stroke, all of them are made immediately available to the Mathematica environment, interpreted through the R language runtime.
May 17, 2013 — Michael Trott, Chief Scientist
Here at Wolfram Research and at Wolfram|Alpha we love mathematics and computations. Our favorite topics are algorithms, followed by formulas and equations. For instance, Mathematica can calculate millions of (more precisely, for all practical purposes, infinitely many) integrals, and Wolfram|Alpha knows hundreds of thousands of mathematical formulas (from Euler’s formula and BBP-type formulas for pi to complicated definite integrals containing sin(x)) and plenty of physics formulas (e.g from Poiseuille’s law to the classical mechanics solutions of a point particle in a rectangle to the inverse-distance potential in 4D in hyperspherical coordinates), as well as lesser-known formulas, such as formulas for the shaking frequency of a wet dog, the maximal height of a sandcastle, or the cooking time of a turkey.
Recently we added formulas for a variety of shapes and forms, and the Wolfram|Alpha Blog showed some examples of shapes that were represented through mathematical equations and inequalities. These included fictional character curves:
May 13, 2013 — Wolfram Blog Team
Thank you to all who made the Wolfram Virtual Conference Spring 2013 a great success. The free event featured two tracks of talks covering applications of Wolfram technologies in industry, education, and research as well as a Q&A with our experts and access to virtual networking.
Attendees of all experience levels joined the event to gain new insights on how to get the most out of our technologies, including Mathematica‘s Predictive Interface, CDF and EnterpriseCDF, Wolfram SystemModeler, and more.
May 9, 2013 — Matthias Odisio, Software Technology
Detecting skin in images can be quite useful: it is one of the primary steps for various sophisticated systems aimed at detecting people, recognizing gestures, detecting faces, content-based filtering, and more. In spite of this host of applications, when I decided to develop a skin detector, my main motivation lay elsewhere. The research and development department I work in at Wolfram Research just underwent a gentle reorganization. With my colleagues who work on probability and statistics becoming closer neighbors, I felt like developing a small application that would make use of both Mathematica‘s image processing and statistics features; skin detection just came to my mind.
Skin tones and appearances vary, and so do flavors of skin detectors. The detector I wanted to develop is based on probabilistic models of pixel colors. For each pixel of an image given as input, the skin detector provides a probability that the pixel color belongs to a skin region.
Last year we released Wolfram Finance Platform, beginning a new chapter in the way the financial world uses Wolfram technologies. Today we’re pleased to announce Wolfram Finance Platform 2, which expands and improves the groundwork begun by our first version.
One set of new capabilities that Finance Platform 2 introduces is a major enhancement to the way financial analysis is deployed: automated report generation.
Report Generation allows you to create documents quickly and easily using Wolfram Finance Platform documents. Since Report Generation is built on Finance Platform‘s Computable Document Format interface, it’s easy to add it into your normal workflow.
Data for the report can come from a variety of sources, such as the result of a computation, a database query, or Finance Platform‘s integrated computation data source or integrated market data streams. Portfolio performance, risk analyses, and market/economic outlook are just a few of the applications that can take advantage of Report Generation.
A century ago, Srinivasa Ramanujan and G. H. Hardy started a famous correspondence about mathematics so amazing that Hardy described it as “scarcely possible to believe.” On May 1, 1913, Ramanujan was given a permanent position at the University of Cambridge. Five years and a day later, he became a Fellow of the Royal Society, then the most prestigious scientific group in the world at that time. In 1919 Ramanujan was deathly ill while on a long ride back to India, from February 27 to March 13 on the steamship Nagoya. All he had was a pen and pad of paper (no Mathematica at that time), and he wanted to write down his equations before he died. He claimed to have solutions for a particular function, but only had time to write down a few before moving on to other areas of mathematics. He wrote the following incomplete equation with 14 others, only 3 of them solved.
Within months, he passed away, probably from hepatic amoebiasis. His final notebook was sent by the University of Madras to G. H. Hardy, who in turn gave it to mathematician G. N. Watson. When Watson died in 1965, the college chancellor found the notebook in his office while looking through papers scheduled to be incinerated. George Andrews rediscovered the notebook in 1976, and it was finally published in 1987. Bruce Berndt and Andrews wrote about Ramanujan’s Lost Notebook in a series of books (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). Berndt said, “The discovery of this ‘Lost Notebook’ caused roughly as much stir in the mathematical world as the discovery of Beethoven’s tenth symphony would cause in the musical world.”
April 29, 2013 — Piotr Wendykier, Mathematica Algorithm R&D
Professional cameras offer a resolution of 50 megapixels and more. In addition, projects like GigaPan allow one to create gigapixel panoramas with billions of pixels. How can we process these images on a desktop computer with 8 GB of RAM?
One of Mathematica 9′s new and exciting features is out-of-core image processing. What does the out-of-core term really mean? It is a way to process very large images that are too big to fit into main memory. Let’s say we have a machine with 8 GB of RAM, and let’s assume that Mathematica can use up to 7.2 GB of that memory (the remaining 0.8 GB will be used by the operating system). Freshly started, Mathematica 9 on Windows 8 takes up about 200 MB of memory, so the kernel can use about 7 GB of RAM. What is the maximal size of the image that we can load into the kernel (we don’t want to visualize it at this point)? If we assume that the image is in the RGB color space and a single byte encoding, then the following formula gives a maximal width (and height) of an image that can be loaded at once into the memory:
April 26, 2013 — Matthew Day, Data Repository Manager
Next month I’m on a discussion panel at The Now and Future of Data Publishing symposium in Oxford, UK. I’m expecting this to be a good day and, if you’re in the area, I recommend you think about coming along (it’s free!).
We’re very interested in academic data. Over the past 20 years or so, publishers have changed in some big ways, such as shifting from print to online or adopting new open access business models. But one thing they haven’t fully tackled yet is how to handle the increasingly large amounts of data coming out of academic research.
April 24, 2013 — Stephen Wolfram
More than a million people have now used our Wolfram|Alpha Personal Analytics for Facebook. And as part of our latest update, in addition to collecting some anonymized statistics, we launched a Data Donor program that allows people to contribute detailed data to us for research purposes.
A few weeks ago we decided to start analyzing all this data. And I have to say that if nothing else it’s been a terrific example of the power of Mathematica and the Wolfram Language for doing data science. (It’ll also be good fodder for the Data Science course I’m starting to create.)
We’d always planned to use the data we collect to enhance our Personal Analytics system. But I couldn’t resist also trying to do some basic science with it.
I’ve always been interested in people and the trajectories of their lives. But I’ve never been able to combine that with my interest in science. Until now. And it’s been quite a thrill over the past few weeks to see the results we’ve been able to get. Sometimes confirming impressions I’ve had; sometimes showing things I never would have guessed. And all along reminding me of phenomena I’ve studied scientifically in A New Kind of Science.
So what does the data look like? Here are the social networks of a few Data Donors—with clusters of friends given different colors. (Anyone can find their own network using Wolfram|Alpha—or the
SocialMediaData function in Mathematica.)
April 12, 2013 — Vitaliy Kaurov, Technical Communication & Strategy
What does programming have to do with a passion for the arts and history? Well, if you turn education into a game and add a bit of coding, then you can easily end up in the realm of a modern paradigm called, fancily, “gamification.” Though gamification is a very wide concept based on game use in non-game contexts (design, security, marketing, even protein folding, you name it), at heart it is very simple: play, have fun, and get things done. I may have oversimplified things here for the sake of a rhyme, but if you bear with my lengthy prelude, we may just see a simple case of turning passion into software.
My obsession with diagrams and simple line drawings began almost unnoticeably in the winter of 2003 in New York City after attending an exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art: “the first comprehensive survey of Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings ever presented in America.” You may think it’d be a drag—crowds marching very slowly in a single long line coiling through the exhibition hallways. But perception of time transforms when you stare at 500-year-old craft. I think it was then that it started to dawn on me what special value a first sketch has. A first act when an idea, something very subjective, evasive, living solely inside one’s mind, materializes as a solid reality, now perceivable by another human being. Imagine it happened ages ago. Wouldn’t you be curious what was going on at that moment in time, what got frozen in this piece of craft in front of you?