March 12, 2009 — Joe Bolte, Director of Consulting, Wolfram Solutions
Recently, I had the pleasure of discussing some pieces of the Mathematica universe with distinguished scientists, forward-looking educators, and a lot of excitable kids at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Showing newcomers some of the magic we make here at Wolfram Research is always fun, and one of the best ways to introduce them to the types of things that we like to build is the Wolfram Demonstrations Project.
Not everyone who stopped by the booth was a newcomer though. In addition to the usual enthusiastic Mathematica-using scientists and other fans, there were plenty of teachers who stopped my Demonstrations spiel with “Oh, Demonstrations! I use them all the time with my students!” I was sure Demonstrations were going to gain a lot of traction in education the first time we showed them to a teacher, but the sheer number of educators already using them still surprised me.
Around that same weekend, the Demonstrations project hit some other milestones. The first is that there are now over 4500 (!) Demonstrations on the site. I remember when there were 80. The second is that the peer-reviewed Journal of Economic Education has accepted an article about the Wolfram Demonstrations Project, by Fiona Maclachlan, Professor and Chair of Economics and Finance at Manhattan College; Seth Chandler, Foundation Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Health Law & Policy Institute at the University of Houston Law Center; and myself. Referencing individual Demonstrations from within an article is becoming increasingly common, but I believe this is the first journal article about the project itself.
So Demonstrations are making big waves in all the areas we thought people would most appreciate them, but as with many of our projects, they are used in ways that I could hardly have imagined—such as helping to draft new laws. My coauthor Seth Chandler was invited to testify before the Insurance Committee of the Texas House of Representatives, and used material from Demonstrations he developed on windstorm insurance as part of his testimony.
|Estimating Insurance Premiums Using Exceedance Data and the Method of Moments
||Premium Ratios with Capital Costs Included
You can even see a video of Seth’s testimony (.ram, requires RealPlayer or equivalent), which starts at 1:19:30 of that video stream. According to Seth, “The finance of windstorm insurance is an intensely political subject in Texas and considered an ‘emergency’ matter following Hurricane Ike, so I was grilled pretty thoroughly by members of the committee. Having solid research that had been developed using Mathematica and vetted through the Demonstrations process allowed me to respond confidently and, I think, credibly, to some of the key issues facing the legislature.”
I’m watching the Wolfram Demonstrations Project evolve and grow from the sidelines now, as I have moved on to a different project, but I am always intrigued by what I see. Demonstrations are reaching more people and covering more topics with every new day, and this is just one example of the uses that I never imagined. I can’t wait to see what people do with Demonstrations in the future. Keep surprising me!