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.

The Vitruvian Man

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?

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February 28, 2013 — Christopher Carlson, Senior User Interface Developer, User Interfaces

The National Museum of Mathematics, which opened in Manhattan in December, doesn’t have a logo. It has an infinite family of logos. And the logos the museum uses for official business are not created by design professionals. They’re designed by the museum’s visitors. The logo is itself an exhibit in the museum.

National Museum of Mathematics entrance

The museum’s unique meta-logo was conceived and implemented at Wolfram Research. When I say “implemented,” I don’t mean just “calculated” or “rendered,” but actually “programmed.” This is a logo that requires an implementation.

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October 5, 2012 — Vitaliy Kaurov, Technical Communication & Strategy

On early Monday morning I noticed an interesting question posted on Mathematica Stack Exchange titled quite innocently “xkcd-style graphs.” Due to the popularity of Randall Munroe’s xkcd web comic, I expected a bit more than average of about ten or so up-votes, a few bookmarks. Little did I know. Spontaneously emerging viral events are hard to predict, so if you are lucky to catch one, it is fascinating to watch its propagation across the web and the growth of its ranks. In a matter of two days, this post received more than 100,000 views, 200 up-votes, and 150 bookmarks; produced responses and similar posts across other Stack Exchange communities; triggered a small tornado on Twitter; and was discussed on Hacker News and reddit. For convenience, I repeat Amatya‘s original post and example xkcd image here:

I received an email to which I wanted to respond with a xkcd-style graph, but I couldn’t manage it. Everything I drew looked perfect, and I don’t have enough command over Plot Legends to have these pieces of text floating around. Any tips on how one can create xkcd-style graphs? Where things look hand-drawn and imprecise. I guess drawing weird curves must be especially hard in Mathematica.”

Walking back to my front door at night

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December 3, 2009 — Wolfram Blog Team

Inspired by the work of avant-garde architects, Chris Carlson, chief interactive graphics developer at Wolfram Research, has been exploring the possibilities of designing and modeling structures using Mathematica.

Over the last year, he’s shared some of his experiments in this blog, including his posts "Twisted Architecture" and "Designing the Brick Wall of the Future".

At the International Mathematica User Conference 2009, Chris shared another one of his interesting adventures in architecture using Mathematica.

In this video from the conference, see Chris put an interesting spin on Norman Foster’s Hearst Tower.

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September 11, 2009 — Christopher Carlson, Senior User Interface Developer, User Interfaces

I didn’t set out to tie knots in Norman Foster’s Hearst Tower or wrinkle his Gherkin, but I got carried away. It’s one of the occupational hazards of working with Mathematica.

It started with an innocent experiment in lofting, a technique also known as “skinning” that originated in boat-building. I wanted to explore some three-dimensional forms, and a basic lofting function seemed like a quick ticket to results. I dashed off the function Loft, which takes a stack of three-dimensional contours and covers it with a skin of polygons.

The results of the Loft function

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July 9, 2009 — Christopher Carlson, Senior User Interface Developer, User Interfaces

I created this design for a brick wall in Mathematica. Constructing it would be tedious and technically demanding work indeed, requiring numerous jigs and repeated measurements, not to mention an unusually skilled mason. Or a robot.

Brick wall design

A few groups have begun to experiment with the idea of robotically laid brick construction, most notably the Swiss firm Gramazio & Kohler (Facade Gantenbein Winery, Structural Oscillations), and recently, students at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (On the Bri(n)ck). Inspired by these efforts, I set out to investigate the possibilities of robotic brick-wall construction with Mathematica.

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April 22, 2009 — Christopher Carlson, Senior User Interface Developer, User Interfaces

The idea struck me as I was toweling off after a swim: what would happen if I crossed the Mercedes-Benz and Grignani logos from my February 2009 blog post, Exploring Logo Designs with Mathematica? Hybrid vigor is a well-known phenomenon responsible for increased yields in corn, and metaphorically, for the economic and cultural flourishing of civilizations that engage in foreign trade. Would the progeny of Benz and Grignani show similar effects?

Mercedes-Benz x Grignani -> ?

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March 25, 2009 — Christopher Carlson, Senior User Interface Developer, User Interfaces

Q: What do proteins, snowflakes, and these figures have in common?

Semicircles joined at connection points evenly distributed along vertical lines

A: They’re all instances of “minimum inventory/maximum diversity” systems, a term coined by Peter Pearce in his book, Structure in Nature Is a Strategy for Design (MIT Press, 1978).

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February 26, 2009 — Christopher Carlson, Senior User Interface Developer, User Interfaces

On my way to becoming a graphics developer at Wolfram Research, I took detours through degrees in design and architecture. One of my enduring passions is exploring graphic design with programmatic and generative systems. While some aspects of design require the skilled hand of the designer, others can be formalized and explored by computer. For those tasks, Mathematica is an exceptional tool.

Corporate logos and advertising images

As starting points for design explorations, corporate logos are ideal. They often distill a single idea into simplified geometric form that is straightforward to parameterize in Mathematica. Once a logo is in Mathematica, exploring its parameter space quickly leads to the discovery of new graphic phenomena, emergent forms, unexpected relationships, and burgeoning lines of inquiry. Mathematica‘s very high-level programming and interface constructs help your explorations keep pace with your brain as it flings out new ideas left and right.

Take a logo as simple as the Mercedes-Benz star. Just three points framed by a circle, its geometry is easily described in a few lines of Mathematica code, with some obvious parameters controlling the number of points on the star, the sharpness of the star’s points, the thickness of the outer circle, and the orientation of the star.

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December 23, 2008 — Robert Raguet-Schofield, User Interface Group

I’m constantly amazed by the wide variety of tasks people accomplish with Mathematica, everything from serious scientific research and development to fun games and puzzles. This one is more on the fun side.

A few days ago I was trying to convert a raster image to a vector image. I remembered seeing some online service to do this in the past and I was trying to dig up the URL. In the back of my mind I thought I could probably do this with Mathematica, but it wasn’t immediately clear how. I spent a minute or two contemplating various algorithms one could use before realizing Mathematica already has a built-in visualization function that could do most of the work for me: ListContourPlot. This function was meant to handle elevation-like data, but a two-dimensional list of grayscale values is essentially the same thing.

The first step is to get a suitable raster image into Mathematica 7. This is easy enough: just drag a JPEG file into the notebook window and assign it to a variable. Here is a picture of my handlebars after a muddy bike race.

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