May 21, 2015 — José Martín-García, Research Staff Member

A brilliant aspect of the Wolfram Language is that not only you can do virtually anything with it, you can also do whatever you want in many different ways. You can choose the method you prefer, or even better, try several methods to understand your problem from different perspectives.

For example, when drawing a graphic, we usually specify the coordinates of its points or elements. But sometimes it’s simpler to express the graphic as a collection of relative displacements: move a distance r in a direction forming an angle θ with respect to the direction of the segment constructed in the previous step. This is known as turtle graphics in computer graphics, and is basically what the new function AnglePath does. If all steps have the same length, use AnglePath[{θ1,θ2,...}] to specify the angles. If each step has a different length, use AnglePath[{{r1,θ1},{r2,θ2}, ...}] to give the pairs {length, angle}. That’s it. Let’s see some results.

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May 15, 2015 — Christopher Wolfram, Connectivity Group

Cryptography has existed for thousands of years, but before serious computers came around, only specific kinds of messages were worth encrypting. Now that computers routinely manage a huge amount of communication, there is little downside to invisibly applying cryptography to almost everything, from verifying where information comes from to exchanging information securely. Because of cryptography’s widespread use, we added the basic building blocks of modern cryptography to the Wolfram Language with functions using OpenSSL for key generation, symmetric encryption/decryption, and asymmetric encryption/decryption.

The notion of a key in cryptography is similar to the way we use keys in everyday life, in that only someone with a certain key can perform a certain action. One very simple way of arranging this is to have a single key that is used to encrypt as well as decrypt, much like the locking and unlocking of a door:

Making one key to encrypt and decrypt

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April 10, 2015 — Jeremy Michelson, Manager of Data and Semantics Engineering

The Wolfram Language provides tools for programmatic handling of free-form input. For example, Interpreter, which was introduced in Version 10.0, converts snippets of text into computable Wolfram Language expressions. In smart form fields, this functionality can automatically translate input like “forty-two” into a Wolfram Language expression like “42.”

But what does it take to perform more complicated operations or customize responses and actions? For that you need a grammar. The grammar indicates the structure that should be matched and the action that should be taken using information extracted from the match.

A grammar gives you natural language control over your computer so that you can process language snippets to yield functions that perform commands. For example, telling your computer to “open a website” requires mapping snippets like “open” and “a website” to the Open command and the URL of a website.

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March 27, 2015 — Tim Shedelbower, Visualization Developer

Array of gauges

The first gauge I remember was a blue wrist watch I received from my parents as a child. Their hope was probably to correct my tardiness, but it proved valuable for more important tasks such as timing bicycle races. Today digital gauges help us analyze a variety of data on smart phones and laptops. Battery level, signal strength, network speed, and temperature are some of the common data elements constantly monitored.

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March 20, 2015 — Alan Joyce, Director, Content Development

Since the inception of Wolfram|Alpha, Wikipedia has held a special place in its development pipeline. We usually use it not as a primary source for data, but rather as an essential resource for improving our natural language understanding, particularly for mining the common and colloquial ways people refer to entities and concepts in various domains.

We’ve developed a lot of internal tools to help us analyze and extract information from Wikipedia over the years, but now we’ve also added a Wikipedia “integrated service” to the latest version of the Wolfram Language—making it incredibly easy for anyone to incorporate Wiki content into Wolfram Language workflows.

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March 11, 2015 — Brett Champion, Manager, Visualization

A few years ago we created a timeline of the history of systematic data and computable knowledge, which you can look at online. I wrote the code that placed events along the timeline, and then our graphic designers did the real work in deciding where to put the labels, choosing fonts and colors, and doing all the other things that go into creating a production-quality poster.

Printed poster timeline

Fast-forward a bit, and last year we added NumberLinePlot to the Wolfram Language to visualize points, intervals, and inequalities. Once people started seeing the number lines, we began getting requests for similar plots, but with dates and times, so we decided it was time to tackle TimelinePlot.

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