Wolfram Computation Meets Knowledge

Date Archive: 2009 February

Design & Visualization

Exploring Logo Designs with Mathematica

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. 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.
Computation & Analysis

Are You a Math Genius?

Wolfram Research has worked with the CBS/Paramount show NUMB3RS since its first season. Now in the fifth season, it remains the most popular show of Friday nights. "The Math behind NUMB3RS" gives a more in-depth look at some of the mathematics in each episode. With season 5, we've added a math puzzle to go with each episode. Fifteen episodes into season 5, there are fifteen puzzles available.
Leading Edge

What’s Your Favorite Element?

Judging elements is like choosing a favorite ice cream. Carbon and hydrogen are like vanilla and chocolate, the basis for so many other flavors, but too commonplace to claim as your preferred element. By using the load-on-demand information packages that are readily available in Mathematica, one can better investigate the popularity of the 118 elements available in ElementData by studying how often they occur in the 34,000 chemicals featured in ChemicalData. Of all the elements, hydrogen and carbon unsurprisingly occur most frequently, respectively in 94 and 93 percent of the chemicals. As an organic chemist, my focus has traditionally been on carbon-containing molecules, so I cannot help but view the periodic table from a carbon-centered perspective: how will certain elements affect the behavior of molecules to which they are bonded, and how will they interact with other molecules?
Announcements & Events

Mathematica Immersion: Coming This Summer…

Last year, we had the first ever Advanced Mathematica Summer School (AMSS). I am pleased to report it was a great success. We saw a large number of applications in all areas and fields, and a select few made it into the program. And we had a real blast doing what we know best—working with Mathematica and using it to make projects happen! We are ready to invite you all to immerse in Mathematica for two weeks this summer during the AMSS 2009. The philosophy of the Summer School is to help people take their projects and implement them in incredible ways with Mathematica. Heading the Technical Services Group has given me the firsthand experience of interacting with our user base and talking about their projects. Since last year's Summer School, I thought on several occasions, "Wow! This would be a really cool Summer School project!"

College Calculus with Mathematica

Calculus has occupied a central position in scientific thought ever since its discovery by Newton and Leibniz more than 300 years ago. The combination of elegance, utility, and rigor that characterize this subject have led to its extensive use in theoretical approaches to diverse fields such as economics, finance, and biology. Indeed, calculus is one of the greatest intellectual achievements of humankind, which explains its important role in the training of students all over the world. It has been my privilege to present a "College Calculus with Mathematica" talk as part of a series of free online seminars organized by the Wolfram Education Group. Today, I would like to give you a glimpse of the seminar's topics and write about the advantages of online instruction.
Computation & Analysis

Interactive Angle Measurement with Mathematica

Consider the typical infographics found on the internet, many of which are only slightly less silly than this one by Jamie Schimley: If you want to regenerate a chart such as this in Mathematica using the PieChart function, you need hard data: the relative areas of the slices. You could eyeball the values and get an approximation, but since I deal with user interfaces I was immediately interested in creating one that would allow me to measure the angle of each sector of a pie chart. The following code creates locators that can be positioned to calculate the angle of any sector. Buttons let you record the angles as you measure them, and reproduce the chart at the end. (This could be done with less code, but I wanted a more complete interface with finishing touches like disabling the Print Chart button if you haven’t measured any angles yet, and showing the current angle with a tooltip.)