Wolfram Computation Meets Knowledge

Date Archive: 2009 March

Computation & Analysis

Plug-and-Play Mathematica with Wolfram Lightweight Grid System

For some people, parallel computing and the need for a cluster is a way of life. For others, the need sneaks up on them. Most clusters and grids are planned and organized from the first, and that can take time and effort, to say nothing of configuration. Other times there's no budget for new hardware, but there are computer labs or desktop computers unused for much of the day---a cluster waiting to be harnessed, if only you can get the Macs to talk to the Windows boxes, and keep straight all the hostnames in use. For situations like these I helped develop Wolfram Lightweight Grid System, which is designed from the ground up to let you assemble existing hardware into a self-organized network, accessible from Mathematica with almost no configuration.
Announcements & Events

Pattern Matching Your Source Code—How Wolfram Workbench Integrates Mathematica Development Tools

Inside and outside of Wolfram Research, teams are working on large Mathematica projects. Working with large code bases requires powerful tools; it is even better if these tools are integrated. With Wolfram Workbench, we brought an integrated development environment (IDE) to our users. What does "integrated" mean? Well, let's look at just one example of how Workbench integrates Mathematica's central language features, pattern matching, editors, and source management tools. Let's start with a specific problem: with our Mathematica 6.0 release, we overhauled many of our libraries and APIs (our recent Version 7.0 release builds on the improvements in Version 6.0). Some groups of functions were deprecated or their APIs changed. We had collected a long list of these changes... but how would users apply them to their source code? Go through them one by one and line by line in their code? Definitely not.
Computation & Analysis

The Evolution of Parallel Computing with Mathematica

In the eighties I attended a scientific presentation about a rather cumbersome way to parallelize one of the symbolic computation systems in existence at that time and quickly realized how much more elegantly I could bring parallelism to Mathematica, thanks to its symbolic communication protocol, MathLink. This protocol allowed me to exchange not only data but also programs between concurrently running Mathematica kernels. The result was a package, written entirely in Mathematica, called Parallel Computing Toolkit. At a time when parallel computing meant big expensive machines, FORTRAN, and batch jobs, it was quite satisfying to experiment with different parallel paradigms from an interactive Mathematica notebook, with a couple of machines on a local network doing the computations, and be able to do parallel functional programming and work with symbolic expressions and arbitrary-precision arithmetic in parallel. I got a lot of surprised reactions from people who thought that parallelization is this big complicated thing, requiring supercomputers and large funds, and rather large problems, to be worthwhile. The truth is, most problems people solve are easy to parallelize.
Computation & Analysis

March Madness in Mathematica

It's that time again when many of us begin to explore the pseudo-science of bracketology as the United States eagerly approaches the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament---March Madness. It's a frenzied few weeks where statistical analysis and mathematical algorithms make a sudden leap from the desktops of professionals to the homes of millions of sports fans. As a sports fan and as an account manager working with Mathematica and Mathematica Home Edition, a wild idea occurred to me. Could someone with no professional programming training or mathematical degrees, like me, use Mathematica to create something of value, like a March Madness bracket, for someone else? While I frequently support and work with some of the brightest engineers, scientists, and statisticians in the commercial world, my personal use of Mathematica has been fairly simplistic. What could I do? I decided to find out.

Demonstrations Milestones

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.
Education & Academic

Secrets of the Universe Hiding on My Home Computer

In this day and age, it's quite common to have to do some housecleaning on your computer to make room for more clutter. While moving stuff around on my home computer and trying to figure out what data I had and where it could be moved to free up space on my hard drive, I ran across an old FITS data file from my college days. The cryptic filename only told me that it was taken in May and that it was likely the 132nd image in a sequence. I was curious and decided I would investigate it to see what I had uncovered. Perhaps it was a dull star-field image from my data-collecting days in the study of dwarf novae; I wasn't sure. Mathematica was the most convenient tool I had handy for viewing FITS data, so I decided to take it for a spin.