Wolfram Computation Meets Knowledge

Date Archive: 2010 November

Education & Academic

How to Win at Coin Flipping

Let's flip a coin, over and over. Beforehand, the players each pick a sequence of flips. The sequence that occurs first wins. With HH vs. TH, HH will win if the first two flips are HH and will lose if any of those flips are tails. HH vs. TH has a 1/4 vs. 3/4 possibility of winning. Phrased a different way: Suppose I offer a bet on a series of coin flips. One of these bets would be bad for you. Which one? The odds of the event occurring are given at the end. (The second bet is the bad bet to take.) HTT appears before TTT. If it does, I give you $1. If not, you give me $4. (7/8) HHT appears before TTT. If it does, I give you $1. If not, you give me $3. (7/10) THH appears before HHT. If it does, I give you $1. If not, you give me $2. (3/4) HTH appears before THH. If it does, I give you $1. If not, you give me $1. (1/2) This is the strange world of Penney's game. Here is a table of odds and facts for various 3-flip games. Calculating these odds can be both tedious and mathematically demanding—a natural job for Mathematica or Mathematica Home Edition.
Education & Academic

Conrad Wolfram’s TED Talk: “Stop Teaching Calculating, Start Teaching Math”

"We have a real problem with math education right now," is how Conrad Wolfram starts his TEDGlobal 2010 talk in Oxford, in which he reasons through what's wrong, why, and how we can fix it. Central to Conrad's argument is the role of calculating—that for the mainstream subject it's not an end in itself, but a means to an end, and therefore should be wholeheartedly computer based. As he puts it, "Math ≠ Calculating, Math >> Calculating". He's optimistic about what's possible. "We have a unique opportunity to make math both more practical and more conceptual simultaneously," and to get people to "really feel math". Couldn't agree more? Dramatically disagree? Let us know. PS: If you would like to get involved, check out and join computerbasedmath.org.
Announcements & Events

Programming with Natural Language Is Actually Going to Work

I love computer languages. In fact, I've spent roughly half my life nurturing one particular very rich computer language: Mathematica. But do we really need computer languages to tell our computers what to do? Why can't we just use natural human languages, like English, instead? If you'd asked me a few years ago, I would have said it was hopeless. That perhaps one could make toy examples, but that ultimately natural language just wouldn't be up to the task of creating useful programs. But then along came Wolfram|Alpha. In which we've been able to make free-form linguistics work vastly better than I ever thought possible. But still, in Wolfram|Alpha the input is essentially just set up to request knowledge---and Wolfram|Alpha responds by computing and presenting whatever knowledge is requested. But programming is different. It is not about generating static knowledge, but about generating programs that can take a range of inputs, and dynamically perform operations. So the first question is: how might we represent these programs?
Announcements & Events

The Free-Form Linguistics Revolution in Mathematica

With the release of Mathematica 8 today, the single most dramatic change is that you don't have to communicate with Mathematica in the Mathematica language any more: you can just use free-form English instead. Wolfram|Alpha has pioneered the concept of specifying computations with free-form linguistic input. And with Mathematica 8, the powerful methods of Wolfram|Alpha become available within the Mathematica environment. All one has to do is to type an = at the beginning of a line. Then what follows is taken as free-form linguistic input. You don't have to use precise Mathematica syntax. You can type things in just the way you think about them, in free-form English. But what happens is that Mathematica calls on Wolfram|Alpha to try to interpret your input, and turn it into precise Mathematica code.
Announcements & Events

Mathematica 8!

Mathematica 8 is released today! It's a huge and important release. With dramatic breakthroughs—and major broadening of the whole scope of Mathematica. After 8 versions and 22 years most software systems have decayed to slow and lumbering development. But not Mathematica. In fact, with Mathematica it's quite the opposite. As the years go by, Mathematica development is actually speeding up. What has made that happen? Partly it's our tenacious and broadening pursuit of ambitious long-term goals. But partly, it's a remarkable reflection—and validation—of the core principles on which Mathematica has always been built.
Announcements & Events

A Sneak Peek at Mathematica 8

Continuing with tradition, Wolfram Research Founder and CEO Stephen Wolfram kicked off last month's Wolfram Technology Conference 2010 by highlighting the year's top developments and sharing insights on new directions for Wolfram technologies. This year's conference keynote featured the unveiling of the forthcoming Mathematica 8, a demonstration of its powerful new functionality, and future opportunities for Mathematica and Wolfram|Alpha. In the first part of this series, Stephen talked about Mathematica's "unstoppable momentum" and announced some of the new features coming in Mathematica 8.
Design & Visualization

How to Make a Webcam Intruder Alarm with Mathematica

Ever since I wrote the "Doing Spy Stuff with Mathematica" blog post, I have had a feeling that I am being watched. Time to build some office security using Mathematica Home Edition! First, I am going to make use of an imminent new Mathematica command CurrentImage, which will import a real-time image from a video device. Let's get some test images using the webcam on my laptop.
Best of Blog

aMAZEing Image Processing in Mathematica

A little over a mile from the Wolfram Research Europe Ltd. office, where I work, lies Blenheim Palace, which has a rather nice hedge maze. As I was walking around it on the weekend, I remembered a map solving example by Peter Overmann using new image processing features in an upcoming version of Mathematica. I was excited to apply the idea to this real-world example. Once back at my computer, I started by using Bing Maps to get the aerial photo (data created by Intermap, NAVTEQ, and Getmapping plc). The maze is meant to depict a cannon with cannon balls below it and flags and trumpets above.