Wolfram Computation Meets Knowledge

Date Archive: 2015 September


Stranded on Mars: Exploring Travel on Mars in The Martian

The popular book The Martian by Andy Weir will be released in movie form on October 2. The Martian is about an astronaut, Mark Watney, stranded alone on Mars. The crew of Ares 3, the third manned mission to Mars, thought he had been killed during an evacuation. When the crew left, they took the only planned means of escape and communication with them. The next manned mission to Mars isn't for four years, so Watney has to face the fact that he must either figure out how to survive for up to four years on Mars or die. The book does a wonderful job of supplying technical details of the conditions and supplies available, as well as of the problems that arise as a result of using things in ways for which they were not designed. The details are great for allowing us to explore the travels of the main character with the Wolfram Language. It's at this point I should probably post a warning: SPOILER ALERT! From here on I will be exploring aspects of the story and so will be giving away plot points. If you don't like those kinds of details, stop here and go read the book... and then come back and read this blog.

MHacks 6 Brings Hacking to a Higher Level

MHacks is a hackathon hosted by the University of Michigan every year that brings together a diverse group of students to redefine the modern perception of hackers as criminals or programming experts and to make something amazing. At this year's MHacks 6, Wolfram was proud to be a sponsor and see our technologies in action in several of the group projects. Last year's winners, Olivia Walch and Matt Jacobs, returned with new teammates Sam Oliver and David Renardy as Team Fusion Furniture. Their hack, which tied for first place in Best Use of Wolfram Technology, allows users to turn photos and pictures from their phones into custom, 3D-printed tables and chairs. Team Fusion Furniture used the Wolfram Language and Wolfram Development Platform (formerly known as Wolfram Programming Cloud) to "generate, export, and email the 3D model from the images" and for other back end needs.
Computation & Analysis

The Coffee “Flavor-Rator”

I drink too much coffee---it's one of my few vices. Recently, my favorite espresso machine at the Wolfram Research headquarters in Champaign, Illinois, was replaced with a fancy new combination coffee and espresso maker. The coffee now comes in little pouches of various flavors, ranging from "light and smooth" to "dark and intense". There even is a "hot chocolate" pouch and a way to make cappuccinos using both a "froth" pouch and an "espresso" pouch. Here is a picture of the new coffee selection:
Computation & Analysis

The Republican Presidential Debate Clouds: Round 2

After the first Republican presidential debate, we showed you how the WordCloud function in the Wolfram Language can be used to create compelling visualizations of what the candidates said. This time around, Alan Joyce and Vitaliy Kaurov have done an even cooler analysis over at Wolfram Community, delving further into what words were used most frequently and what subjects the candidates had in common---and how they set themselves apart. For example, check out the words uniquely used by each candidate in Wednesday’s debate below.
Announcements & Events

Experts in Action: Live-Coding with Christopher Wolfram

If you've ever hit a roadblock while learning to code, then you know the frustration of trying to find the best resource to help you out. We have good news. We are happy to announce that Christopher Wolfram, son of Wolfram Research's founder, Stephen Wolfram, will be live-coding on Livecoding.tv. This new Y Combinator--backed coding platform brings programmers together to watch live streams of people coding real products. Enhance your coding skills and learn directly from someone with the knowledge and expertise that results from working directly with Stephen Wolfram. Christopher's presentation will focus on education analytics; users who tune in will see a firsthand demonstration of how to interact with datasets and visualizations in the Wolfram Language. The live streaming is scheduled for Tuesday, September 22 at 7pm CDT.

Surfaces and Solids of Revolution: Using Wolfram|Alpha’s “Virtual Potter’s Wheel”

Before today's 3D printing technology allowed us to make objects of virtually any shape, humanity was limited in the kind and precision of shapes we could produce. Driven to overcome these limitations, we gradually invented a series of machines that could create ever-more-complicated types of shapes, culminating (just before the 3D printer) in machines like this multiaxis computer-numerical-controlled (CNC) mill: The first of this series of machines was perhaps the potter's wheel, which allowed us to make precisely round objects of any profile. To me, it still seems a bit magical to watch as potters trace out a curve with their hands, and seeing, as the wheel spins, that curve get copied all the way around the vase:
Announcements & Events

Track Everything with the Wolfram Data Drop IFTTT Channel!

In March, we launched the Wolfram Data Drop, an open service that makes it easy to accumulate data of any kind, from anywhere—setting it up for immediate computation, visualization, analysis, querying, or other operations. Now we are announcing the release of the Wolfram Data Drop Channel, which lets you track and accumulate data from your everyday apps, devices, and services available in IFTTT wherever and whenever you want. IFTTT—which stands for "if this then that"—is a service that coordinates apps and other services, triggering one to do something when something else happens in another. IFTTT products and apps are organized in Channels of triggers and actions that are used to create personalized recipes and buttons on your mobile devices. A typical recipe could be "If anyone posts a new Instagram photo from Central Park, then add the photo's URL to a databin":
Education & Academic

In Defense of Infinity

The Glencoe Algebra II study materials (p. 10) make an amazing claim (Reddit). This statement is in a math textbook, but it is horrifyingly wrong. A statement like "the letters A--Z cannot be matched up with the numbers 1--26" would be similarly wrong. These two sets of the same size (here, 26) can be matched up as A1, B2, C3, ..., Z26. Can the rational numbers be matched up with the integers? Both are infinite, which allows for the tricks of a technique called Hilbert's hotel, a hotel with infinite numbered rooms that can always make room for one more guest. The Glencoe claim asks if the cardinality of the integers and rationals is the same. Both are , or Aleph-0, which Georg Cantor proved in the 1870s.
Design & Visualization

New in the Wolfram Language: ColorBalance

I've taken pictures numerous times, either with a camera or with my phone, only to find out that the colors were completely off—they had bluish, reddish, or even greenish tints. Before I started working on image and color processing, this was quite mysterious to me. Moreover, I'd always noticed on my cameras a white balance setting that, when played with, produced results very much like my skewed-color photographs. Could it be these two were related? That camera setting is indeed the key to correcting a color cast, and it has been added to the Wolfram Language with the ColorBalance function. Here is a simple example of how it works: