Wolfram Computation Meets Knowledge

The 2015 One-Liner Competition Winners

The One-Liner Competition has become a tradition at our annual Wolfram Technology Conference. It’s an opportunity for some of the most talented Wolfram Language developers to show the world what amazing things can be done with a mere 128 characters of Wolfram Language code.

More than any other programming language, the Wolfram Language gives you a wealth of sophisticated built-in algorithms that you can combine and recombine to do things you wouldn’t think possible without reams of computer code. This year’s One-Liner submissions showed the diversity of the language. There were news monitors, sonifications, file system indexers, web mappers, geographic mappers, anatomical visualizations, retro graphics, animations, hypnotic dynamic graphics, and web data miners… all implemented with 128 or fewer characters.

The first of three honorable mentions went to Richard Gass for his New York Times Word Cloud. With 127 characters of Wolfram Language code, he builds a word cloud of topics on the current New York Times front page by pulling nouns out of the headlines:

Word Cloud of current New York Times front page nouns

A second honorable mention went to Peter Roberge for his 3D Web Mapper, which builds a 3D map of a corner of the web, updating the map in real time as it is built. By judicious use of definitions, his code squeaks in at exactly 128 characters, but it nevertheless gracefully suppresses potential messages about bad links:

3D Web Mapper code

Peter Roberge

The third honorable mention went to Joshua Mike for this graphic of a UFO-like object. Joshua’s code takes nice advantage of rendering artifacts to produce a compelling surface texture that suggests the intricate technical details of a spaceship. That aesthetic appealed to the competition’s Trekkie judges:

Code for UFO-like Object

A (dis)honorable mention went to Kyle Keane for what the judges deemed the biggest groaner of the competition. Kyle submitted his entry with a haiku:

challenge accepted
reflect on the here and now
I am functional

Code using ClockGauge and GeoGraphics

Kyle Keane

Our snarky judges replied with:

well maybe next year
until then you can reflect
and sharpen your code

Third prize went to Joshua Kennedy for his Homage to the Windows Screensaver. Each time you evaluate the code, you get a different set of interpolated splines that make a flowing pattern reminiscent of the Windows screensaver from the early 90s. The judges’ comment: if only it were animated! Perhaps one of you would like to take up that challenge. If you do, please share your results here in the comments or at Wolfram Community.

Homage to the Windows Screensaver code

Second prize went to Stephan Leibbrandt (winner of our first One-Liner Competition) for Driving Math. Stephan cleverly generates a morphing scribble by indexing the RiemannSiegelZ function at offset positions. RiemannSiegelZ is an insightful choice of function, since its irregularity provides unending variety in the figure. Although the graphic is two-dimensional, its motion gives an illusion of three-dimensionality:

Driving Math Code
Stephen Leibbrandt

First place was claimed by Philip Maymin for FILETRIE, which builds a browser showing the names and sizes of files in your file system, as well as the total sizes of the directories. The judges were impressed by Philip’s clever use of infix operators » and to save characters without sacrificing the readability of the result. As a bonus, his code actually does something useful. That’s a lot of functionality in 125 characters!

Browser showing the names and sizes of files in your file system

Thanks to all of the conference attendees who participated in this year’s competition and wowed us once again with the amazing power and flexibility of the Wolfram Language. There are more intriguing entries; you can see them all in this notebook. And if you’d like to try your hand at one-liner coding, the rules for one-liners are the same as for Tweet-A-Program. Tweet your one-liners to @wolframtap and show the world your programming chops.


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  1. Awe/Wow-inspiring, as always! :)
    Mathematica (& now the Wolfram language) is a ‘gift’ for us indeed…

    Am sure we’ll all discover more & more joy with it.

  2. Joshua Kennedy’s entry could be compacted a bit further: s=Subdivide[10];Graphics[{Hue[#[[1]]],BSplineCurve[#,SplineClosed->True]}&/@(Transpose[{1-s,s}].RandomReal[1,{2,7,2}])]; even more if you replace the “Transpose[]” and “->” accordingly.

  3. I really appreciate seeing the code and the results the code generated. Interesting challenge to see what can be done in just 128 or fewer characters of code.