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Current Events & History

The Solution of the Zodiac Killer’s 340-Character Cipher

In 2020, Melbourne, Australia, had a 112-day lockdown of the entire city to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The wearing of masks was mandatory and we were limited to one hour a day of outside activity. Otherwise, we were stuck in our homes. This gave me lots of time to look into interesting problems I’d been putting off for years.

I was inspired by a YouTube video by David Oranchak, which looked at the Zodiac Killer’s 340-character cipher (Z340), which is pictured below. This cipher is considered one of the holy grails of cryptography, as at the time the cipher had resisted attacks for 50 years, so any attempts to find a solution were truly a moonshot.

Current Events & History

Florida Spring Break 2021: February COVID-19 Data Forecasts the March of the Variants

It is widely believed that students and others spending their 2020 spring break in Florida helped spread COVID-19 far and wide, in the US and elsewhere (see also this study). The picture in 2021 is quite different in several ways. For one, the disease has been in the US for over a year, and an approximated 30% of the population has antibodies from prior exposure. Also, several vaccines are now in use, and close to 20% have received at least one inoculation at the time of this writing. (Since those two groups overlap, the total is believed to be in the ballpark of 45% of the total population.) We now know that children under the age of 16 do not get the disease in large numbers and are not a major vector for its spread. Social distancing practices are in use to varying degrees, and infection numbers are currently falling across the country. This is believed to be due to a combination of increased immunity and non-pharmacological interventions (NPIs) such as social distancing and mask use.
Computation & Analysis

Data Science at Home: Leverage Wolfram’s Device Integration to Analyze Your Vehicle’s Performance

Cars are getting smarter and more connected, yet how much have you explored the technology that helps run our vehicles? I was curious to see how I could connect to my vehicle’s communication center and what kind of interface I could create in Wolfram Notebooks to report on the data gathered.

Academics

Exploring the Enigmatic Star, Eta Carinae

One of the most enigmatic stars in our galaxy is η Carinae (Eta Carinae). However, in its first recorded observation several hundred years ago, Eta Carinae was a star of little note. Since then, it has become a source of astronomical interest due to dramatic brightness variations, which at one time made it the second-brightest star in the sky. In this post, we’ll investigate the star using the Wolfram Language and the Wolfram Function Repository to discover why it’s changed in such a relatively short period of time, both in its appearance and in our interest in it.
Computation & Analysis

Wolfram Function Repository Highlights: From Country Borders to Bird Speech Bubbles

In June 2019, Stephen Wolfram announced the Wolfram Function Repository, a curated repository of functions that can be employed immediately in the Wolfram Language. Since then, the Repository has grown to include more than 1,000 functions in over 20 categories.

Functions included in the Repository range from those that are more general and utilitarian in nature to others with very specific applications. As with all Wolfram Language functions, Repository documentation pages contain examples showing how to use the functions. We’re featuring a few of the functions submitted to the Repository so far that showcase the variety of functions our users have built.

Current Events & History

Democratic Presidential Debate Analysis Using the Wolfram Language

When 20 presidential candidates duke it out on the debate stage, who wins? Americans have been watching a crowded and contentious primary season for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president. After the debates, everyone’s talking about who got the most talk time or attention, which exchanges were most exciting or some other measure of who “won” the night—and who might ultimately clinch a victory at the caucuses. So I decided I’d do a little exploration of the debates using the entity framework, text analytics and graph capabilities of the Wolfram Language and see if I could come up with my own measure of a “win” for a debate, based on which candidate was most central to the conversation.

Best of Blog

Invasion of the Stink Bugs: 20 Years of Marmorated Mayhem in One Map

Who has not encountered a stink bug? Perhaps the better question is not if, but when. I remember well my first interactions with stink bugs—partly because of their pungent, cilantro-like odor, but also because in my native Catalan language they are called Bernat pudent ("stinky Bernat") and Bernat is my twin brother's name.

So when I encountered the stink bug again when visiting Champaign, Illinois, for the 2019 Wolfram Technology Conference, it brought up a lot of fond childhood memories. This time, however, two things had changed: the frequency of encounters with the stink bug seemed exponentially greater, and I now had the Wolfram Language to more fully (and computationally) satisfy my curiosity about this reviled insect and its growing impact on our ecosystem. So to get a better picture of the arrival and spread of this invasive bug across the US, I used available observation data and the Wolfram Language to make a map of sightings over the past two decades.