Posts Tagged ‘Mathematica’

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Software: General Astronomy Course Assistant
Vendor: Wolfram Research (www.wolfram.com)
Price: $4.95

Many modern students use their smart phones in school, and Wolfram understands this so they are releasing a series of course assistant applications for smart phones and devices like the Apple iPhone and iPod touch. I’ve already looked at Wolfram’s Course Assistant for Astronomy, and I wanted to look at Wolfram’s General Chemistry Course Assistant when it was released since I initially majored in Biochemistry when I first started my undergrad degree.

This Course Assistant is sold through the Apple Apps store for $4.95, and I downloaded and installed the app through iTunes, which was flawless. The data (just like in the Astronomy Course Assistant) was organized by categories:

  • Atoms, Molecules, Ions
  • Atomic Structure & Periodicity
  • Reactions & Stoichiometry
  • Gases
  • Chemical Bonding
  • Liquids & Solids
  • Acids & Bases
  • The Nucleus
  • Units & Chemical Properties

Atoms, Molecules, Ions

This category has these subcategories: Find an Element. Find an Isotope, Atomic Properties of Elements, Abundance of Elements, Properties of Monoatomic Ions, and Ion Groups.

I went to the ‘Find an Element’ subcategory and entered 8, and then pressed ‘Compute’ to see the information on Oxygen, which displayed the element name,the location in the periodic table, an image of the element, some basic element properties (symbol, atomic number, electron configuration, block, group, period, and atomic weight), thermodynamic properties (melting point, boiling point – in centigrade and fahrenheit – critical temperature and pressure, molar heat of fusion, heat of vaporization, specific heat at STP, and adiabetic index), material properties (density, molar volume, refractive index, sound speed, and thermal conductivity), electromagnetic properties, reactivity (valence, electronegativity, electron affinity, ionization energies, atomic properties (term symbol, atomic radius, covalent radius, and van der Waals radius), abundance (universal, crust, and human), nuclear properties (half-life, isotopes), and identifiers (CAS and PubChem numbers).

In addition to searching for elements by atomic number, you can also use the number of protons and electrons. My favorite subcategory of this category of the course assistant was the ‘Atomic Properties of Elements’, because the search criteria you can use to find information include atomic number/weight/radius, number of protons/electrons.neutrons, and the Lewis structure.

Atomic Structure & Periodicity

This category has four subcategories: Light & Matter, Electron Configuration, Periodic Properties of Elements, and Ionic Radii.

The ‘Light & Matter’ subcategory lets you compute EM Radiation, the energy of a photon, and photon energy. The ‘Electron Configuration’ subcategory lets you compute configuration information for atoms or ions. The ‘Periodic Properties of Elements’ calculates information for elements and element groups. The ‘Ionic Radii’ subcategory computes radii for monoatomic and polyatomic ions.

Reactions & Stoichiometry

This category has eight subcategories to Solve for Mass/Volume, Convert Mass/Volume, Calculating Molar Mass, Composition of Compounds, Concentration and Solutions, and Equations and Reactions. My favorite subcategory was Equations and Reactions, which lets you plug in data to compute Reaction Enthalpy, the Reaction Equilibrium Constant, balance chemical equations, and calculate theoretical yields. Each section lets you specify 1 to 4 reactants and 1 to 4 products. Very useful.

Gases

This category has nine subcategories to solve for Avogadro’s Law (V or n), Boyle’s Law (V or P), Charles’s Law (V or T), Gay-Lussac’s Law (P or T)/Density or Molar Mass, the Ideal Gas Law (P, V, n, and T), Graham’s Law, Average Kinetic Energy, and RMS Velocity.

Chemical Bonding

This category has two subcategories: Bond Properties of Chemicals and Lewis Structures of Elements. The ‘Bond Properties’ include dipole moment, bond types and bond lengths for water, ethanol, acetic acid, acetone, and chloroform.

Liquids & Solids

This category has three subcategories: X-ray Analysis of Solids (Bragg Equation), Boiling Point of Liquids, and Liquid Vapor Pressure. I really liked how the second subcategory lets find boiling points based on city, elevation or mountains.

This was the only area of the app that I saw an error. I went into all three subcategories and all were blank, even though I waited 10 minutes. I quit the app and after I went back into it I was able to see each subcategory, but then the app locked up for a minute. I was able to restart the app, but I have notified Wolfram about this issue and will update this review as soon as I hear back from them.

Acids & Bases

This category lets you look up properties of acids and bases, calculates the ionization percentage of a solution, determine acidity and basicity of solutions (calculate pH and pOH, H+ and OH-, and look up the pH of a chemical), calculate pKa, and solve for pH or pKa.

The Nucleus

This category lets you look up information on isotopes (get element isotopes, look up nuclear properties, and find isotope half-life), as well as compute carbon-14 dating (if you believe that the earth is actually older than 6400 years). I went into the ‘Isotopes’ subcategory and looked up the isotopes for Oxygen, which showed all of the stable and unstable O isotopes. My favorite subcategory of this section was the ‘Isotope Half-Life’, as you can easily use element name or mass numbers to compute the half-lives of elements, which was interesting considering the reactor problems currently being experienced in Japan (as well as in Chernobyl).

Units & Chemical Properties

This category contains five subcategories: Unit Conversions, Physical Properties, Thermodynamic Properties, Element Properties, and Chemical Properties. The ‘Unit Conversion’ subcategory allows conversions based on length, mass, temperature, and volume. The four types of ‘Physical Properties’ are molecular weight, density,boiling point, and melting point. The types of properties found using ‘Thermodynamic Lookup’ are enthalpy of formation, entropy, free energy, heat capacity, enthalpy of fusion, and combustion heat.

I liked the ‘Element Properties’ subcategories, because it returns a ton of information for each element (the element name, periodic table position, an image, basic element properties, thermodynamic properties, material properties, electromagnetic properties, reactivity, atomic properties abundances, nuclear properties, and identifiers), but that seems to be the same as the data returned in the ‘Find an Element’ subcategory option in the ‘Atoms, Molecules, Ions’ category of the app.

Conclusion

Wolfram has expanded their offerings beyond the first 6 course assistant apps available for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. I tested this app using my iPod touch and was satisfied with the amount of useful information as well as the content layout. I did have a problem at one point and had to exit the app, but it then functioned normally.

As much as I enjoyed this app on my iPod touch, I’d love to be able  to retrieve all of the ‘Element Properties’ (in the ‘Units & Chemical Properties’ category) using a GUI image of the periodic table instead of the keyboard that was implemented in the app. To select elements not included on the keyboard, you just need to highlight the element that begins with the same first letter of the alphabet, then select the desired element. Preferring a GUI for this UI is a person preference and not a bug or error, but it might be more appropriate on the larger screen on the iPad.

Recommendation

A good value. Good data that will preclude the need to look up technical information in a textbook, which is handy for high school or college students.

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Software: Astronomy Course Assistant
Vendor: Wolfram Research (www.wolfram.com)
Price: $4.95

When  I returned to college to earn my undergrad degree in Computer Science in 2007, I was surprised to see how many students used their smart phones in school. I started on a Masters degree (MS in SE) in the Fall of 2010 and was surprised to see how many students have embraced mobile devices to help with classwork. With the release of the iPad 1.0 product, I’ve seen little or no use of netbooks on campus, and huge numbers of students using mobile devices to access and retrieve information while studying and in classrooms. I bought a iPod Touch in March and have to admit I’m hooked. The apps I’ve tried look and function very well, so I was pleased to see Wolfram Research releasing course assistants for students.

For the 3 or so readers that are unfamiliar with Wolfram Research, they have been selling Mathematica for many years. Over the course of the product life-cycle they have constantly added functionality to their powerful software. Many universities provide Mathematica for their students at low or no cost, and it is a fantastic product for Math, Engineering, and Science majors. I started using Mathematica 5 and have enjoyed using and reviewing versions 6 and 7 for MacWorld UK, and I cover 8.0 (and 8.0.1) on this blog.

This review covers the Wolfram Astronomy Course Assistant, which is sold through the Apple Apps store for $4.95. I downloaded and installed the app through iTunes, which was as fast as you’d expect. After opening the app for the first time, I noticed the data was organized by categories:

Sky Orientation, Moon, Physical Astronomy, Light and Telescopes, Starlight and Atoms, The Sun and Stars, Black Holes, Cosmology, Solar System, and Life on Other Worlds.

Sky Orientation

This category has data on: Constellations, Zodiac, Reference Points, Basic Angles, Degrees to Right Ascension, Angular Diameter, Size Comparison, Seasons, Periapsis/Apoapsis. My favorite option was the size comparison, where you compare 2 astronomical objects. My least favorite option was Seasons, where you look up the nearest solstice/equinox for a specified date.

Moon

The moon is one of my favorite bodies to observe as it is so close that many features can be seen with binoculars. I liked everything in this category, which covers moon phases, lunar and solar eclipses, and the tides. I checked out the most recent solar eclipse yesterday, and it was yesterday (May 20), although it was not visible from many places as it was primarily seen over the Atlantic ocean.

Physical Astronomy

This section covers Newton’s Laws, Newton’s Second Law, Circular Orbit Velocity, Stationary Orbits, Escape Velocity, Moment of Interia, Rotational Angular Momentum, Kepler’s Laws, Kepler’s Third Law, Kepler’s Third Law with Mass, and Relativistic Energy. All are good to have when taking an astronomy or physics class, but my favorite was escape velocity where you can compute this information for astronomical bodies based on radii of AUs, kilometers, miles, meters, and feet. Mass is set using kilograms, pounds, or grams. Very useful.

Light and Telescopes

This section covers materials useful for building or using telescopes. It uses eyepiece focal length and objective focal length to determine telescope magnification. I also like how it calculated light gathering power, so you can compare 2 telescopes (very handy when you decide to purchase your next telescope).

Starlight and Atoms

There were a few options I really liked, but don’t see a need for the Temperature Conversions as this is fairly simple to calculate and I’ve seen the conversion formulas in more than a few intro programming books. My two favorite areas in this category were the Stellar Spectral Classes (determine the property of stars using class/subclass/luminosity) and the Relativistic Doppler Effect (determine speed of a light source using wavelengths). Good stuff!

The Sun and Stars

A ton of information about our sun and stars. It is useful being able to compute the physical properties of the sun based on distance from the surface.

The Star Properties section of the category provides properties for Sirius, Canopus, Arcturus, Rigel Kentaurus A, Vega, Capella, Rigel, Procyon, Achernar, Betelgeuse, Hadar, Altair, Acrus, Aldebaran, and Spica. The type of data returned for each star was useful, however I’d rather have a dynamic list of stars pulled from Wolfram’s servers than a fixed, hard coded list.

Black Holes

How can you not be interested in one of the most powerful objects in the known universe? This category provides a means to calculate Schwarzschild Radius, Hawking Temperature, entropy, surface gravity, surface area, and gravitational redshift for black holes. Excellent information, especially for students.

Cosmology

This category lets you calculate the wavelength of an object that is red shifted. Nice, but I wish there were more sections than the 3 that are provided.

Solar System

Some good, quick reference information on bodies in our solar system. I particularly liked being able to retrieve images of the planets – you first retrieve a thumbnail image and can select a larger image if you want. I like how much amount data you can retrieve on our solar system bodies. I did use some of the data in the Dwarf Planets section when I wrote my piece on Dwarf Planets (see the Astronomy page of this blog for more information).

Life on Other World

This category consists of inputs to compute the Drake Equation, which accepts various data to yield the probability of life on other worlds. Very handy.

Conclusion

Wolfram has 6 course assistant apps available for the iPhone, iPad, and touch. I tested this app using my touch and was satisfied with the amount of useful information as well as the content layout. I would like to see fewer hard-coded lists in future releases, as Wolfram’s data source servers are excellent sources of materials and I’d love to have the capability of this (and other) apps expanded without needing to download an updated version of the app.

I had no crashes or errors when testing, although 1 time I had a timeout when attempting to retrieve an image of Mercury. As much as I enjoyed this app on my iPod touch, I’d love to see it on an iPad.

Recommentation

A good buy for reasonable price. Good for students in high school or college, as they can have a good valid source of information that will help when they take a class in the fascinating subject of astronomy.

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

I just saw a presentation on version 8 of Mathematica, the newest update to this powerful product used in a wide variety of industries, and I am impressed. There are a ton of enhancements and I will be covering the new release here and for Software Latest. For now, check out the official Wolfram press release:

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Wolfram Research Introduces Unique Concept of Linguistically Controlled Computing

New Mathematica 8 Integrates Wolfram|Alpha – One of More Than 500 New Features

November 15, 2010—Wolfram Research today announced the release of Mathematica 8, the latest version of its flagship computation, development, and deployment platform that introduces the breakthrough concept of linguistically controlled computing. Integrating technology of Wolfram|Alpha, the Mathematica-powered computational knowledge engine, makes it possible to enter math or data calculations in plain English and get immediate answers or start an extensive analysis.

“Traditionally, getting computers to perform tasks requires speaking their language or using point-and-click interfaces. One requires learning syntax, the other limits scope of accessible functions,” said Stephen Wolfram, CEO and Founder of Wolfram Research. “Free-form linguistics understands human language and translates it into syntax—a breakthrough in usability. Mathematica 8 is the start of this initiative, but already it is making a real difference to user productivity.”

Free-form input is a new entry point into the Mathematica idea-to-deployment workflow, but Mathematica 8 adds a major new endpoint too: generation of C code and standalone executables. Using Mathematica, organizations no longer have to rely on separate tools for prototyping and deployment, but can complete the entire workflow with one integrated tool.

“It’s amazing that you can start with free-form linguistic input, model or prototype, and end up with a high-performance standalone program or library…all within Mathematica 8’s comprehensive workflow,” said Tom Wickham-Jones, Director of Kernel Technology at Wolfram Research.

Even with these major enhancements at either end of the workflow, the most significant additions in Mathematica 8 are the more than 500 new functions in many new and extended application areas, including:

  • Probability and statistics: largest collection of statistical distributions and automatic high-level solvers including parameter estimation
  • Software development: built-in GPU support, automatic code generation and linking, multicore parallelism, and standalone code deployment.
  • Engineering: integrated control systems and wavelet analysis
  • Graphs and networks: extensive built-in support for the new science of networks
  • Finance: built-in option pricing solvers, financial indicators, and charts
  • Image processing: enhanced image analysis capabilities, such as feature detection

“In all of these domains, you will find dramatic depth of coverage,” stated Roger Germundsson, Director of Research & Development at Wolfram Research. “The functions are designed to work together seamlessly across different domains which allows combining them in new and innovative ways.”

“Rather than build individual spikes of functionality provided by traditional specialist tools, Mathematica‘s concept is based on building up the complete mountain range,” said Conrad Wolfram, Director of Strategic Development at Wolfram Research. “It’s this broad functionality across a wide area that enabled us to build state-of-the-art application areas such as statistics and probability so quickly for Mathematica 8.”

Availability

Mathematica 8 is available immediately for Windows XP/Vista/7, Mac OS X, Linux x86, and compatible systems. More product details are available on the Mathematica website: http://www.wolfram.com/mathematica

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Notes:

1. I reformatted the content of the release for this site, but did not modify any of the material.
2. Not all Mathematica products are being updated today. The Home and Student editions will be updated soon – stay tuned here for more information.
3. I am writing an ongoing review of Mathematica, also available on this site, which covers new and interesting existing aspects of this software. Please check back from time-to-time as this will be one of my larger and more in-depth reviews.

From: Wolfram Research (http://www.wolfram.co.uk)
Pricing: Standard and Government version £2,035, Education £860, Students £80
By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2007, All Rights Reserved

Mathematica is the powerhouse mathematics software product, available for Microsoft, Mac OS, Linux and UNIX (Solaris, HP and AIX) operating systems. People using Mathematica for research, development and education are Mathematicians, Scientists, Computer Scientists, Engineers, Educators, as well as math students in secondary school and those attending university. Mathematica is powerful, but it doesn’t take a math wiz to use it, so let’s get started with the review.

Getting Started

Mathematica runs on a wide range of Windows platforms, including Vista, XP, Server 2003, Windows 2000 and Windows Me. The product can be purchased on disk or downloaded – either way requires a license. Licenses are not cheap, except for students (see the top of this review for pricing information). And speaking of students, some schools have programs where they provide Mathematica at no charge for their students – check with your Math department to see if your school has this option – mine does and I was quite pleased to be able to get a free license to have this powerful product on my home computers, as well as on university computer systems.

For my Windows OS tests, I installed the product on an HP laptop running Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2, using a 2GB CPU, 1.25GB RAM and a 100 GB hard drive. The installation process (using a downloaded file run from my local hard drive) took awhile, but it did not require constant user intervention so I started it and walked away to take care of other chores until it was installed. Mathematica 6.0.1 for Windows occupies a bit of hard drive space – about 1.28 GB – and installs in a subdirectory called Wolfram Research in the Program Files subdirectory.

No errors installing or launching – I did not need to reboot to safely start it the first time. It does take awhile to start – I’d like to try it on a dual core system with more memory and a faster drive than in my current laptop, but application performance is very good once it is running, so there is no real need to purchase a new computer yet. Oh well…

Product Functionality

Mathematica doesn’t do one thing well. It does many things. The categories of traditional software that Mathematica can replace include:

  • Audio Synthesis
  • Calculators
  • Algebra Solutions Systems
  • Data Visualization/Plotting
  • Application Development (code, interfaces)
  • Document Format/Typeset
  • Format Conversion
  • Grid Computing
  • Math Education
  • Number Theory
  • Presentations, Reports and Spreadsheets
  • Science Data Sources
  • Simulations
  • Statistics

I don’t have the resources to test all of these, so I’ll give a short rundown on the things I did check. I did use it as a basic calculator – not easy until you learn how to use the product, but something that will help you delve into it and worth the time. Next, I did some College Algebra problems from a textbook – not something that would stress the product, but something that could be interesting to a student or educator. No problems or errors, and I think this would be great to use while enrolled in an Algebra class.

Next I went to Wolfram’s site and found an area of their site devoted to using Mathematica for visualizing models (http://members.wri.com/jeffb/visualization/). I found some really impressive images and simulations. As an amateur astronomer, one image I particularly liked was the one showing two galaxies colliding, just one of many from Jeff Bryant. See: http://members.wri.com/jeffb/visualization/galaxies.shtml

You don’t need Mathematica to see this or other equally impressive images at the site above. They are well worth the time and effort to browse, and it was nice that Jeff made the effort to produce and share them with others.

Researchers in many fields will appreciate that Wolfram Research has external data sources available for download from Wolfram servers, where it is kept up to date. This is important because many Mathematica users add or import research data, but must be concerned how current the data is, since science is a rapidly changing field. Anyone that has had the onerous task of manually installing massive amounts of data for a project knows the time spent installing updates can be put to better use. Like sleeping, eating, or having a social life. I tested Mathematica using Astronomy and Biochemistry topics I’ve seen in research and was impressed how easy it was to retrieve the data. Nearby stars, elements and their properties, and complex chemical structures were easily downloaded and accessible. Nice!

Before the internet, Educators would need a graphics artist to create slides for projection onto a wall – few lower education facilities could afford studios to create movies, so slideshows were typically the best students could expect to see. Now educators can use some of the new built-in functions that help demonstrate mathematic and physics concepts to their classes. Mathematica also provides tools (like slider gadgets) to let users manipulate the data models to see how changes to settings influence the output as those variables change. Again, nice!

Every math class I’ve taken, regardless of the level of education, has answers in the back of the book to let the student check their homework. But, most text books only have some of the answers in the back, so you either need to purchase a solutions guide or check the unlisted answers with the teacher. I don’t advocate trying to use the software to do your homework, but it helped me a lot this semester as I could check my work before turning assignments in to the professor. Parents that have struggled when helping their children with math homework will appreciate this capability too. It really makes a difference and I can’t imagine taking a math or physics class without Mathematica.

Programmers will enjoy the application support built into Mathematica. It already was able to interface with C++, Java, .NET, and XML code, and Wolfram added more external integration support in release 6.x, providing additional external device support, new system control and monitoring functionality, new integrated Web Services support, and they improved the file capabilities. I am currently testing this aspect of Mathematica and hope to have a follow up article soon with my findings.

I haven’t covered some of the other features of the product yet – using notebooks to group and distribute data, document formatting and publication, file (audio and video) format conversion, number theory, how to create presentations and generate spreadsheets, and areas more focused on topics of interest to heavier math users. Too much to cover in one review and do a proper job for our readers or for the vendor of this powerful product.

I want all of our readers, not just Mathematicians and Engineers, to know that this product is worthwhile and useful. It can do so much for people attending or teaching math or science or programming classes. Version 6.x has 1500 – yes, 1500 – new features over the 5.2 release. I’ve covered a few new features, as well as explained some existing functionality to help you understand Mathematica. For a detailed list of all new features in Mathematica version 6.x, see http://reference.wolfram.com/mathematica/guide/SummaryOfNewFeaturesIn60.html

Negatives

Mathematica does take a fair amount of hard drive space, and I’m guessing a faster process would be better, and it is not the fastest program to launch (although it is far from the slowest I’ve used). You need internet access to take advantage of the load-on-demand data support. And price is an issue for any license beside the student license.

Recommendation

Highly recommended. Documentation is available online and it is extensive and easy to use. Any student attending university that needs to take more than basic math or science or programming classes will find this product useful. While a tad on the pricy side for small businesses, it does the same as a number of other commercial applications and maybe it is time to consider changing from those packages to just one.

Please Note

This article originally appeared in the December 2007 issue of Software Editorial. Click here to read my review of Mathematica 6 for the Mac OS in MacWorld UK, and click here to read my review of Mathematica 7 at Software Latest.