With over 500 new functionalities, this is about as complete a package as you could want
Mathematica is too much of an old friend to say anything besides singing its praises. It never ceases to amaze just how much evolutionary progress can be made in even a short time. Many of these new features are something that may never be used by most analysts, but others are a welcome addition to the specialist. In this editor’s case, the genomic data access was a really nice surprise! Now onto the particulars…
New in version 7
Table 1 is just an overview of the 500 new functionalities. The details may be had at www.wolfram.com/products/mathematica/newin7 . System requirements are noted in Table 2. As to system space/memory requirements, the bigger the better. The company recommends 1.5 GB of HD space (if loading from a disk, or 3 GB for a download) and at least 256 MB of RAM (but 1GB or more would be highly recommended).
As with most programs these days, the trend is to go electronic. Thus, there are no paper manuals. I have consulted my Mathematica 5 manual untill it’s falling apart and still have not fully appreciated the search function under Help. The Documentation center is helpful, however, and is less consulted with experience in the areas of interest. It is logically arranged, and the novice need not spend too much time drilling down to the needed areas.
Figure 1 is a partial screen shot of my startup screen. It includes the menu bar, the notebook area and four palettes: Algebraic Manipulation, Basic Math Assistant, Basic Math and Basic Typesetting. The notebook is the basic work area and the assistants greatly simplify the typing tasks (for those of us who hate typing!). The Documentation Center of the Welcome screen will quickly become the close friend of new users. For the more adept, this screen is easily suppressed.
A mathematical/graphics tour
As to the heart of the matter — Mathematica does mathematics! — all kinds and in excruciating detail exists if needed. As an example, let’s take a very brief tour through some commands and their execution. Given in Figures 2 through 4 is a notebook page showing simple commands to evaluate numbers, integrate function, do a 2-D plot, a contour plot and a more complex parametric plot.
This is meant to give you a flavor of Mathematica’s high level programming language and the way it is used, as opposed to what it can do (as that’s just about anything these days). My calculations are usually in the areas of simple algebra, calculus and ordinary differential equations and utilize less than 0.001 percent of Mathematica’s potential.
Beginner features specific to Mathematica
Novices should know a bit about the little quirks peculiar to the software. Mathematica functions start with capitol letters and enclose their arguments in square brackets. Curly braces are used to hold data ranges and options and are separated by commas. To execute commands, the user presses Shift+Enter, and the I/O is displayed in its own cell.
There are numerous helps available, including the Documentation Center (thousands of pages of manuals), the Function Navigator, the Learning Center, and two really nifty shortcuts to get information on the fly. By highlighting any function name and hitting the F1 key, the documentation to that function appears. By merely preceding the function name by a “?” and executing, examples of usage appear.
To “appropriate” someone else’s code or already completed applet, the Demonstration Projects section online is a treasure trove.
For the mathematician and student, this software has all the old capabilities, but it is bulked up after each upgrade (as expected). However, for the scientist, it now has computable data bases to assist in their respective disciplines. For the engineers, it is a complete programming/computational/graphics system to make project integration a snap. In order to disseminate the projects to colleagues without Mathematica, there is a Player application so that users can visualize anything done by the analyst. Student editions are reasonably priced and, for heavy duty mathematics, this is about as complete a package as you could want.
• $2,495 professional
• $1,095 academic
• $139.95 student
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1-217-398-0700, 800-WOLFRAM (1-965-3726; U.S. and Canada only)
John Wass is a statistician based in Chicago, IL. He may be reached at editor@ScientificComputing.com.
Table 1: New in Mathematica 7
New Generation of Digital Processing & Analysis
Built-in Parallel Computing
Automated Charting Graphics
New Graphics Primitives
Automatically Optimized Vector & Field Visualization
Comprehensive Spline Support
New Visualization & Graphics Functions
High-Performance Boolean Computation
New Number Theory Capabilities
Discrete Symbolic Calculus
Delay differential Equations
Finite Group Theory
Enhanced Fourier Analysis
Integer Sequence Analysis
• Integrated Genomics & Protein
• Geodesy & GIS
Statistical Model Analysis
Automatic Histogram Generation
Sequence Alignment & Analysis
Enhanced Typesetting Automation
Quick–Start Assistant Palettes
Table 2: System Requirements
Version 7 runs on the following platforms:
Windows Vista 32-bit, 64-bit
Windows XP 32-bit, 64-bit
Windows Server 2008 64-bit
Windows Server 2003 32-bit, 64-bit
Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 64-bit
Windows 2000 32-bit
Mac OS X 10.5 Intel 32-bit, 64-bit
Mac OS X 10.5 PPC 32-bit*
Mac OS X 10.4 Intel 32-bit, 64-bit**
Mac OS X 10.4 PPC 32-bit*
* Also runs on 64-bit PPC hardware.
** 64-bit support requires OS X 10.4.10.
Linux 2.4 or later 32-bit, 64-bit
Mathematica 7 has been fully tested on all major Linux distributions based on the 2.4 Linux kernel. On newer Linux distributions, additional compatibility libraries may need to be installed.
Solaris 10 x86 64-bit
Solaris 10 UltraSPARC 64-bit