The Future of Coding? Check out Wolfram Language

Earlier this year, I taught a mini-course in computer coding, and it rekindled my interest in that science. I just came across a video where Stephen Wolfram (of Mathematica fame) previews a new language he’s been developing for 30 years. Here’s the official description:

Designed for the new generation of programmers, the Wolfram Language has a vast depth of built-in algorithms and knowledge, all automatically accessible through its elegant unified symbolic language. Scalable for programs from tiny to huge, with immediate deployment locally and in the cloud, the Wolfram Language builds on clear principles—and 25+ years of development—to create what promises to be the world’s most productive programming language.

It looks to be relatively easy to use, while incredibly powerful. In fact, I’ve never seen anything like it. From what I can tell, in many cases the coder can simply type what he or she would like to see, and Wolfram Language converts the text into code:



It links to the cloud, and data from WolframAlpha or any other site can be incorporated into it.

The video is 13 minutes long, but well worth your time if you’re interested at all in the future of coding:

Here is a link to the reference guide to Wolfram Language.

Math, Pre-Internet Style

One of my graduating seniors (thanks, Kendal!) just gave me an antique math text as an end-of-the-year gift. It’s a slim little volume entitled Formulas – Cube Root – Logarithms, and it was published in 1921 by the International Textbook Company.

As I was browsing the pages, I was struck by the sheer mental labor that mathematics required back then. Imagine a world without cheap scientific calculators, let alone one without computers and the internet. For example, look at the steps outlined in this book that are necessary to derive a cube root (click on the  image to zoom in):

There are 24 pages devoted to the single task of deriving cube roots, something any $10 calculator can do in milliseconds, or you can just type it into a website like wolframalpha:

I have new appreciation for those who did so much with so little technology.

Make Your Own Math Widgets!

This is pretty darn neat: lets you create your own widgets that you can embed in a website, Moodle page, blog, etc. I just put together this one that plots rational functions. You input the numerator expression, the denominator expression, the plot’s xmin & xmax, ymin & ymax, and voilà! it plots the function! Now my students can spend their free time investigating all kinds of pretty graphs.