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ot: wolfram (was: art and mathematics)

updated wed 21 jan 04


Bruce Girrell on tue 20 jan 04

George Koller wrote:

> I had a booth next to [Wolfram] once at a early '80's comdex.
> My company did Statistical software, his did Math software.)

Saying that Wolfram did math software is kind of like saying that Hamada
made some pots. True but, shall we say, a little understated. SMP, the
Symbolic Manipulation Program, which evolved into Mathematica, is a major
piece of work allowing scientists to manipulate equations in general form
instead of merely computing specific solutions with a particular algorithm.

Wolfram has recently published a tome _A New Kind of Science_ which
"tackle[s] a remarkable array of fundamental problems in science, from the
origins of apparent randomness in physical systems, to the development of
complexity in biology, the ultimate scope and limitations of mathematics,
the possibility of a truly fundamental theory of physics, the interplay
between free will and determinism, and the character of intelligence in the
universe." Initial reviews indicate that he is either decades ahead of his
time or has gone insane. Regarding the challenges to his sanity, remember
that established scientists don't like being told that they don't really
understand the things that they claim to understand just as some folks
weren't too happy with Galileo.

Since this came from the Art and Mathematics thread, I should point out that
the Wolfram Research site has a graphics gallery:

My best "next to" experience came when I sat next to Dr. Scott Kim at a
SIGGRAPH convention. I had previously seen some of Dr. Kim's work in
magazine articles and in the book _Goedel, Escher, and Bach_. These examples
were just a hobby of his. He likes to take peoples' names or other text and
construct a script such that the text can be read forward and backward or
upside down.

I didn't know who was sitting next to me when I took my seat. As I began
dutifully taking notes during the lecture, I saw that the person sitting
next to me was making drawings. When I looked closer, I saw that he, too,
was taking notes. What I was writing down in words, he was capturing in
pictures! While I had a page full of words, there couldn't have been more
than about three words written on his notes. I finally looked at his name
tag and it immediately made sense. This guy simply thinks in images.

SIGGRAPH conventions were so much fun. I have met Jim Blinn, who programmed
the graphics for the Voyager Jupiter fly-by simulation (trust me, unless you
don't have a television, you've seen it at one time or another). I met John
Lasseter back when Pixar first produced Luxo, Jr. (Luxo is the little lamp
that appears at the beginning of each Pixar film) and saw pieces of his
animation that went on to become part of Toy Story. Zillions of other
people, too. The Film and Video show is not to be missed.

Bruce "showing my geeky side" Girrell