Q&A ABOUT THE DOWNLOADABLE PROGRAMS

Q: Do I need the book to use the programs?

A: Yes. The programs are tied directly into the text in the Notes at the back of the book.


Q: Do I need Mathematica to run the programs?

A: Yes. The programs are all written in the Mathematica language, and you need to have a Mathematica system installed on your computer to be able to run them.


Q: How can I get a version of Mathematica?

A: Most major universities have Mathematica license programs. Student versions are available for full-time students. Mathematica is available worldwide from Wolfram Research and its distributors.


Q: Can I do anything with the programs without Mathematica?

A: Yes. The Mathematica language is a symbolic notation that can be read not only by computers but also by humans. Often reading a program from the Notes is the best way to understand the details of what a particular note in A New Kind of Science says. There are hundreds of books about Mathematica; the original and definitive one is Stephen Wolfram's The Mathematica Book, now in its fifth edition. An online version is available.


Q: Why are the programs written in Mathematica?

A: One of the reasons Stephen Wolfram created Mathematica in the mid-1980s was precisely to be able to do the science that is now in A New Kind of Science. He designed the Mathematica language to be a symbolic notation that lets a very wide range of concepts and procedures be specified in a convenient way. Most of the programs here would be very difficult to write without the symbolic programming capabilities of Mathematica--and certainly wouldn't provide a clear presentation of the ideas they embody.


Q: Doesn't Mathematica just do calculations?

A: Hardly! At its core, Mathematica is a sophisticated computer language. In fact, by most measures it's the most sophisticated language that's in common use today. Its "killer app," though, has always been technical computation, and the Mathematica system has a huge mathematical knowledge base built in. And that's what made most of the few million people who use Mathematica today start doing so. But what's gradually happened is that people have begun to make more and more use of the sophisticated language that's embodied in Mathematica. In fact, for all sorts of general computing tasks, it seems as if the symbolic programming paradigm of Mathematica is poised right now to start becoming very popular.


Q: What kind of computer do I need to run the programs?

A: Mathematica runs on all major computer platforms: Windows, Macintosh, Linux, major flavors of Unix, etc. Essentially any computer bought today will have memory and speed sufficient to run Mathematica well.


Q: Can I make a website that runs the programs?

A: Yes, in principle. Assuming you have appropriate licenses, you can use webMathematica to set up a website that runs any of the programs included here and lets people on the web access the results. Be careful, though: some of the programs do sophisticated computations that could eat up a lot of CPU time.


Q: Could the programs be translated into other languages?

A: In principle, yes. But in practice most of the programs make essential use of the unique high-level symbolic programming capabilities of Mathematica. So they would end up being much longer--sometimes incredibly much longer--in other languages and would almost always lose the clarity and readability they have in Mathematica. The copyright page of A New Kind of Science gives licensing information for derivative works such as translations.


Q: What's the best way to understand the programs?

A: One of the great things about a symbolic program is that any fragment of it can always be run on its own. So often a good thing to do will be to pull out pieces of the programs and run them to see what they do, then gradually to put these pieces together to get back to the whole program. It's also often convenient to get Mathematica to create whole sequences of inputs programmatically. And it can be very good to display a sequence of outputs graphically.


Q: Can I get technical support on the programs?

A: You can get support for your underlying Mathematica system according to standard Wolfram Research policies.


Q: What about making graphics?

A: The programs in the Notes for A New Kind of Science are almost all for performing computations rather than for generating graphical output. The examples in the notebooks on this website also don't include many graphics because these tend to be too large for easy downloading. It is straightforward to generate many kinds of graphics with Mathematica. Some of the elaborate graphics in A New Kind of Science require many choices, however, and are not easy to replicate. The separate product A New Kind of Science Explorer nevertheless provides black-box access to many types of graphics from A New Kind of Science.


Q: What format are the files on this website?

A: The files on this site are Mathematica notebook documents--structured symbolic documents that can be read by any notebook-compatible system. Mathematica Player is a freely distributed reader.


Q: Will the programs work in the latest version of Mathematica?

A: Yes. In fact, in new versions of Mathematica some of them will run significantly faster than in older versions.


Q: Will the programs work in earlier versions of Mathematica?

A: Almost any program written in Mathematica 1.0 will still run unchanged in the latest version of Mathematica. But one can't always go backwards, and many of the programs here make use of capabilities that were added in Mathematica 3 (released 1996) or Mathematica 4 (released 1999). A few of the programs make use of capabilities that were new in Mathematica 4.1 (released 2000).