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 fulltime 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 mid1980s 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 Mathematicaand
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 highlevel symbolic programming capabilities
of Mathematica. So they would end up being much longersometimes
incredibly much longerin 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
blackbox 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 documentsstructured symbolic documents that can be
read by any notebookcompatible 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).
