"I'm not keen on the hype"

says Stephen Wolfram, this from the man whom I once heard exclaim "First there was Euclid. Then there Gödel. Then there was Mathematica". Despite the quote, Mathematica doesn't really help you prove new theorems but I found it quite useful when trying a few simple cases, simplifying messy expressions, optimizing parameters and checking other people's proofs.

But then Wolfram wrote that book that Scott Aaronson

read so I didn't have to, and had that silly Turing machine

contest. Now he comes out with the modestly named

WolframAlpha.

WA is not a search engine, it isn't sure what to do with

computational complexity and functionality for

P=NP is under development. Good luck with that.

On the other hand it has considerable built in data and calculations. Type in

sunset Chicago and I'll get useful information that used to take multiple clicks on Google.

More importantly WA is Mathematica Lite. We have a site license for Mathematica at Northwestern but the convoluted process to download it dominates its value to me. But I can just simplify and maximize directly into WA.

solve x=4y^2-7, y=x+5 gives clean solutions. I had a little trouble maximizing probabilities with

max p(1-2p) but change p's to x's and everything

works fine. It solves all my daughter's homework questions on solving quadratic equations and simplifying radicals (but she's smart enough to know not to use it).

So kudos to Wolfram for producing something useful and free. Hope he keeps it that way.

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Posted By Lance to

Computational Complexity at 5/29/2009 05:56:00 AM