Graphics Guidebook Testimonial

*To*: mathgroup at christensen.cybernetics.net*Subject*: [mg485] Graphics Guidebook Testimonial*From*: elbert at gibbs.eps.jhu.edu (David Elbert)*Date*: Mon, 20 Feb 1995 13:48:18 +0500

A recent post trumpeted the arrival of Cameron Smith and Nancy Blachman's new book, The Mathematica Graphics Guidebook. This is a quick post to provide a little "testimonial" to the quality and usefulness of the book. I should preface by saying that I found the book quite by accident while looking for something else in the university bookstore's math section. I pulled it down because I'd had the good luck to be at Middlebury College at the same time as Cameron's wife (Julie Simon) and had been one of a group that prevailed on Cameron to teach a "short course" on Mathematica. At the time, a number of us were just gearing up on Mathematica and looking to use it in our teaching as well as research in several of the basic sciences (I was in Geology there, but there was also keen interest from a few members of the Physics Dept.). Cameron graciously agreed and we all learned more in a few days than in weeks of crawling through The Book. The Mathematica Graphics Guidebook basically follows the experience Cameron gave in the classroom. It is a clearly organized and fairly complete reference to a wide range of ACTUAL, PRACTICAL graphics uses. The writing is clear yet generally fairly light... it is refreshing to read what is essentially a software reference book that expresses the authors' sense of humor. Each subject is loaded with examples, fairly technical information about how things work, and practical suggestions and advice. The book demystifies some of Mma's strange behavior (or at least a hefty chunk of the graphics stuff seems strange to lots of users) and works equally well as a way to learn new aspects of the graphics parts of the program from scratch or as a reference manual for things The Book doesn't help with. It is, perhaps, unfortunate that Mma has had variation in un- or poorly-documented behavior through its many versions (although much of that variation has been in the direction of improving functionality). Such variation may serve to make Smith and Blachman less useful through time...they point out that some of the behavior and usage they demystify may change in updated version of Mma...but I believe the bulk of the book will remain a trusted companion for years. The book comes with a disk of notebooks (mine in DOS format...even though I have a Mac...but it was the only copy on the shelf and I don't even know if the disk is available in other formats) which I have not looked at yet and so can't comment on. In summary, The Mathematica Graphics Guidebook is a great book. It is easy, even enjoyable, to read. It provides outstanding instruction and information on arguably the most important aspect of Mathematica-the production of graphics. I believe the book should be used by anyone using more than the most basic plotting functions of Mma. In fact, it can sort of be thought of as a compendium of FAQ files on graphics for Mma...if Wolfram distributed it with the program we might cut the number of questions posted to this list by a quarter (well...maybe not...but a whole lot of what gets asked here is discussed in the book)...go buy it... Yours in disclaimers, David Elbert Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences The Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD 21218 Elbert at jhu.edu