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MathGroup Archive 1995

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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






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