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MathGroup Archive 2005

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Re: Simple task with Mathematica

  • To: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net
  • Subject: [mg63074] Re: Simple task with Mathematica
  • From: "Steven T. Hatton" <hattons at globalsymmetry.com>
  • Date: Tue, 13 Dec 2005 03:41:01 -0500 (EST)
  • References: <dngvba$nd1$1@smc.vnet.net>
  • Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at wolfram.com

<posted & mailed>
I'm not the most qualified person to help you with your specific problem,
but it doesn't look as though you have received much help as yet. 
Therefore, I will offer my limited insights.

Lea Rebanks wrote:

> Dear Sir / Madame,
> 
> I am currently learning how to use Mathematica at college with a view to
> purchasing the program.

If you have any real potential of using Mathematica after you graduate, buy
it now.  The price difference is substantial, and (I believe this is still
true) you can upgrade to a standard license within a year after graduation
at a very attractive price.  Will Mathematica be a significant help in
completing a degree program?  Perhaps.  

For me, it was, in some ways an obstacle.  The learning curve is very steep,
and has a few singularities and discontinuities.  Back in those days
Mathematica had a nasty habit of causing my system to lockup or worse. 
That typically meant all work was lost, and that typically meant hours of
work which I couldn't afford to lose. Mathematic has continued to improve
in these areas, though the backup functionality is still paleolithic.  I
could write volumes on things I don't like about Mathematica.  Nonetheless,
I do not know that there is a better product.  

You may be well served by posting questions about the merits of different
computer algebra systems (CAS) to the sci.math.symbolic.  Be forewarned,
that group tends have a "Wolfram Research Inc. vs the rest of us" bias. 
Try to filter the emotional hype out, and evaluate what people say in terms
of factual information.  Every programming language has faults and
limitations.  Likewise for every program of any significance.  I cannot
offer any comparison between Mathematica and similar products since I have
never used the others.
 
Will learning Mathematica while you complete your degree program help you
after you graduate?  Probably.

> Having spent a week studying the documentation / Book etc of version 4 I
> am struggling to do even the most simple tasks. 

If you can find someone who knows Mathematica who you can talk to in
real-time, they will probably prove to be an invaluable resource.  You may
even want to form a peer support group.  Mathematica is unnecessarily
difficult to learn.  I suspect the next version will have some significant
improvements in this area.  I also suspect there will be a shift in
approaches to teaching how to use Mathematica which will also reduce the
learning curve.

> I have looked at other 
> Math programs, but I am really impressed with the numerical precision &
> scope of Mathematica. Below is an example of a really easy task which I
> can do in a second in Excel, however I am stuck with Mathematica 4.
> Please show me the correct code to do in Mathematica. Many thanks for
> your attention.

 
> Question:-
> 
> Given the two columns below; I am trying to take the first column (A)
> created as a list & iterate it by starting with 5 to finish with the
> second column using the function A(1) = (6.5*2)-5 (starting value from
> the second column) = 8.

Doing these kind of things in Mathematica is not as easy as it is with a
spreadsheet application.  Spreadsheets can be used as powerful mathematical
tool, even for scientists.  But you certainly can format data (output) in
many different ways using Mathematica.  Have a look at the section called
Tables and Matrices in the online help.  Try to formulate your questions to
the group in terms of what you find there.  I suspect you will not need to
post your question if you do attempt such a formulation because the answer
will become obvious.

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