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While visiting a cathedral in Germany, Bob Schipke, a retired Harvard mathematician was astounded to find a glyph in a 13th century manuscript that looked remarkably like the Mandelbrot set. This led to a remarkable voyage of discovery that was publicised in a
A prolonged winter is one of the challenges of living where I do. But each year, we also get the pleasure of experiencing the very first spring day and that’s a special feeling that I would not trade for all the tropical weather in the world. For me, spring in my town is not defined by the temperature or amount of sunshine. It’s defined, oddly enough, by robots … the third week in March is typically the week of the FIRST Robotics Waterloo Regional Tournament. FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Reward of Science and Technology”. It is an international team sport where high-schools from around the world compete in complex robotic games with full sized remote controlled and autonomous robots on the playing field about the size of half a basketball court.
As I was preparing for an upcoming presentation, I stumbled on a graphic that I always thought was one of the best ones in my endless collection of Powerpoint slides. This particular graphic portrays the evolution of engineering modeling software and I always thought it was an incredibly impactful and clear view on a very complex topic. Unfortunately, I really can’t take any credit for it. The basic concept was created by Mr. Alex Ohata of Toyota. I remember the first time I saw it at a conference. It really was one of those light-bulb moments where the Universe unfolded as it should … and now I pay due homage to this work of scientific art.
In the media today, there continues to be much discussion about how students in North America are moving away from the math, science, and engineering disciplines. It is an established fact that countries such as China, South Korea, and Taiwan graduate a much higher number of engineering students than those in North America. This is a cause for great concern in today’s highly complex world, and schools are attempting to solve the problem with math in a variety of ways, with varying success rates.
I suspect many of our readers are already on to this, but for the few uninformed among us, tomorrow is the 21st annual Pi Day. On March 14, this “holiday” is celebrated by those of us geeky enough to realize that this date, 3/14, is also the common approximation of the number π. The first Pi Day celebration was held in 1988 at the San Francisco Exploratorium, led by its creator, Larry Shaw. Those attending this year’s festivities have a chance to work on pi puzzles, sing pi songs, and of course, eat lots of tasty pie. Their Pi Day website includes lots of fun information and activities you can even do at home. If you’re not in the area, be sure to check out their webcast, or join the revels on Second Life at the ‘Splo, the online version of the Exploratorium.
Hi. I am the Marketing Communications Manager at Maplesoft. This is the first piece of writing where you get to know who I am, but many of you have probably already read a lot of what I’ve written. I am responsible for the promotion of Maplesoft products. It’s my job to take what the really smart Maplesoft employees create and turn it into something engaging (and typically say all I need to say in 3 paragraphs or less, or in the case of subject lines, 49 characters or less). Within every piece of highly technical math-filled piece of writing is a gem of a story waiting to be brought out. I try (sometimes successfully, I hope) to bring out these stories. Every time you’ve read our newsletter “The Maple Reporter,” an email, or a letter from Maplesoft, you’ve read my work. My goal is for people to read what I write and say “I want that!” or “how do I do that?”
It’s no secret that I have a soft spot for matters of space and space exploration … so even if we have all sorts of great news about modeling advancements in automotive, or electronics, it will never be as thrilling (yes this is the right word) as the things I encounter through my work at Maplesoft that deal with space. In countless blog posts, I’ve commented on aerospace engineering and space exploration, and once again this week, several events have confirmed that inside me, there is still this wide eyed boy staring into the night sky in amazement …
Great playwrights and poets are drummers – they craft the written word so that the rhythm and the cadence of their dialogue when spoken are a drumbeat, and combine with the meaning of the language to create emotion. Shakespeare, for example, used syllables as his drumbeats (as did many other playwrights and poets). Analyzing linguistic structure isn’t a common application for a math tool (and for a very good reason), but can Maple tell us more about Shakespeare’s favourite drumbeat?
Last week I had the distinct pleasure of attending the retirement celebration for Dr. Keith Geddes, founder of Maplesoft and inventor of the Maple system. I’ve known Keith for over 20 years now and I consider him one of the few people I know well who has had, without exaggeration, a profound impact on the world.
Keith earned his chops as a numerical analyst in the 1970’s. Then as a young faculty member at the University of Waterloo, he developed an interest in symbolic computation. The lore has it that he had no intention of designing a complete new system but wanted to use the “grand-daddy” of symbolic systems MACSYMA from MIT. During those wild frontier days of computing, the only way to get access to such specialized systems was remote dialing to the MIT machine in the wee hours of the night (to reduce phone costs), using a 90 Baud modem … those were the days!
I'm one of several technical writers at Maplesoft. It's our job to craft the text in our brochures and user stories, and on our web site. We all have differing styles, but we share a common goal; we want to write in a manner that’s technically compelling but simple to understand.
After recently exploring Maple’s string manipulation tools, I was surprised to find a command that measures the readability of a sample of English text. It seems that as well as making you a better mathematician, Maple will poke and prod you into being a better writer.
It seems like everywhere you turn lately, people are talking about how to be kinder to the planet. One example is just how much interest was generated when GM unveiled its plans for the Chevy Volt last year. As I write this, 46,527 people are on the waiting list for the upcoming electric car, which is scheduled to be released in late 2010 as a 2011 model. At my house, we wash our clothes in cold water; use a programmable thermostat; turn off the lights when we’re not in a room; recycle and compost our waste; use a low flush toilet, energy efficient appliances, and an electric lawnmower; and of course, snuggle our two dogs for warmth!
Yesterday was one of those remarkable days when everything seems just about right. The highlight was an email message I received from a Prof. Fang from Ryerson University notifying us that we had been both nominated and awarded the Omond Solandt Award by the Canadian Operational Research Society for ongoing and outstanding contribution to the field of Operations Research (OR). No, it’s not a Nobel Prize or an Oscar, but whenever a group of smart people publically recognize our work, the honor and pride are genuine.
I thought I’d exercise my left brain a little with this post and write on something a bit more technical. Actually, this was triggered by a chat I had over dinner last night with our 3D graphics development manager and a client. As you may have guessed math is intimately related to computer graphics of all sorts. My PhD thesis so many years ago was on the topic of creating funny surfaces that smoothly join two complex surfaces with a relatively small number of shape control parameters: such surfaces are called blend surfaces. This required the development of a bunch of algorithms that related either implicitly defined surfaces (i.e. f(x,y,z) = 0) or parametrically defined surfaces (i.e. each point is defined by the triplet (x(t), y(t), z(t)) ). That was twenty years ago and I always thought that any problem that I was wrestling with would have been resolved twice over by now. My ego was pleasantly surprised that indeed such problems are still the stuff of heated debates and vigorous research.
For almost 20 years, Math education has been recognized as the first killer application for symbolic computing. By taking out the grunt work of manipulating equations, calculating integrals and performing matrix computations with symbolic entries, systems such as Maple have transformed the math classroom.
A dramatic change in how we interact with the environment demands an equally dramatic change in how we develop technology. The evolution of predictive technology – in other words, software - has been a precursor to the development of environmentally progressive technologies like clean coal power stations and hybrid energy vehicles.