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What program do you use?

  1. Mar 2, 2008 #1
    Don't know where exactly to put this, guess it fits best in the Math-Section. What program do you prefer (in general) for plotting, calculating etc?

    For me it's scilab
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 2, 2008 #2
    Never heard of scilab but usually I use mathematica. I hear Matlab is also pretty good.
  4. Mar 2, 2008 #3


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    Being an old timer, I generally use a program to generate a text file with numbers, then import into Excel to do the graphing.

    Does anyone here ever use hard copy plotters? In the old days, you had to send a set of vectors to be drawn. One of the drawbacks, it that the classic plotter didn't support drawing curves (although the really old graphic CRT's did), requiring creating a large number of small vectors. Are there hard copy plotters that allow for some type of curve input, typically similar to French curves?
  5. Mar 2, 2008 #4

    This thread brings up a question I have been trying to determine for myself and a classroom project for next year.

    Comparing Sage, Maxima, Octave , Eigenmath and now Scilab, what program is easiest to learn and more importantly TEACH others to use?

    I need to get 3 dimensional graphs, and Maxima is really easy to do that with. I would love to do animated 3 dimensional graphs, rotations, etc.

    Has anyone worked with these programs? Any favorites besides Scilab? All of these will do algebraic solving, factoring, etc, but the graphing is what I am really after.

    I can not use Mathematica or Matlab, because of costs. This is for a High School, Senior year class. Free is mandatory.
  6. Mar 2, 2008 #5
    As regards Scilab: It's free and it's capable of almost (I'd even say absolutly - but I'm not a Ph. Math so I better keep the ball down) everything. You can have insight into the entire documentation here. I fully endorse it. To be frank I've to add that it's rather sophisticated and not a "point 'n click" type of program. You better know how to work with computers and computer-languages and are not timid of writing scripts to get going with it. But I guess this applys to rather all professional mathematical programs.
    But all this structured in a grasp scheme - you can chiefly speak of two layers - the basic program which you can easily use without knowing any scripting and the second tier where you write scripts to automate and solve larger or analytic problems.
    Furthermore, it supports more and more interfaces so it can virtually be connected to almost any relevant external software, etc.
    But I'm not really qualified to evaluate a math-program, so you better judge for yourself.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2008
  7. Mar 2, 2008 #6


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    I prefer Pari/GP, which is rather good at number theory. For the things that I do, I've actually found it to be faster than Mathematica -- and it's lightweight, unlike most of the programs on this list.
  8. Mar 2, 2008 #7
    Mathematica rocks the house, as does its publisher Wolfram's MathWorld resource. Another handy web resource (independent) is the The On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences.

    As a programmer I like Mathematica because it has a sophisticated declarative language (like XSLT or LISP) but allows you to do procedural stuff too if you want. I haven't used Matlab but all of the snippets for it I've seen have been procedural.
  9. Mar 2, 2008 #8
    I have used Mathematica in College, and I agree, it rules. We were doing three dimensional rotations and animations, as well as four dimensional rotations through the three dimensional space.

    It is an awesome program. Now that I am a high school teacher, though, cost is an issue. I want to do similar (but not as high level) things with the learners.

    Thanks for all of your feedback!
  10. Mar 2, 2008 #9
    Quantumduck you might find this French project Dr. Geo to be of interest. Unfortunately I've never tried it out myself so I can't give you feedback.
  11. Mar 2, 2008 #10
    Thank you! I have bookmarked that, and will check it out in more detail. I am more interested in algebraic software right now, but it never hurts to keep track of all the amazing math software out there!
  12. Mar 2, 2008 #11
    Matlab is the Industry standard for Signal Processing.

    Mathematica is fun to use.
  13. Mar 3, 2008 #12
    Well, all I know is Octave/MATLAB, and once you get used to it, I think it's pretty good. If you know linear algebra it will be even easier. I wouldn't really know, because the only other language I know is very little VPython.
  14. Mar 3, 2008 #13
    Ohkay, I've looked at those other programs (though I've already heard of some) and, honestly, I got to revise what I've had said earlier. Those programs (compared to Scilab) look like point-'n-click adventures for the i-like-big-and-colorful-buttons type of scientist. :tongue:
  15. Mar 3, 2008 #14
    Have they added buttons to Mathematica? Originally it was just a command prompt you typed expressions into. (seriously)

    Something that might be confusing is that Mathematica at least isn't for scientists. Pearls before swine, don'cha know. :tongue2: :cool:

    Once you've got a real symbolic mathematics framework going, it can toss off scientific doodles and matrix calculations with one hand tied behind its back.
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2008
  16. Mar 3, 2008 #15
    I don't get it. Isn't it rather fodder before the gourmet then? If it's not ment for scientists...

    As for the colorful interface I may happen to be wrong, but I couldnt gather any screenshots showing a plain "console". But perhaps all those are just front-end scripts making up a neat gui for the purpose of presenting something.

    Scilab however is just the way you appear to have been used to mathematica. A plain command prompt and there you go. Everything else is either created through interfaces to external apps or plugins or by scripts (TCL/TK)
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2008
  17. Mar 3, 2008 #16
    “Pearls before swine” means giving something of high quality to someone who can't appreciate it, i.e. a tool for mathematicians being given to scientists. (Which you probably understood and are poking me back.) But I'm just kidding, of course.

    Yeah, the core of Mathematica is its interpreter / rendering field. There's lots of newer fancy UI stuff and plugins but the buttons and dialogs are still just executing expressions against the core.

    My impression has always been that Mathematica is stronger on the symbolic stuff and pure mathematics - combinatorics, number theory, geometry and proofs, topology, etc. - while its competitors focus more and are more versatile for things like linear algebra, signal processing, prob and stats, all the classical applications for computers in science, basically. Not really a superior/inferior thing, more a matter of the right tool for the right job.
  18. Mar 3, 2008 #17
    Oh well, I just thought of scientists as a group comprising mathematicans, too, so I wondered why a tool "not for scientists", hence, for laymen, could be considered "pearl before the swine" if a scientist is ment to work with an insufficient software.
    Got it now.

    So far, I think Scilab and Mathematica are quite similar, apart from the price, of course. I thus conclude that Scilab could be said to be a free sort-of Mathematica - regardless of either of their respective capabilities, of which as for Mathematica I don't know anything to say.
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2008
  19. Mar 3, 2008 #18


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    How can you forget analysis? Mathematica is probably the best tool there is for mathematical analysis: symbolic integrals, numerical integrals/derivatives, and such.

    I don't think it's that great with number theory, since Pari *with its native core* smoked Mathematica significantly when I tested the two. I imagine Pari using the GMP core would be faster yet.

    Of course MatLab (and its clones) is/are really built for matrices, and they'll probably outperform on their own turf, linear algebra.
  20. Mar 3, 2008 #19
    Ah, well you see, I covered myself with the “etc.” :cool:
  21. Mar 3, 2008 #20


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    I posted because I thought perhaps others would want to know about my experience, or that perhaps you had tried the same thing and found the opposite. I'd be curious to see what others have found.
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