A computer algebra system (CAS) is a mathematics software package which manipulates mathematical objects symbolically ("algebra"), as well as giving numerical and graphical computing capabilities, with typesetting options for making nice technical reports. There are two leading computer algebra systems: Maple from Maplesoft and Mathematica from Wolfram. These symbolic based computer algebra systems should not be confused with more specific purpose mathematical computation tools like MathCad or MatLab.
In the summer of 2008 we began a Mathematica site license experiment for 30 simultaneous users on campus to support the existing individual Mathematica users at Villanova and allow faculty members to explore the rich array of possibilities that Mathematica offers.
Mathematica offers amazing access to current data through remote servers in all kinds of fields not limited to more traditional mathematically based fields like mathematics, statistics, physics, astronomy, meteorology, chemistry, biology, engineering, etc., but also in the social and political sciences, economics, finance, geography, etc. AND in addition, this data may be fed into Mathematica for analysis or visualization without a great deal of expertise in using the product. For some demonstrations see:
[a video on how to extract and visualize the on-line integrated data sets available through Mathematica, using ChemicalData, CountryData, FinancialData as examples]
Mathematica 7 has added genomic data, protein data, and current and historical weather data. The Learning Center is a good place to start nosing around Mathematica for the first time, after watching the short video
To access Mathematica, simply log in to the Villanova Citrix Server (which requires a quick client install if your computer image does not already have this software) and find Mathematica under Academic Applications, Math and Stat: you will see the Mathematica icon listed alphabetically right after Maple. If you do not, simply request that UNIT give you access by calling the Help Desk 9-7777. At present the Mathematica icon should be visible to all faculty and staff.
To get started actually using Mathematica if you are a new user, there is a 15 minute hands on introduction:
For more information on Mathematica tutorial videos, see below.
If you decide to become a more serious Mathematica user, you can request a local copy through UNIT, which can also apparently be accomplished through this Wolfram link:
There are a few scattered Mathematica users on campus, some of whom may be willing to offer limited help in getting started using it. Email bob jantzen to try connecting with someone like this.
We adopted Maple for use in teaching mathematics at Villanova in the mid 1990s and it has evolved into a very user-friendly powerful tool for aiding learning in the college mathematics environment as well as for professional research and applications. In the summer of 2008 we upgraded out site license to an unlimited license which allows access to local copies of the Maple program to any faculty, staff or students in the Villanova community. For more information on Maple at Villanova, see:
Maple is also available through Citrix under Academic Applications, Math and Stat: choose the red Standard Maple icon. Simply log in to the Villanova Citrix Server (which requires a quick client install if your computer image does not already have this software) and find Maple under Academic Applications, Math and Stat: you will see the red Standard Maple icon listed alphabetically.
Mathematica is used in a variety of fields—from math, physics, and engineering to sociology, finance, and earth science. Two of the most popular Mathematica tutorials are the following
- "Hands-on Start to Mathematica" is a free, two-part online screencast that introduces Mathematica basics to get you started with your first calculations, visualizations, and interactive examples. If you haven't already, be sure to check out Part 1 here: http://url.wolfram.com/dPtPHK/
- Many students have asked for more in-depth training, so we now also offer "M10: A Student's First Course in Mathematica," a self-paced video training course providing step-by-step instructions on the basic features of Mathematica for students. Through the included videos and practice exercises, students learn how to navigate the user interface, build calculations, create graphics and dynamic models, work with data, and more—for under $30: http://url.wolfram.com/hdR0vO/