Sunday, February 14, 2016

Review of "An Elementary Introduction to the Wolfram Language," by Stephen Wolfram

Review of

An Elementary Introduction to the Wolfram Language, by Stephen Wolfram, Wolfram Media Inc., Champaign, Illinois, 2015. 324 pp., $19.95 (paper). ISBN 9781944183004.

Five out of five stars
 Reading through this book, three characteristics of the Wolfram programming language are very clear. The first is that it has enormous breadth of capabilities, it can of course do the mathematics that Mathematica is famous for. It can also perform an enormous amount of complex graphics, only part of which is mathematical in nature and it has significant audio capabilities.
 The second is that is is extremely succinct, the commands demonstrated in this book all easily fit on a single line. While some of them are a bit cryptic due to the brevity and the complexity of the objects they are referencing, they are surprisingly easy to understand. Nothing like the old days of command line programming.
 The third characteristic is the breadth and power of the databases that can be accessed using the Wolfram language. Some of the examples in the book reference a database of information about the planets of our solar system and show you some of the ability to derive and develop processed and displayed datasets.
 Graphic artists use specialized programs to aid them in their creations, social scientists use statistical packages, economists and financial planners use specialized programs and scientists use many different types of programs to process and analyze their data. In this book you see a convergence, where the Wolfram language has the ability to support all of them.
 The blurb on the back claims that no previous programming experience is necessary and I have to concur with that, with a little bit of explanation, the example programs are easy to understand. The only point of difficulty is an understanding of the objects the program is acting on. For example, the reader needs to understand what an array is before the code to operate on it can be understood.
 A set of exercises for the reader to program are included at the end of the chapters and solutions are given in a section at the end. All of the material in the book is available online at 

This book was made available for free for review purposes

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