Wolfram Computation Meets Knowledge

The Mathematica Story: A Scrapbook

Three Decades of Contributions to Invention, Discovery and Education

Stephen Shaler, Professor of Wood Science, University of Maine

Ten years before the end of the last millennium (~1990 depending on whether indexing begins at 0 or 1) a friend of mine who was a Professor of Mathematics showed me his revolutionary NeXT computer—and the star of it was Mathematica. The immediate impact was its versatility and the ability to easily visualize computational results with the variety of plots. Over the years I’ve used Mathematica on Microsoft, Sun, Silicon Graphics, Macintosh, and Linux platforms, showing its versatility of platform support. It and my capabilities have evolved over the years. It has found a central footing in research and teaching over the years—starting out with its use for laminate analysis of composite materials, through neural network analysis of wood composite creep-rupture behavior, and Monte Carlo simulations as well as statistical distribution behavior of wood composite strength properties. The growth of the program capabilities (yea more statistics!) and interactivity has made it a favorite for graduate-level courses I teach. It has enabled the students and I to cover more concepts and gain a deeper appreciation of phenomena. It is the only teaching tool I really need. I’m an unabashed Mathematica lover and enjoy seeing the light turn on in students when they see what it can do—just as the light turned on in my face almost 25 years ago in front of that monochrome NeXT machine.