Conrad Wolfram




TED talk video up

It seems an age since I gave this in July, but "Stop teaching calculating, start teaching math" is up. Interested in the comments that come back.

P.S. Why is it "maths" in British and "math" in American? I naturally say the former--being British--but rightly or wrongly endeavour to use the latter for international groups.


The complexity of satisfaction

We're in the final throes of getting Mathematica 8 out.

It's a massive task. As with each release, it's a far more complex piece of engineering than its predecessor. But so too is our build process, to handle that. Which complexity wins? Is it a more or less fraught process each release? Don't ask me in the next week(!) but I think the release process satisfaction index is improving.

Of course it's not just for Mathematica builds that there are rapidly escalating complexity or expectation competitions. It's a common facet of modern life. Cameras, computer games, smartphones and many other gadgets run this gauntlet. Beating expectations is key to individual satisfaction, though the absolute level of achievement is important to mass adoption of the genre in question.

Key to my satisfaction with products is depth of design: as I discover more, do I like it more or less? Or to put it another way, is the product's satisfaction derivative positive with time? Because I tend persevere with products, I get to the point of sampling this eventual rather than just initial satisfaction; many don't; and to figure it out upfront with complex, modern products is pretty hard.


We've started ---a home for the project to make maths (and STEM) education get computer-based. It's just the beginning; we'll add more soon. I'm looking forward to collecting like-minded people to drive this forward. Do leave your name there!


Am I an Apple or a Droid?

Well, neither I hope...

But I have found the recent experience of picking my new primary smartphone to be as much about subscribing to a philosophy as to deciding on a product. Is it to be locked-down minimalism of Apple or overwhelmingly open Android?

Whichever optimisation one chooses, this much is clear: interface design is now centre-stage. It's the ability to access features rather than the availability of the raw feature itself that's so often the limiting factor to its use.

And almost everyone's tuned in---even a technophile like me. I'm irrationally persistent at getting stuff to work that's more-or-less impossible to work. In the past, I so needed the last ounce of raw capability that I'd grudgingly sacrifice clean design (which I've always cared a great deal about) if needs be. Now I won't. Because if I do, I actually lose the practical functionality. Clean workflows no longer offer better access to power, they themselves increasingly manifest it.

For me, 2010 is the year when design met functionality for smartphones--whether the iPhone's new functionality to match its stupendous design or Android phones like the HTC Desire got the design to leverage and build on high-level underlying functionality.

One more thing. Can you tell who's an Apple and who's a Droid before you see their phone? I'm learning.



Computer-based math @ TED

Amazing reaction to my TED talk starting (even though it will be a while before the video's up...and I can see exactly what I did say!).

So many people at the conference telling me they'd been put off traditional maths and would have found what I'm proposing so much better--more interesting and more useful.

Also got asked for any examples of computer-based maths to play with, like I showed.  One source: 6000+ at our Demonstrations site (get the free Player download from it to interact).

Please do continue to leave ideas and comments.

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