Faced with a hugely complex mathematical puzzle, some would wade in and some would bail out. The easy option, however, is to power up the latest version of Maple V, the flexible and friendly computer algebra system.
The bullet wound was fatal, that was beyond question – but was it murder or was it suicide? Tension mounted in the US court: it looked like suicide, but something didn’t feel right – but it would take a ballistics expert of an extraordinarily high calibre to prove that it had to be murder.
Meanwhile, at the JPL in Pasadena, engineers pored over the problem of saving the Sojourner Rover from self-destruction as it explored the Martian terrain. With Mars too distant for real time control, the Rover would have to think on its feet if it was to avoid calamity in the depths of some unrecognised chasm. The engineers contemplated the launch of the Pathfinder spacecraft that would carry their creation into space with all the anguish of a young couple about to bring a new life into this confused and violent world.
Back in the courtroom, there were gasps of astonishment as the ballistics expert was wheeled in – on a trolley, its hard disk whirring plaintively against the rumblings of the traffic and daily commerce outside, their sounds softened almost into melody by the distance. The lawyers rubbed their hands with glee. They’d soon wipe the smile off its interface, Windows 95 or no.
And at JPL, the heads buried in hands offered clear evidence that something new was going to be needed from the computers if the engineers were to preserve the life of the precious Sojourner.
You’d have to have been living on, well, Mars really (and a fairly remote corner of it, at that) for the last four months not to know that the Sojourner carried out its mission without mishaps, whilst in the US courtroom, murder most foul was conclusively proven.
Between the respective connundrums and their happy outcomes sits Maple V Release 5, the most powerful version yet of the Maple V – Waterloo Maple’s interactive symbolic problem solving environment.
Those of you who are familiar with Maple V will know it as a highly flexible bit of maths software, excelling in breaking down large mathematical problems into scaleable, well-connected solutions. Symbolic computation allows you to solve problems without having to assign numerical values to unknowns and variables. Maple V understands mathematical expressions and produces answers in full mathematical form, and provides exact analytical solutions that afford greater insight into the nature of a problem. Cutting to the chase, that means you can model designs mathematically before committing to investing large amounts of time in building expensive prototypes.
Key new features of Maple V include the ability to execute Matlab commands from inside the program, allowing a wider class of numeric and modelling applications to be solved.
Another new feature allows you to create spreadsheets within a Maple V worksheet and perform Maple V operations right in the spreadsheet. The spreadsheet environment is designed to be familiar to Excel users.
Indeed, familiarity and ease of use is a key strength of Maple V, and this is further enhanced in Release 5 with context sensitive menus and an improved graphical user interface. In particular, Maple V now contains a series of palettes that provide an easy way to enter Maple V expressions.
Maple V also acknowledges the importance of the World Wide Web in today’s global design environment, allowing you to export Maple V worksheets to HTML files. This promotes and facilitates collaboration on projects, sharing of research material and publishing of technical papers on the Internet.
THE FINAL WORD
Some real world applications, then. Let’s go back to that US courtroom. Because it was able to solve the complex ballistics equations proving that the gun had to be held in the hands of a third party, Maple V was essentially fulfilling the role of an expert witness. And on the Sojourner project, Maple V’s unique ability to solve the inverse kinematics problems gave the Rover the intelligence it needed for self preservation on the alien terrain.
With its availability on all popular platforms and operating systems, including Windows 3.1, 95 and NT, Macintosh OS (68k and PowerPC), popular Unix, and Linux, Maple V might be considered the last word in bringing power to the masses.
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