Maplesoft Blog

The Maplesoft blog contains posts coming from the heart of Maplesoft. Find out what is coming next in the world of Maple, and get the best tips and tricks from the Maple experts.

Two things are focusing my attention on India these days.

The first is something that I’m sure I share with most of you – the sad and terrifying news of recent terrorist attacks.  We all hope that these were acts of small groups and will not lead to wider conflict.

The second is that I am very pleased to be resuming a relationship with a very fine organization in India that I have known for 20 years.  Maplesoft recently announced that Cranes Software International will represent us in India.  I expect exciting things in the coming months and years.

Warning: this blog post contains strong language. Reader discretion is advised. Actually, it’s the posting in the Facebook group “Every time I walk into math class a little part of me dies” that contains the strong language. This group pulls almost 12,000 young students (mostly high school age) who share a common interest – the fear, loathing, and ultimately hatred of math.

Being inept at math is almost a badge of honor for many today. In a social gathering, even an adult one, it won’t be long until someone (typically articulate and educated) blurts out “I’m a complete zero when it comes to math” with some pride. Funny though … you don’t hear many shouting “I can’t read a single word!” with the same enthusiasm.

Come January, a group of Maple experts will be heading to the American capital, not for the presidential inauguration, but to attend the 2009 Joint Mathematics Meetings. This year’s event marks the 115th annual meeting of the American Mathematical Society (AMS) and the 92nd meeting of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA). 

Over the last few years, I’ve been lucky enough to spend time in Taiwan.  In my first visit to Taipei, I was astounded by the sheer scale of the Taipei 101 skyscraper.  At over 500m tall it dwarfed everything else in the skyline.

Given the proximity of many active fault lines, tall buildings in Taipei have a degree of earthquake protection engineered into them with a tuned mass damper .

I’ve always been fascinated with the relationships between math and music, since they are both fields in which I take a great interest. This week I’ve been delving into some of the history that links the two. For instance, the Greek mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras (circa 569 - circa 475 BC) is probably best known for the Pythagorean Theorem. However, he also made significant contributions to music, the influences of which can still be seen today.

For the first time, Cybernet decided to coordinate two more major meetings with the TechnoForum – essentially creating a 2-day multiconference. In contrast to the Maplesoft-centric sessions of the Maple Techno Forum on Day 1, the second day was focused on industry problems and the technological and scientific solutions emerging from various sources.

A while back I posted an article on Maplesoft activities in Japan. As planned, last week, some colleagues and I made the trip to Japan and once again, came back with a bag full of stories and insights – technical, business, social, political – you can never spend a week in Japan and not be suitably impressed and surprised by the latest happenings.

I was in Boston last week attending the ASME International Mechanical Engineering conference demonstrating MapleSim, our new tool for physical modeling.  I had the opportunity to speak to a large number of delegates, but I remember one conversation in particular; a professor who taught freshman students was bemoaning the fact that he found it harder and harder to impress students with his relatively simple animations of physics phenomena.  A simple animated pendulum no longer captivated students who were already immersed in the interactive physics-enabled environments of video games.  He had to escalate the intricacy of his demonstrations, but generating them was starting to consume too much of his time.

Twenty years after I first plotted the Mandelbrot set on a ZX Spectrum with 48K of RAM and a 3.5MHz processor, I’m still amazed by the sheer complexity and beauty contained therein.  I now have access to far more computing horsepower and can create ever more vivid visualizations.  It’s surprising what you can do with some creativity and a modicum of patience.

I was fortunate enough to spend the last two weeks on vacation in the south of Spain. Spain is a country composed of intricately layered history and traditions; influenced over thousands of years by its various inhabitants and conquerors: the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Visigoths, Moors, and of course the Christians (the Reconquista ended with the surrender of Granada in 1492 to Ferdinand and Isabella, the same year Christopher Columbus made his famous journey). Its food, music, art, architecture, and customs display these intertwined influences in unique and sometimes surprising ways.

Modern software tools should allow engineers to design, develop and test their designs before a single part is sent to the prototyping shop. So why is it not happening? Why are hundreds of prototypes manufactured, tested and then rejected? Why is so much time wasted at the testing and then redesigning stage?

Individually, the components for the ideal virtual prototyping tool are available, but they have not yet been wrapped up into a single integrated environment that’s based on design principles that engineers find intuitive.

Why is that?      

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been flying around the world on a press tour … sounds glamorous doesn’t it? Images of Brad Pitt or Prince William come to mind? Well, any similarities between a Brad Pitt press tour and one that I’m involved in is purely coincidental (if not miraculous). So what does one do on a Maplesoft press tour?

 Well, as it turns out, there actually is a fairly active community of journalists from far and wide who have a particular interest in recent developments in engineering and mathematical computing. And every year or so, we like to meet the press face to face to keep the lines of communication open between the company and these influential people of letters. This year, my tour took me through key regions in the US, UK, and Germany.

This weekend was reunion weekend for me. On Saturday I made the return journey to my alma mater, the University of Waterloo (i.e. I walked 10 minutes to the campus from my house), for the 20th reunion of my Engineering Class of 1988. Among the various events and activities, I had the pleasure of having a sitdown chat with Professor Peter H. O’N. Roe, retired professor of Systems Design Engineering (my undergrad department) at the University.

I can always tell when it’s back-to-school time... My morning drive becomes just *slightly* more congested: those extra school buses, new college students, and vacationers back from their time away certainly add up on the roads. For us here at Maplesoft it’s always a busy time as well, working with students and educators to get them ready for the new school year.

The modern engineering achievements of Japanese industry are the stuff of legends. And for an engineering nerd like myself, Japanese industry quite often equates with the many qualities that drew us into engineering –precision, vision, and technological ambition.  So it’s no surprise that each time I visit Japan, I feel like a kid again, eagerly waiting to discover yet another technological marvel -- whether it’s something very important like automotive powertrains that consume ridiculously small amounts of fuel or something that’s just plain fun (like this), I’m generally in a constant state of amazement if not giddiness during my visits.

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