"La mathematica è l'alfabeto nel
quale DIO ha scritto l'universo"
"Mathematics is the alphabet with which God has written the
-- Galileo Galilei --
|Donald in Mathmagic Land. I saw
this for the first time in 6th or 7th grade. It enthralled
me. Math was everywhere. It took my high school math
teachers to temporarily ruin it all for me. I was ready
and eager, but their presentation was of this hugely complex and
un-understandable topic that only intellectual giants, such as
themselves, could comprehend. It wasn't until I was in
college that I again found enthusiasm for this topic. The
professors loved what they were teaching - it was a key to
solving puzzles. Better yet - it wasn't hard. It was
just sets of logic rules that NEVER changed. My wife found
a copy of this at Costco years ago and bought it. I watch
it at least once a year just to recapture the magic. While
it is currently out of print, it can be found on Amazon as a
|Mathcad - What is a great program for
doing math, has recently become prohibitively expensive. A
stand-alone copy of version 12 will set you back $1200. An
upgrade from a recent version will cost $300. My wife
originally bought me a copy (version 3) for $129 back in 1991.
I kept my personal copy up-to-date through version 9 (MathCad
2000), but have stopped the bleeding. I do maintain my
work copy current and will be upgrading to version 12 in the
Now that all the negative has been said - let's
concentrate on the positive. I've used
a variety flavors of Fortran, and Excel spreadsheets to conduct
engineering calculations in support of work. Nothing
compares to the ease of use and flexibility of MathCad.
Calculations are self-documenting and easy to follow. If
the math is correct and the inputs check - then the results are
right. Easy to use, easy to check. There are
limitations in its ability to handle multi-dimensional arrays
and differential equations. When I hit these types of
problems, I either look for another way to approach the issue or
turn to other tools.
I've included some example worksheets on the website for
working with water properties and heat exchangers. There
are now better add-ons available through MathSoft's partners for
handling the steam tables, but I think these are still
|HP-41. Wahoo! A
calculator that thinks like we do. If you haven't ever
tried a RPN calculator - find one, do some math, and be amazed.
No parentheses, no entering the equations left to right.
The work is done the way you work with equations. Order is
maintained. (Okay, my wife and kids hate it - but I cannot even
use a algebraic calculator anymore). I got my first HP-41
when I was in college as a replacement for an old TI-30.
It was an eye-opening experience. I was hooked. It
was my first real introduction into programming and I bit hard.
If there was ever an activity I might repeat more than once - it
was programmed in my HP-41.
What is really cool is that while
the HP-41 is no longer manufactured, emulators are available for
most computing platforms at
http://www.hp41.org. This site not only has the
emulators, but HP has released most, if not all, the application
ROMs. I have this on all my PCs and my PocketPC.
I've also included some of my own applications on this website.
||Slide Rules In my
sophomore year in college I was taking a Mechanics and
Material's class. On the first couple of quizzes I totally
screwed up my answers. My approach was spot-on, but my
answers were way out. The instructor correctly surmised
I was just punching the numbers into my calculator and trusting
the results. I had no feel for what was going on in the
equations. He brought out a slide rule from his desk,
presented it and an instruction book, and told me that was all I
would be allowed to use the rest of the semester in his class.
Initially it seemed mean and unfair, but as my skills developed
I found myself developing an understanding of the equations that
had eluded me. I still will periodically work through a
problem with a slide rule just to make sure I understand what is
I had written up some information on slide rules, but then
found a really great site devoted to the topic. Check out
"Eric's Slide Rule Site"