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Confessions of a Mathematica Addict

Published September 19, 2001

September 19, 2001–Associate Professor John Browne of Swinburne University of Technology is a self-described “Mathematica addict,” using Mathematica not only as an all-purpose teaching tool in the classroom but also exclusively for his research. Why Mathematica? Says Browne, “It provides a high-level programming, computation, and graphics environment in which professionals can prototype their ideas and computations, create packages encapsulating their algorithms, and make them easily available to colleagues around the world.”

Browne teaches an undergraduate-level engineering design course as well as a Mathematica-based programming course for second-year engineering students. He says Mathematica is ideal for developing formulas symbolically in his engineering design class. “We don’t need to be satisfied with one-off calculations any more. Now, Mathematica can develop many of the complex general design formulas we need, live in front of the class.”

One of Browne’s research interests is Grassmann algebra, which is now emerging as a potential mathematical system for describing such diverse applications as engineering mechanics and fundamental theories of matter.

Why was he drawn to Grassmann algebra? Says Browne, “As an engineer, what enticed me to distraction was that Grassmann algebra could represent a force in such a way that Newton’s law for rigid bodies reduced to just one equation, instead of the standard two equations for the force and moment vectors when using three-dimensional vector algebra.”

Browne has been working on a Grassmann algebra package for Mathematica that will significantly reduce the time needed for calculations. “Now I could do all my theoretical computations, be assured of their correctness, do them in orders-of-magnitude less time, and have the results nicely and legibly presented,” he says. Browne is also writing a book entitled Grassmann Algebra: Exploring Applications of Extended Vector Algebra with Mathematica.

In addition, Browne and a colleague recently started Quantica Pty Ltd, a Mathematica consulting company. Its mission is to specialize in all things Mathematica-related from training and consulting to webMathematica and technical publishing.

The complete story about John Browne and Mathematica is available in the higher education section of our web site.