An introduction to an introduction to Mathematica

This is the first post in a series on Mathematica. The series is meant to complement and supplement a five-day course in basic Mathematica that I shall be giving at Cambridge in June 2016. I will post after each lesson if I feel that there is something that needs to be clarified, or if some example code will be useful, but these might not be complete course notes.

About this course

I plan to begin with a basic introduction, where I will give an overview of some of the mathematical features that Mathematica offers. In particular, we will cover random number generation, Fourier transforms and NDSolve. We will also use Plot, ListPlot and related functions.

We will introduce Import, which is used for importing data and including code from source files.

I will also introduce the basic concepts of functional programming. Mathematica is a functional programming language; while it provides control structures such as If, For and While, there are often much neater ways of doing things using the likes of Map (or /@), Select and Nest. In fact, If, For and While are themselves treated as functions. We will learn about anonymous functions and the /. and // operators.

My aim will be to focus on concepts and style, not fluency: Mathematica functions tend to have a complicated and difficult-to-remember syntax, but the inbuilt help is very useful for looking up the details.

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