# 4/3 * pi * r^3 = ?

February 28, 2012 8:32 AM Subscribe

Is Mathematica Home Edition worth $295?

I've received an email offer from Wolfram Alpha to purchase Mathematica Home Edition for $295. What can I do with it? How does it differ from the full version of Mathematica? How does it differ from the Wolfram Alpha web site?

Possibly relevant background: I am not a mathematician or scientist or engineer but all of these things interest me as a layman. I am presently teaching myself programming with Python. I've no aspirations to have a technical/scientific career or job though I am interested in learning more about "big data" as it applies to business.

So, I am a dilettante or hobbyist here. Paying $295 for software doesn't give me pause, but what I don't know is how good a value this offer is.

Thoughts?

I don't know if it's relevant but my computer is a Mac Book Pro with a 512gb SSD and 16gb of RAM and a quad-core i7 processor, so it has more than enough horsepower to throw at Mathematica.

Thanks!

I've received an email offer from Wolfram Alpha to purchase Mathematica Home Edition for $295. What can I do with it? How does it differ from the full version of Mathematica? How does it differ from the Wolfram Alpha web site?

Possibly relevant background: I am not a mathematician or scientist or engineer but all of these things interest me as a layman. I am presently teaching myself programming with Python. I've no aspirations to have a technical/scientific career or job though I am interested in learning more about "big data" as it applies to business.

So, I am a dilettante or hobbyist here. Paying $295 for software doesn't give me pause, but what I don't know is how good a value this offer is.

Thoughts?

I don't know if it's relevant but my computer is a Mac Book Pro with a 512gb SSD and 16gb of RAM and a quad-core i7 processor, so it has more than enough horsepower to throw at Mathematica.

Thanks!

Best answer: I found that Mathematica had the best documentation that I had ever seen.

posted by curuinor at 8:48 AM on February 28, 2012

posted by curuinor at 8:48 AM on February 28, 2012

Best answer: As a Pythonista, you may like Sage.

I'd at least take it for a test drive before splashing out $295 on something you are maybe not going to be using so much.

Also (and I don't know much about Mathematica itself), you may find that the suite of tools included with Sage, like R and RPy, are more useful for exploring big data analytics in a business context.

posted by philipy at 9:01 AM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd at least take it for a test drive before splashing out $295 on something you are maybe not going to be using so much.

Also (and I don't know much about Mathematica itself), you may find that the suite of tools included with Sage, like R and RPy, are more useful for exploring big data analytics in a business context.

posted by philipy at 9:01 AM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am a mathematician. I use Mathematica as my CAS of choice. I do a fair amount of basic programming with it as part of my research.

--it's documentation is extensive and helpful. I often need to look something up, and it's easy and there are lots of examples.

--wolfram alpha is not a good comparison. You can actually store variables and refer to them, and write custom functions, and all sorts of stuff. It's not even in the same ballpark.

Having said that, $295 is a hefty chunk of change if you don't need the program and aren't sure how you'd use it. I think students can rent it for a semester for about $50. Do you know any students?

If money isn't an issue and you think you have a use for it, it's a great program.

posted by leahwrenn at 9:11 AM on February 28, 2012

--it's documentation is extensive and helpful. I often need to look something up, and it's easy and there are lots of examples.

--wolfram alpha is not a good comparison. You can actually store variables and refer to them, and write custom functions, and all sorts of stuff. It's not even in the same ballpark.

Having said that, $295 is a hefty chunk of change if you don't need the program and aren't sure how you'd use it. I think students can rent it for a semester for about $50. Do you know any students?

If money isn't an issue and you think you have a use for it, it's a great program.

posted by leahwrenn at 9:11 AM on February 28, 2012

Best answer: Oh---as far as I know, the home edition is the same as the professional edition, it's just the one you get to install at home so you can work after hours instead of using the crazy expensive edition the company bought you for your work desktop. (seriously. It's about $1000. )

posted by leahwrenn at 9:13 AM on February 28, 2012

posted by leahwrenn at 9:13 AM on February 28, 2012

Best answer: It may or may not be helpful, but here is a pdf comparing various mathematical analysis programs.

I have a good friend who is a doctoral candidate in mathematics. He recommends Maple over Mathematica but it may be overkill for your needs.

posted by easy, lucky, free at 9:14 AM on February 28, 2012

I have a good friend who is a doctoral candidate in mathematics. He recommends Maple over Mathematica but it may be overkill for your needs.

posted by easy, lucky, free at 9:14 AM on February 28, 2012

Best answer: Also there is Octave, apparently a free clone of Matlab.

All I currently know about Octave is that it will be used in the upcoming Stanford Machine Learning course.

Matlab is a lot more used in business than Mathematica if that's a consideration for you.

posted by philipy at 9:30 AM on February 28, 2012

All I currently know about Octave is that it will be used in the upcoming Stanford Machine Learning course.

Matlab is a lot more used in business than Mathematica if that's a consideration for you.

posted by philipy at 9:30 AM on February 28, 2012

Best answer: As leahwrenn says, as far as I can tell, that the home edition differs only in terms of licensing. My campus has a site license that lets us install the "home" edition on our office computers or laptops for free, and I have seen zero differences between that and the version installed in the labs. And, yeah, Wolfram Alpha's capabilities are pretty rinky-dink compared to actual Mathematica.

I'm not sure that Mathematica has much to offer you, unless your python programming is a lot about solving certain types of mathematical problems. (I like M'ca for diff eqs, for example.)

posted by BrashTech at 9:33 AM on February 28, 2012

I'm not sure that Mathematica has much to offer you, unless your python programming is a lot about solving certain types of mathematical problems. (I like M'ca for diff eqs, for example.)

posted by BrashTech at 9:33 AM on February 28, 2012

Best answer: I'm a mathematician and I use Octave and R all the time. Octave is a really powerful substitute for Matlab (and has even corrected some of the bugs that certain Matlab functions have). Mathematica does have really good visualization tools and support (something that doesn't happen with free tools, though the R community is really responsive), but I wouldn't spend that much money on it if it wasn't your profession.

posted by bluefly at 9:54 AM on February 28, 2012

posted by bluefly at 9:54 AM on February 28, 2012

Best answer: I've used maxima. It does a lot of stuff (algebra, integration, OED), it's rough around the edges and it's free. maxima

posted by bdc34 at 10:05 AM on February 28, 2012

posted by bdc34 at 10:05 AM on February 28, 2012

Response by poster: Ok, well thanks for the feedback. I'll download Sage and Octave and play with them.

posted by dfriedman at 10:36 AM on February 28, 2012

posted by dfriedman at 10:36 AM on February 28, 2012

Best answer: I'm also a mathematician and I use Sage, as well. I don't use Mathematica, Maple, or R (I'm not a statistician) and have done a little here and there in MatLab. I use Wolframpha for quick computations sometimes. Sage is by far my favorite tool.

posted by monkeymadness at 10:47 AM on February 28, 2012

posted by monkeymadness at 10:47 AM on February 28, 2012

Have you had a look at the Wolfram Demonstration Site to see some of the things you can do with Mathematica? I don't think the seamless integration of numerics, graphics, and analytics can be beaten.

posted by Ian Scuffling at 11:36 AM on February 28, 2012

posted by Ian Scuffling at 11:36 AM on February 28, 2012

Best answer: Here's a question on MathOverflow about free mathematical software. And, monkeymadness is right, I use R because I'm an applied mathematician, but you were asking about "big data" which I do work with, so I thought it would be ok to mention a statistical programming language (which does have libraries/packages for matrix computations and other numerical computing).

posted by bluefly at 1:17 PM on February 28, 2012

posted by bluefly at 1:17 PM on February 28, 2012

Best answer: It's hard to put a value on Mathematica without knowing how you'll actually use it. Investing time (rather than money) in open software like Sage or Octave

posted by grog at 1:20 PM on February 28, 2012

*may*give you an idea of how interested you'd be in Mathematica, but they may also give you a false impression of the state of the art in CAS. Mathematica is really in a class by itself, and I bet you could hit the ground running much more easily than with free software, especially if you are just learning to program. In particular, the Wolfram demonstrations pages alone could keep you passively entertained for years (on preview Ian Scuffling beat me to it, but I agree with his assessment).posted by grog at 1:20 PM on February 28, 2012

Response by poster:

This is a fair point, and to some extent, the value of $295 is subjective, dependent upon the person spending it, and what their time is worth.

I've downloaded Sage and Octave and will see how it goes. Thanks for all the responses here. They're helpful.

posted by dfriedman at 2:10 PM on February 28, 2012

*It's hard to put a value on Mathematica without knowing how you'll actually use it.*This is a fair point, and to some extent, the value of $295 is subjective, dependent upon the person spending it, and what their time is worth.

I've downloaded Sage and Octave and will see how it goes. Thanks for all the responses here. They're helpful.

posted by dfriedman at 2:10 PM on February 28, 2012

I have been lucky to have licenses for Mathmatica and Matlab for a while now so I am not sure about Octave and Sage. Mathmatica is so powerful and is so easy to learn but I really love Matlab. It is so easy to find out how to do things and there are so many bits of code you can find on the internet to do almost anything.

posted by JayNolan at 3:34 PM on February 28, 2012

posted by JayNolan at 3:34 PM on February 28, 2012

« Older MDMA a bad idea for someone with a history of... | What books discuss taste like a pro chef would? Newer »

This thread is closed to new comments.

Also, if anyone in your household is a student, you can get Student Edition for ~$140.

posted by zeptoweasel at 8:46 AM on February 28, 2012