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Stephen Wolfram Developing New Programming Language 168

Posted by samzenpus
from the lets-try-this dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Stephen Wolfram, the chief designer of the Mathematica software platform and the Wolfram Alpha 'computation knowledge engine,' has another massive project in the works—although he's remaining somewhat vague about details for the time being. In simplest terms, the project is a new programming language—which he's dubbing the 'Wolfram Language'—which will allow developers and software engineers to program a wide variety of complex functions in a streamlined fashion, for pretty much every single type of hardware from PCs and smartphones all the way up to datacenters and embedded systems. The Language will leverage automation to cut out much of the nitpicking complexity that dominates current programming. 'The Wolfram Language does things automatically whenever you want it to,' he wrote in a recent blog posting. 'Whether it's selecting an optimal algorithm for something. Or picking the most aesthetic layout. Or parallelizing a computation efficiently. Or figuring out the semantic meaning of a piece of data. Or, for that matter, predicting what you might want to do next. Or understanding input you've given in natural language.' In other words, he's proposing a general-purpose programming language with a mind-boggling amount of functions built right in. At this year's SXSW, Wolfram alluded to his decades of work coming together in 'a very nice way,' and this is clearly what he meant. And while it's tempting to dismiss anyone who makes sweeping statements about radically changing the existing paradigm, he does have a record of launching very big projects (Wolfram Alpha contains more than 10 trillion pieces of data cultivated from primary sources, along with tens of thousands of algorithms and equations) that function reliably. At many points over the past few years, he's also expressed a belief that simple equations and programming can converge to create and support enormously complicated systems. Combine all those factors together, and it's clear that Wolfram's pronouncements—no matter how grandiose—can't simply be dismissed. But it remains to be seen how much of an impact he actually has on programming as an art and science."
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Stephen Wolfram Developing New Programming Language

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  • Well... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Adam Colley (3026155) < minus bsd> on Friday November 15, 2013 @09:06AM (#45431867)

    Hrm, another programming language...

    Attempts have been made in the past to automate programming, it's never worked very well (or at all in some cases)

    Still, look forward to seeing it, perhaps I'll be pleasantly surprised.

  • by jopet (538074) on Friday November 15, 2013 @09:09AM (#45431883) Journal

    that you will have to pay a lot of money to use it?

  • Re:Well... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 15, 2013 @09:26AM (#45431949)

    Lisp worked well. So much so, most of the languages since C basically go "Here's our idea, we're going to be like C in base thinking but extra. What extra? Well, we're going to add lisp-like features, usually in a half-baked manner." The only really major variation is languages targetting multicore operation but they tend to be functional type like lisp.

    Problem with C is that it's a high level assembly. Great for computers as they were in the 1970s and 1980s.

    Problem back then was lisp was too heavy. Problem now is lisp is too fragmented.

    I'm waiting to see if Wolfram does more C + Some of Lisp, or if it will be anything novel.

  • Consider that the answer may be completely the opposite than what you assume. Perhaps we just teach kids math with programming. Then, just like long division or integration, etc. they won't have a problem explaining their desires to computers.

    Hell, I have a _BEST_SORT() macro which, together with my collections library's _GEN_PROFILED_H directive will select the actual best sort method on next compile after profiling to PROVE which sort is best for the scale of the problem space, instead of guessing. Predicting what I want to do next? Yep, my brain even does that automatically me too. All I have to do is explain to the computer what I want to have happen, and it happens. IMO, the problem is the way mathematics is taught. A sigma is a for loop. The latter is more verbose, but if they'd have been taught for loop instead of sigma they'd be programmers; It's sort of ridiculous when you think about teaching kids the old way: "I'll never use this in real life", meanwhile they can utilize programming in say, javascript, to take better control of every damn device they own right now... Teachers just failed to tell them how.

    Seriousy, I've taught pre-teens how to code as a remedy for flunking out of mathematics; Instantly they're able to see the utility of the tool. Humans are tool using creatures, no wonder they have a hard time learning how to use tools that aren't immediately useful to them. The flunkers are actually being smarter than the teachers.

  • Re:Well... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by physicsphairy (720718) on Friday November 15, 2013 @11:05AM (#45432895) Homepage

    Being explicit is precisely what makes programming laborious and tedious. It is entirely true that without such tediousness, you do not enjoy a full range of functionality. But the vast majority of the time you do not need a full range of functionality.

    Speaking as someone in a scientific major, Wolfram|Alpha has shortly become the go to resource for everyone looking to do quick, more-than-arithmetical calculation. It does a fantastic job of anticipating what you need and providing the appropriate options. If I need a differential equation integrated or the root to some expression I *can* ask for it explicitly, but usually I just type in the expression and everything I need will be generated by Wolfram automatically. For involved projects I do setup my problems in Python, but 99% of the time Wolfram|Alpha does just what I need for a hundredth of the effort. The fact my peers are using it the same way is notable because, while before Wolfram I might use Python or Maple or Mathematica, most everyone else would do these things by hand -- learning to use the available tools was something they considered too intimidating or not worth the effort.

    If Stephen Wolfram can do something vaguely like Wolfram|Alpha with more ability to customize and automate what is happening, it's going to transform academics, maybe even down to the high school level. Imagine being able to easily develop a science fair project which requires solving some complicated ODEs, without having to take 3 years of college math first.

  • Re:Well... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LongearedBat (1665481) on Friday November 15, 2013 @11:43AM (#45433315)
    I do, frequently. And my code is better 'cos of it. In my experience, when people are too afraid to start a module afresh, it's because they're afraid that they don't/can't/won't understand the problem well enough to a) write a solution that works b) understand the insufficiencies/faults of the existing code to do a better job next time around.

FORTRAN is a good example of a language which is easier to parse using ad hoc techniques. -- D. Gries [What's good about it? Ed.]