Mathematica Navigator: Graphics and Methods of Applied Mathematics
Heikki Ruskeepää, 1999, Academic Press. 848 pp, softcover, w/CD-ROM.
Mathematica Navigator is another entry into the 'hands-on introduction/overview' category of Mathematica book, broadly framed but focusing mainly on graphical and applied mathematics concepts. It offers the usual fare of introductory and tutorial information, followed by a healthy-sized section on graphical methods and a fairly decent treatment of numerical methods. Of special note is the refreshing fact that the Mathematica Standard Add-on Packages are treated in an integrated fashion with the bulk of the material instead of as special topics. In this sense it is a little more reflective of the real-world use of Mathematica than other books of the genre. The CD-ROM is Macintosh, Windows, and ISO 9660 compatible and contains the entire text of the book, designed to be integrated into the Help Browser. This feature makes it much easier to use the book in a dynamic fashion by experimenting with the concepts presented.
On the down side, the writing is choppy (which is somewhat forgivable as English is presumably not the author's first language), and the graphic design is adequate but not compelling. Navigator suffers the most from trying to be too much in that it oxymoronically tries to be both in-depth and an overview. If you're an experienced Mathematica user, there is not a whole lot to offer. If you're a beginner, it is certainly more appropriate, especially if you can ignore the prose, but in the end you may find that there is too much information presented awkwardly.
Comments of other Mathematica Journal readers.
I have found book to excellent, easy to use and extremely helpful. Yes, I am really not a Mathematica expert, but I have enjoyed using it. Navigator is much more helpful than The Mathematica Book by Wolfram since it gives better examples and is much easier to follow. Also Ruskeepää has been quick to answer email questions with very helpful suggestions. I recommend it to all users since most of us are not into the program eight hours a day. I also recommend Mathematica for Scientists and Engineers by Richard Gass. He gives many real problems with terrific discussion and helpful Mathematica suggestions. His three body discussion in Chapter 2 is fantastic. I am a retired chemical engineer; greatly involved with the Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement; and like to "play" with chaos, fractals, astronomy, history of science, etc. An excellent book on chaos is The Essence of Chaos by Edward Lorenz; it is interesting to program his examples in Mathematica.
Robert M. Lurie
Converted by Mathematica September 21, 1999