webMathematica is a new technology that supports the generation of dynamic web content with Mathematica. It integrates Mathematica with a web server.
What is webMathematica?
The webMathematica product provides tools for setting up Mathematica-based web server pages, and a license permitting the use of Mathematica over the web. With webMathematica, users get the latest version of J/Link, Mathematica 4.1, and version 1.0 of the MSPTools. The MSPTools include everything that is necessary to support a webMathematica site.
Why Mathematica on the Web?
Probably the major reason for using Mathematica over the web is for computation. The system contains a large collection of functions for calculating in many areas and all of this functionality becomes available over the web. This is particularly important since many web technologies, though powerful in many areas, are not very suited to scientific computation--it is simply not their main focus. Mathematica is very suitable for scientific computation, and this is what it can provide for web computations.
Mathematica contains a high-level, interactive, functional programming language. It lends itself to rapid prototyping but can scale up to large intensive computations. These benefits carry over to web content generation where they can significantly reduce the time spent developing the site.
Mathematica has a powerful, though complex, connection technology in MathLink. Now connecting to Mathematica has been dramatically simplified with the use of J/Link. This technology makes Mathematica more suitable for integrating into web computation.
The Mathematica front end has long provided the foremost mechanism for working with the Mathematica kernel. One might expect that the front end has no place in a web infrastructure. In fact, the front end and a browser give different and complimentary ways to use Mathematica. The browser gives a simpler, more interactive interface; people already know how to use browsers so the start-up time is reduced. The front end ultimately gives a more powerful way to work with Mathematica. It is possible to combine the two ways of interacting with Mathematica so that you can start in a browser and move to working in the front end.
Mathematica is known as a premium system for interactive mathematical typesetting. What is not so well known is that it is a powerful system for working with MathML. MathML is designed to allow the use and reuse of mathematical and scientific content on the web, and by other applications. As MathML becomes increasingly important, it is very advantageous that Mathematica work well with MathML.
webMathematica allows the many features and benefits of Mathematica to be used over the web.
Why a Web Interface?
A web interface brings many of its typical benefits to working with Mathematica. For instance, a web browser is the most common type of software that people learn, so people need less training to use a web interface to Mathematica. Also, people who develop servers and dynamic web sites will be able to use their favorite tools to develop Mathematica-related web sites. This makes the web applications that people build with Mathematica easier to build and more powerful. Another major benefit of the web is its ease of delivery. There is no need for installation of special software and access can be controlled and measured with standard technologies.
webMathematica allows the many features and benefits of web technology to be used with Mathematica.
Potential Areas of Use
Individual scientists and researchers often develop packages for special calculations, which could be done with Mathematica or with other computational tools. If they want to give these tools to their colleagues, they often have a problem because their colleagues may not have access to or experience with the necessary components, and so it can be hard to share this computational work. webMathematica solves this problem.
People who develop calculations in Mathematica can build sites to deliver interactive calculations over the company web intranet. The people who connect to and use these sites do not have to know anything about Mathematica; in fact, they do not need to know they are even using Mathematica. In addition, since they are simply using the web, there are no special requirements for installing and administering software on individual machines.
Finally, companies can develop sites that provide computational services to a broader audience than just their own intranets. For example, they can provide custom calculators for special customers. Schools, universities, and other educational establishments can use webMathematica to deliver sophisticated courses over the web, including highly interactive courseware. Authors and publishers can publish live interactive technical books, supplements and journals over the web with webMathematica.
webMathematica provides a way for researchers, scientists, and artists to showcase their Mathematica-based work using interactive web calculators.
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