# Stephen Wolfram Q&A

Submit a questionSome collected questions and answers by Stephen Wolfram

*Questions may be edited for brevity; see links for full questions.*

# Wolfram Language

(51)January 1, 1993

From: Interview by Michael Swaine, *Dr. Dobb's Journal*

## If you were writing Mathematica today, what would you leave out?

January 1, 1993

From: Interview by Michael Swaine, *Dr. Dobb's Journal*

## You’ve spent a significant amount of time doing language design. What does a language designer really spend the bulk of the time doing?

January 1, 1993

From: Interview by Michael Swaine, *Dr. Dobb's Journal*

## With Mathematica, did you set out to create an application program or a programming language? You sell it as an application.

January 1, 1993

From: Interview by Michael Swaine, *Dr. Dobb's Journal*

## You’ve considered “making a thing that will probably be called M, that is essentially Mathematica without the mathematics”. But how seriously?

January 1, 1993

From: Interview by Michael Swaine, *Dr. Dobb's Journal*

## What are the virtues of symbolic languages like Mathematica vs. procedurally based languages like Basic?

January 1, 1993

From: Interview by Michael Swaine, *Dr. Dobb's Journal*

## What were the intellectual roots of Mathematica?

January 1, 1993

From: Interview by Michael Swaine, *Dr. Dobb's Journal*

## When you were first testing your ideas for Mathematica in SMP, it would have been about the time Clocksin and Mellish were bringing Prolog to a wider audience with their book. Were you influenced by Prolog at that time?

January 1, 1993

From: Interview by Michael Swaine, *Dr. Dobb's Journal*

## How did SMP influence Mathematica?

January 1, 1993

From: Interview by Michael Swaine, *Dr. Dobb's Journal*

## What kinds of design ideas went into the writing of Mathematica?

January 1, 1993

From: Interview by Michael Swaine, *Dr. Dobb's Journal*

## Is there anything you’d do differently if you were writing Mathematica today?

March 1, 1993

From: Interview by Paul Wellin, *Mathematica in Education*

## What is the breakdown of educational vs. research users of Mathematica?

March 1, 1993

From: Interview by Paul Wellin, *Mathematica in Education*

## I noticed a rather long debate on the nets recently about the current “role” of Mathematica. Some people were arguing that presentation features should not be focused on—that all work should go into algorithm improvement. I am sure that a similar argument could be put forth about the Mathematica language itself as well. What is your view of its present role?

March 1, 1993

From: Interview by Paul Wellin, *Mathematica in Education*

## From an educational point of view, would you put the Mathematica language on a par with Fortran or Pascal?

June 1, 1996

From: Interview by Stephen Collart, *Euromath Bulletin*

## The reception of the Mathematica system in the mathematical community has on occasion raised unexpectedly high feelings, and has sometimes appeared to take on the dimensions of a zealot’s war of disparagement against hype. Do you have an explanation for this fairly unique occurrence? What is your view of the matter?

June 1, 1996

From: Interview by Stephen Collart, *Euromath Bulletin*

## What is your most important long-term plan for Mathematica?

June 1, 1996

From: Interview by Stephen Collart, *Euromath Bulletin*

## What has been in your view the most important effect of Mathematica since its release?

June 1, 1996

From: Interview by Stephen Collart, *Euromath Bulletin*

## Where has Mathematica not met your expectations?

June 1, 1996

From: Interview by Stephen Collart, *Euromath Bulletin*

## With the benefit of hindsight, is there anything you would have developed differently in Mathematica?

June 1, 1996

From: Interview by Stephen Collart, *Euromath Bulletin*

## Some observers see a research crisis in mathematical computation—a dearth of both fundamental and practical advances; others are concerned about a looming funding crisis. How do you see the situation?

June 1, 1996

From: Interview by Stephen Collart, *Euromath Bulletin*

## Lisp was built on the tradition of the lambda calculus. When Prolog became popular a good dozen years ago, it also spawned a flurry of research into the semantics of logic programming. The evaluation model of Mathematica as a programming language is at least as complex and interesting: why has there been no comparable interest?

September 30, 1996

From: Interview by Robers Lee Hotz, *Los Angeles Times*

## What is more important to you—the technical elegance of the Mathematica program or the financial rewards it brings?

September 30, 1996

From: Interview by Robers Lee Hotz, *Los Angeles Times*

## You started your design of Mathematica where most software developers end theirs—by writing a 1,395-page users’ manual. Why?

September 30, 1996

From: Interview by Robers Lee Hotz, *Los Angeles Times*

## What would you consider your most serious mistake running Wolfram Research?

May 29, 2009

From: Interview by Monica Attard, ABC Local

## Is Wolfram|Alpha another Google, a simple search engine? Or is it like a vast encyclopedia of sorts?

May 29, 2009

From: Interview by Monica Attard, ABC Local

## How important is it to you to identify sources on Wolfram|Alpha?

May 29, 2009

From: Interview by Monica Attard, ABC Local

## How do you access all those repositories of knowledge that you use in Wolfram|Alpha?

May 29, 2009

From: Interview by Monica Attard, ABC Local

## Google is planning to launch a similar service to Wolfram|Alpha called Google Squared. Do you see it as similar?

August 31, 2009

From: Interview by Kaustubh Katdare, *CrazyEngineers*

## Could you give a brief overview of the algorithms that make Wolfram|Alpha work and produce great results?

August 31, 2009

From: Interview by Kaustubh Katdare, *CrazyEngineers*

## Where does Wolfram|Alpha get all its data? Does it crawl the Internet like web search engines?

August 31, 2009

From: Interview by Kaustubh Katdare, *CrazyEngineers*

## What kind of problems can we attempt to solve in the future using Mathematica?

August 31, 2009

From: Interview by Kaustubh Katdare, *CrazyEngineers*

## How did you go about building Wolfram|Alpha? What were the design challenges and architecture of Wolfram|Alpha?

August 31, 2009

From: Interview by Kaustubh Katdare, *CrazyEngineers*

## What kind of infrastructure do you have to process all the data in Wolfram|Alpha?

January 5, 2010

From: Interview by Gregory T. Huang, *Xconomy*

## From a technology standpoint, what’s next for Wolfram|Alpha?

January 5, 2010

From: Interview by Gregory T. Huang, *Xconomy*

## How mainstream will Wolfram|Alpha become, compared with search engines like Google or Bing?

January 5, 2010

From: Interview by Gregory T. Huang, *Xconomy*

## Are physicists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) using your computational techniques?

November 3, 2011

From: Interview by Mark Jannot, *Popular Science*

## Is it fair to say that the fundamental aim of Wolfram|Alpha is to foster and democratize computational knowledge?

November 3, 2011

From: Interview by Mark Jannot, *Popular Science*

## The notion that all of our exponential growth curves in data gathering, storage and processing ability have delivered us to a real paradigm-shift moment in terms of how data can both help us to understand our world and to change it. Do you agree with that? And how does that dovetail with your own work with data and computation?

May 14, 2012

From: Reddit AMA

## Mathematica, NKS, Wolfram|Alpha, what comes next? How are they all related and what is your criteria for choosing a project?

February 23, 2016

From: Reddit AMA

## What ages are appropriate to learn Wolfram Language? Do you see Wolfram Language in third world countries like an Open Source platform in the future?

February 23, 2016

From: Reddit AMA

## What do you think of the current “deep learning” methods? Will that fit into Wolfram software?

July 20, 2016

From: Reddit AMA

## You have an uncommon experience of being (and being around) many prominent figures in the scientific community. How has this influenced the development of the Wolfram Language?

July 20, 2016

From: Reddit AMA

## Are there problems that were difficult to solve (historically) but can now be solved trivially using the Wolfram Language? If so, which are your favorites?

November 7, 2016

From: Interview by Dingyu Chen, *Eton Magazine*

## Your products so far have been wildly successful and crucial in the lives of many. Do you have any plans for future releases?

March 8, 2017

From: Interview by John Horgan, *Scientific American*

## What’s the ultimate purpose of the Wolfram Language? Can it fulfill Leibniz’s dream of a language that can help us resolve all questions, moral as well as scientific? Can it provide a means of unambiguous communication between all intelligent entities, whether biological or artificial?

March 4, 2019

From: Reddit AMA

## Do you use software to keep track of all or some of the projects happening in your company? Is it really just email threads? Do you use a slack-like application? Do you use something to schedule your day and/or keep track of what you want to be doing?

March 4, 2019

From: Reddit AMA

## You gather data on your daily activities using Mathematica. As more biofeedback tech (smart watches, neuro tech, etc.) comes along what will Mathematica’s role be in helping make use of this data in a meaningful way? Also if I want to make use of a Muse device’s data (EEG data) what would be the best approach for doing so in Mathematica?

July 24, 2019

From: Interview by Will Carey, *Creative Chair*

## Could the Wolfram code be used to assign meaning to the *Arrival* logograms effectively be used to assign meanings to any shapes?

November 4, 2019

From: Interview by Margaret Harris, *Physics World*

## What’s the rationale behind developing the Wolfram Language?

November 4, 2019

From: Interview by Margaret Harris, *Physics World*

## Why did you create Mathematica?

November 4, 2019

From: Interview by Margaret Harris, *Physics World*

## How has Mathematica changed over the past 30 years?

November 4, 2019

From: Interview by Margaret Harris, *Physics World*