Mathics goes open source

I’ve been working a lot on Mathics again during the last weeks. All towards the goal that I’ve had in mind for a long time: to release it as open source. After all, that’s the only thing that could set Mathics apart from Mathematica—the only thing that’s not so good about Mathematica is that it’s not free, neither as in freedom nor as in free beer.

If you wonder what Mathics is: it’s a general-purpose computer algebra system implementing the awesome Mathematica mathematics/programming language. Some of its most important features are

  • a powerful functional programming language,
  • a system driven by pattern matching and rules application,
  • rationals, complex numbers, and arbitrary-precision arithmetic,
  • lots of list and structure manipulation routines,
  • an interactive graphical user interface right in the Web browser using MathML (apart from a command line interface),
  • creation of graphics (e.g. plots) and display in the browser using SVG,
  • an online version at www.mathics.net for instant access,
  • export of results to LaTeX (using Asymptote for graphics),
  • a very easy way of defining new functions in Python,
  • an integrated documentation and testing system.

Read the manual to learn more about the over 350 built-in functions and symbols in Mathics.

The actual heavy math stuff (like integration) is mostly done by the Python package SymPy. There is optional support for functions depending on Sage as well. Despite “out-sourcing” most mathematical functions, Mathics has more than 20,000 lines of Python code already, dealing with much non-trivial stuff such as parsing Mathematica input, pattern matching, graphics generation, etc.

Unfortunately, Firefox is the only browser supported so far, because no other browser supports MathML yet. However, this is expected to change pretty soon when Webkit (used by Safari and Chrome) adds MathML support. I wonder whether Internet Explorer will ever get that far.

I set up a project homepage at www.mathics.org for organizational stuff, while www.mathics.net is still the place for the online interface of Mathics. The source code is hosted at github.

I hope that one day there will be developers joining me. Contact me if you want to get involved!