VisualScience (VS) is a new type of math application software that adds a graphical interface between the user and the mathematical modeling. To start a VS project, you drag any of the 16 mathematical components into the worksheet and wire them together to represent a complete system. The screen layout is designed so you can control the flow and the type of components being used in your model.
Three areas make up the VS screen. The Explorer side displays a tree view of all the system's components. As you drag a component from the palette into the Worksheet area, it is automatically added to the tree structure. The tree is especially handy in complex projects with embedded subprojects. The Scratch Pad at the bottom of the screen is for quick calculations.
Central to the system interface is VS's matrix-based MathCalc language. The code you develop with the MathCalc language is embedded in the MathCalc component, which is used anywhere you want to insert commands, initial conditions, or loop or conditional expressions during the modeling of your system. The beauty of the MathCalc language is that it is hidden behind an icon and can contain the complex formulations.
MathCalc is used in all computations in a MathCalc component and in the Scratch Pad section. With more than 100 64-bit real and complex math functions based on established algorithms for polynomials, statistics, transforms, and matrix algebra, MathCalc is a starting point for building your own components and templates.
The simplest system can consist of an input source for initial values and conditions, a mathematical representation of the system, and an output device. The Input source can be a constant component with a variable, user-controlled range of values. Almost every predefined component has four input and four output ports as standard. One way around this limitation is to embed a subsheet that acts as a subroutine. This doubles the number of input and output ports to eight.
With all components connected, VS will run the simulation in one of two ways: all the way to the end of the prescribed time interval or up to a component specified as the breakpoint. Throughout the whole model you can add numerical and graphical inspectors. VS will display on-the-fly the outcome at these inspection points and even save them to a VS, MATLAB, or ASCII file format.
VS is lacking a library of numerical analysis methods that you can easily access and use as an embedded worksheet. Although the stable, fourth-order Runge-Kutta method included in VS shows the ease in programmability with MathCalc, you are still left with the coding of almost any other method.
Like the limited availability of numerical methods in VS, the graphical output is also of a single format--lines. However, thanks to VS's ability to seamlessly interface with MATLAB and IDL, the possibilities for tools, flexibility, and potentially solving any math or engineering system are almost endless.
This external interfacing has its price, though: Speed drops considerably since neither MATLAB nor IDL can be pre-compiled and linked to the VS model for faster execution. Although you can have more than one MATLAB or IDL component in your models, the considerable impact on speed limits the use of these tools. VS's matrix capabilities allow you to overcome the limitation of the four-variable limit when interfacing with MATLAB, as you can still pass many variables in a 2-D matrix form.
The graphical interface with an easy-to- use language makes VisualScience a good tool for your mathematical application modeling. The lack of readily available algorithms for quick implementation will force you to code in MathCalc. But, if you have access to MATLAB and IDL, the seamless interface will make VS one of the most effective ways to model and analyze any dynamic system.
This mathematical-system design, synthesis, simulation, and analysis tool has applications in engineering, business, and applied and social sciences. Through the software's graphic architecture, matrix-based MathCalc language, and built-in functions, models can be constructed with ease and clarity. Minimum requirements: 486DX2 PC, 16 Mbytes RAM, 5 Mbytes of disk space, Windows 95 or NT 3.51.
List Price: $895
acroScience Corp., 1966 13th St., Suite 250, Boulder, CO 80302; ph: (800) 600-MATH; http://www.acroScience.com.
A similar product:
VisSim - Visual Solutions, 487 Groton Rd., Westford, MA 01886; ph: (508) 392-0100; http://www.vissol.com.