Get interactive in real time with Wolfram’s new Computable Document Format

This is a big deal–an artifact that is sort of like a document and sort of like an app. The thing itself–called a “Computable Document Format” or CDF– is clever and has obvious uses for teachers and students: what a great exam question it would be to ask a student to create an accurate model of the Doppler effect that allows the user to observe the effect of changing velocity.

But I am much more excited by what even the notion of such a document suggests is happening to our view of knowledge and the way it is transmitted. To Socrates, knowledge was not something fixed, but something dynamic and fluid. For this reason he distrusted bookish learning and never wrote a word himself. I think books are fine, for what my opinion on that’s worth, but I also think we lost some modes of knowing when we turned to them as exclusive authorities. This CDF seems like a fine hybrid, like a dialogue with ideas or concepts themselves. Another idea the ancients stole from us.

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