Life, the universe and Marx

May 8, 1998

LIFE, THE UNIVERSE AND MATHEMATICS. Virtual Image +44 161 480 1915. Single home user Pounds 24.95, educational site licence Pounds 49.50 inc VAT. Windows CD

There cannot be many other CDs offering ray-traced 3D animations of complex polygons - the four-dimensional ones with more than two vertices per edge. That will probably sell the CD to a handful of mathematics teachers. Otherwise it is for those who enjoy Virtual Image's random walks through maths, culture and mysticism. Life? Cellular automata and artificial life. The universe? Celestial mechanics simulations. The programming is not brilliant and the text skates over profundities, but the disc is full of odd little things that could spark a future mathematician's interest.

POEMS, PICTURES, MUSIC. Peter Wilson, Gill Robinson and Antoine Mitchell. Ultralab, Anglia Polytechnic University +44 1245 252009. www.ultralab .anglia.ac.uk. Pounds 9.95 inc VAT. Windows/ Mac CD. ISBN 0 907262 76 7

A poem read aloud, a picture, a music track; text of the poem, the first page of the music score, sometimes a draft or two; notes by all three artists on how they interpreted their colleagues' ideas in another medium. This pattern is repeated a dozen times, the mood varying from lyricism to brutal violence. This collaboration of artist-academics included a number of exhibitions with accompanying readings and recitals. The CD does not attempt to push the frontiers of multimedia creativity, and is best appreciated as a simple record of a real-life artistic experiment.

ESSENTIAL CLASSICS IN POLITICS: MARX AND ENGELS. Electric Book Company +44 181 488 3872.Pounds 29.95 inc VAT. Windows/Mac/Unix CD. ISBN 1 901843 01 7

Imagine if CD-Roms had been current in 1968. Red Guards march waving thousands of silver discs which contain not just quotations from Chairman Mao but his complete works. In Paris, Berkeley or Essex, any student can find out in seconds how many times Marx used the word "alienation". The revolution stumbled but technology marched on. Thirty years later, here at last are most of the important writings of Marx and Engels (sadly not the 1844 Manuscripts in a fully searchable package which is smaller than a cobblestone and easier to throw.

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