In the What If? article Falling with Hellium, Randall says:

I managed to lock up my copy of Mathematica several times on balloon-related differential equations, and subsequently got my IP address banned from Wolfram|Alpha for making too many requests.

Since I'm not a user of Mathematica (although I have used Wolfram|Alpha a couple times), I'm not really sure what the emboldened sentence means. Is that the software needs to connect to the server to get the equations, or it's just simply that he uses the equations so much?


closed as off-topic by Daniel Lichtblau, corey979, gwr, MarcoB, Young Feb 17 '17 at 5:21

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Mr. Munroe probably just means that it was a particularly tough differential equation that the program wasn't able to solve immediately.

Generally, a single instance of Mathematica can only do one calculation at a time (there are ways around this, but generally), so if one particular DSolve (the differential equation solving function) call is taking over an hour, nothing else can be evaluated, "locking" Mathemetica up.

Certain integrals can take days to evaluate in the program, and sometimes that's expected and okay.

  • $\begingroup$ why using DSolve so much makes his IP banned from Wolfram|Alpha? $\endgroup$ – Ooker Feb 15 '17 at 20:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Ooker It's not uncommon that an inordinate amount of calls/API calls to certain websites can raise their internal alarms. Malicious end-users can take advantage of a free product (like W|A) which can inhibit the user experience for other users, for example by hogging server time. While he wasn't malicious here, he probably set off the automatic flag for too many calls in one session. I'm sure they unbanned him, as he obviously wasn't malicious. $\endgroup$ – user6014 Feb 15 '17 at 20:15
  • $\begingroup$ I had a good friend who was doing large textual analysis and was making a lot of calls to Project Gutenberg (gutenberg.org), and he was similarly IP banned, despite having no malicious intentions, so situations like this aren't uncommon. $\endgroup$ – user6014 Feb 15 '17 at 20:18
  • $\begingroup$ I know that querying a lot can raise the alarm. But as far as I know, Mathematica is a stand-alone program, so there is no need for him to use W|A. And yes, they has unbanned him, and write a blog about that. $\endgroup$ – Ooker Feb 15 '17 at 20:18
  • $\begingroup$ W|A is much more forgiving than Mathematica in terms of its syntax, so he was probably just using W|A to solve some basic equations because it was easier, provides immediate visualizations, etc... But you're right, anything you can do in W|A you can do in Mathematica, so he wasn't completely SOL. $\endgroup$ – user6014 Feb 15 '17 at 20:19

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