The CoolEconomicsPack is an apt description: it is written by Thomas Cool, it contains programmes about economics, finance, statistics and econometrics and it is a collection of notebooks and packages. The notebooks themselves are written in Mathematica 3.0 while the packages contain common routines which are called from within the notebooks. There are also accompanying (Word document) text files. The version reviewed here is version 1.0 for Windows 95. Although not shareware, to the extent that it is a licensed software, it has many of the characteristics of being so. Documentation is not so much poor as being scattered throughout many files: some Word text, some web documents and others as part of Mathematica notebooks. There is no clear idea of the order in which to look at these files and so much is left to the user. The packages come on a single floppy which requires to be unzipped, although no unzip is provided. Nor is it clear where to unzip the files until they are unzipped and then read! Part of the difficulty this reviewer had is that the author is comfortable with programming and makes many assumptions on the part of the user. Difficulties are encountered, therefore, by the user who just wants to consider and use the Mathematica packages. Attempting to get the packages up and running was not as straight forward as the designer had envisaged. But there is much in the package which makes it worthwhile persevering!
When unpacked the CoolEconomicsPack takes 4.6MB (11MB when notebooks have been evaluated and saved.) The whole collection costs $50, although one individual package (one of the four listed in Table I) can be purchased for $10. Information on the packages and ordering details can be obtained on the web from site: http://www.can.nl/~cool. The packages are contained in structured directories and subdirectories and require no installation as such. However, there is an important file called install.html (an internet document) which supplies important information on the location of files and what to do with some important files and packages. Anyone acquiring the CoolEconomicsPack should read this first.
The packages are divided into four categories and a number of groups: the groups contained in each category is shown in Table I. In all there are 200 files dealing with notebooks, text files, style sheets and internet files. Some packages, however, require access to other packages written elsewhere, e.g., some of those supplied in Varian's Economic and Financial Modeling with Mathematica, which were obviously not included for copyright reasons.
Along with the actual Mathematica notebooks, there are a number of papers written by the author in his capacity as a consultant and provided in Word format. These are interesting in their own right, and not just as an application in the use of Mathematica.
Although some order is attempted by the author, it is not always successful. This is, I suspect, because the author created the packages over a period of time in line with the work he was dealing with. Having written these packages, it was then a question of putting them together in some fashion. To illustrate this, but also on a positive note to illustrate the diversity of notebooks contained in the categories, Table II breaks down the seven groups in the Economics and Finance category into the individually supplied notebooks (and occasional internet file!) Unfortunately, there is no logical development of the economic and finance content in these files. In general, the introductions give only cursory discussion of the topics. Nor is the use of Mathematica developed in any obvious way. This is understandable. What has dictated the use of Mathematica is the problem under review. To derive any real benefit from the CoolPack, therefore, a prior knowledge of Mathematica is necessary. The packages are not a means to learn Mathematica. What they are is a series of applications of Mathematica to economic, finance, econometric and related areas. Given the author’s undoubted knowledge of Mathematica, much can be learned from the packages in how to apply it to economic and related areas.
All packages utilise the "CoolPack style sheet". Although this is not essential, in the sense that Mathematica will use its default if either this is not loaded or cannot be located, it does provide a consistency across the packages. Figure I illustrates the opening of the Social Welfare notebook utilising the provided style sheet. All notebooks initially come with cells closed, which allows an over-view of the file to be read immediately. All that is then necessary is to run the notebook and open all the closed cells.
One observation about the input/output instructions supplied in the notebooks is that either no use was made of the palettes supplied with version 3.0 of Mathematica, which are a particularly useful and innovative feature, or that originally many of the programmes were written with an earlier version and not changed to take advantage of the more useful input formats supplied in version 3.0. If the latter, this is understandable, since to a large extent the alternative input forms are cosmetic - yet highly appealing! In some notebooks, therefore, using even the Greek palette would have been advantageous, e.g., all the notebooks dealing with the CES production function, as illustrated in Figure 2 - a topic quite exhaustively dealt with. (It is also important to realise that although version 3.0 can read earlier versions of Mathematica notebooks, version 3.0 notebooks cannot be saved in earlier formats.)
Since there is no systematic link between the packages and notebooks, then it is difficult to make any general statements. At times it is difficult to see why the author has written a particular notebook. For instance, "The Backward Lag Operator", which the author took some time to develop the proper Mathematica formulation for the functional forms, but considers much can be done with it, seems over-kill. Why write a programme that applies a lag operator B to a variable such as x(t), just to write x(t-1) or x(t-5)? There may be a good reason, but none is given. This illustrates the general nature of some of the notebooks. It would be useful if the author had given some reason why he wrote the notebook in the first instance and the type of problems they would be useful for. As it is, this has to be gleaned by the user.
For anyone wishing to become very familiar with Mathematica, this is a useful package to have, especially at the price on offer. It is not a package to learn from, but it is a package to delve into now and again to see how Thomas Cool may have handled a similar problem. What this reviewer would like to see in any future development is a much clearer guide to the packages and notebooks and a much clearer indication of the order in which to read or review the material. In this respect there is a need to distinguish the Mathematica concepts that are being utilised and developed from the economic, econometric, finance and related subject matter.
University of Stirling RONALD SHONE