So computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University have built a software tool to translate the language of numbers into pictures. Dubbed "Penrose," for the noted mathematician and physicist Roger Penrose—who is known for concepts like twistor theory—the system goes beyond the capabilities of a graphing calculator. Not only can you input simple expressions, but also complex relationships from pretty much any area of math. See a sample of the tool here.

"Some mathematicians have a talent for drawing beautiful diagrams by hand, but they vanish as soon as the chalkboard is erased," Keenan Crane, an assistant professor of computer science and robotics, said in a prepared statement. "We want to make this expressive power available to anyone."

Because high-quality diagrams take a great deal of monotonous work to produce, making them hard to come by, Crane and his team have turned to diagram-drawing experts to create the underlying logic for the program, even building out a brand-new programming language just for encoding instructions in Penrose. So when other users access Penrose, they can use familiar mathematical language while the computer crunches the instructions.

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