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RE: Plato's Academy of Mathematica: Soapbox warning!

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  • Subject: [mg22879] RE: [mg22870] Plato's Academy of Mathematica: Soapbox warning!
  • From: "David Park" <djmp at>
  • Date: Mon, 3 Apr 2000 00:04:09 -0400 (EDT)
  • Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at

> I have been playing with Mathematica for several years.  I have
> never had the
> time to really learn it.  One of the reasons is that every time I sit
> down to use it, I end up spending hours trying to figure out why I can't
> get the pointer to stop being a hand in Linux (num-lock), or how to get
> the delete button to "delete next."  And what the heck is Mod2?
> I find the help often not very helpful.  It is difficult for me to
> locate what I am looking for because I don't know the exact way to
> formulate my search filter.  Additionally neither the help nor the
> website supports a very good query engine.  The editor is rather
> non-standard in how it interprets key strokes, e.g., "end" takes me to
> the end of the notebook, where as, convention would take me to the end
> of the current line.  The "undo" option doesn't keep a buffer of
> previous changes.  And yap, gripe, sniffle, and so forth. . .
> It is my understanding that Plato's Academy was the only place one could
> learn geometry.  Over the door of the academy was the injunction "All
> who enter here must know geometry."  The set of all sets which do not
> contain themselves, as it were!  Mathematica seems a bit like
> this to me.  In
> other words, in order to use Mathematica effectively, one  must
> be initiated.
> In order be be initiated, one must be able to use Mathematica, at least
> somewhat, effectively.
> Don't get me wrong.  I am not condemning Mathematica.  I think it is the
> Gutenberg printing press of mathematics.  On my job, I am faced with
> exactly the same problem of mapping users' information paradigms to
> obscure data representation.  It is not easy, and I don't expect it is
> all that easy to get a bunch of propeller-heads who love to tinker with
> group theory in algebraic geometry to spend much time trying to figure
> out how to make an interface that is accessible to bone heads such as
> me.
> NOTE: I have BCCed this to my coworkers because this issue hits home
> with our current project.
> Thank you for your indulgence,
> Steve


Yes it does take some effort to learn how to use Mathematica just as with
any other powerful program. I always suggest the following:

1) Read Steven Wolfram's "Suggestions about Learning Mathematica" in the
front of the Mathematica Book.

2) Work through as much of Part I of the book as seems relevant to you -
which should be most of Part I. Type in the examples and make sure you can
make them work.

3) Then you should be able to frame questions to MathGroup which will speed
you along in your work.

As for Linux - it is probably great. But I am one of those timid ones who
sticks with Windows for the masses and have very little trouble.

David Park
djmp at

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