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Re: Negation versus Exponential

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  • Subject: [mg27124] Re: Negation versus Exponential
  • From: "Paul Lutus" <nospam at>
  • Date: Sun, 4 Feb 2001 21:27:08 -0500 (EST)
  • References: <95j4kk$>
  • Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at

"David Kwok Tai Wei" <davidktw at> wrote in message
news:95j4kk$c5t at
> I have a very simple question here
> should Negation (~) have a lower precedence than Exponential

This is a question that is asked in many forms (see a recent thread about
the relative precedence of multiplication and division as one example), and
the answer is, "It depends on what people expect."

Mathematical notation is not identical to mathematics, it is just a
convention used to communicate mathematics to another person or to a
computer. Therefore it must follow the cardinal rule of all languages -- it
must be comprehensible to all involved parties.

> So why stick to the old convention where it's wrong.

How can it be "wrong," if it is what people expect? Is it wrong that
"flammable" means the same thing as "inflammable?" If people expect this to
be true, it's true.

I am sure one could find an equal number of examples to argue against a
particular convention as for it. It only matters that it meet people's

And, speaking of conventions, I don't interpret "~" as negation in common
mathematical notation. This is a programming convention, not a mathematical
one. In C++ and other similar languages it flips individual bits (one's
complement), so calling it "negation" in this context is somewhat

Paul Lutus

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