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Re: How to View Mathematica and Hardcopy Books

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  • Subject: [mg62381] Re: How to View Mathematica and Hardcopy Books
  • From: "David Park" <djmp at>
  • Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2005 04:42:43 -0500 (EST)
  • Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at


Mathematica would be perfectly suitable for calculational needs of many data
problems in the lab and field. It would be far quicker to develop and this
would also be an area where palettes and GUI interfaces might be more
appropiate than my favorite textbook style document. Sure there are number
crunching problems for which Mathematica might not be the most suitable
approach. That is something else again - and a much more expensive type of

I have to know how to apply Mathematica to my problems, but I don't have to
know everything that goes on under the hood, anymore than I have to know
everything that goes on in the circuitry of my automobile just to take a
trip to the supermarket. I've been using Mathematica fairly intensely for
about 8 years. There are still many areas of it that I don't know very well,
such as how to use the statistics routines or the ins-and-outs of
differential equation solving. Still I find that my limitations are not in
understanding Mathematica, but in understanding the math in the fields I am
studying. Once I understand what is happening with the math I have little
trouble in applying Mathematica to the problems.

Certainly the developers of Mathematica used principles of computer science
in its development. And it certainly may be that computer science could make
significant improvements in Mathematica, or help to develop a much better
CAS. If that is so, I would be glad to see it. But elegant computer science
does not always lead to a useful product. There are a lot of products with
elegant theoretical design that totally fail to comprehend what the customer
wants and needs.

In the meantime, users who want to get the most use out of Mathematica
should forget computer science, use Mathematica the way it works, and try to
learn to think mathematically.

A solid understanding of the inner working of Mathematica won't help
overcome poorly written packages. There are many packages that aren't poorly
written and that I have no difficulty in using. A lack of a good package in
some field or application is a good chance to write one yourself. But you
have to understand the material, and most of all how the package will
actually be used. You have to actually try it on many problems of the type
users would tackle and see that it actually works, is convenient and is
intuitive. A single fancy idea is not enough.

Right now I think it is learning how to use Mathematica properly that is
limiting its potential. Many uses do not get the most effective use from it
because they don't understand the capabilities it already has. There are
ideas that might be useful, such as live Mathematica web pages that you
could collaborate with someone else in real time, but I don't have the
equipment for it or have any idea how I could actually do it. If it gets to
the point where it can actually work without my spending a month in learning
how to implement it, or spending a fortune, then great. But if I have to
become a system engineer - forget it. I'm not interested in becoming a
computer system engineer, I want to work on math and physics.

The compactness that lies within Mathematica is that it works like
mathematics and not like a microprocessor.

I don't care if a CDROM or DVD or magnetic disk has a finite and perhaps
short lifetime. The material is constantly copied and proliferated. We can
purchase recordings of Enrico Caruso singing Pagliacci but its not on the
wax cylinder he might have recorded on. (Well maybe wax cylinders were a
little earlier.) The point was that people like paper books because they
think they are more permanent than digital media. I'm suggesting they are
not because the digitial media gets copied onto new media.

David Park
djmp at

From: Steven T. Hatton [mailto:hattons at]
To: mathgroup at

(There are certainly
> places where Mathematica as a 'souped up calculator' is just what is
> needed, perhaps for data analysis in the lab, the hospital or in the
> field.)

For purposes of number crunching Mathematica is quite often the wrong tool
for the job.  If you are doing things which involve very intensive mumeric
calculation which are likely to be repeated in form, you are probably much
better off translating your work to something like C++, or FORTRAN.  My
understanding is that MathCode C++ can produce executables which run orders
of magnitude faster than the Mathematica implementation of the same

> Users who work in the 'souped up calculator' mode are often very reluctant
> to use outside packages or to write their own code. The fact is that for
> almost any serious application one will have to add code to the basic
> kernel commands to make any progress.

It is not uncommon for me to hit snags when using packages.  Packages can
interact in ways which are unexpected, and hard to understand.  Again, a
solid understanding of the inner workings of Mathematica can be helpful

> So my way of viewing Mathematica and Mathematica notebooks, is as 'souped
> up pen and paper'. (Or maybe keyboard and paper.) I can write anything I
> want, do any kind of calculation or derivation I want, draw diagrams and
> animate them, revise (I spent the morning putting in an equation and the
> afternoon taking it out), do examples and test my knowledge.

I believe the current implementation of Mathematica is extremely limited in
comparison to its potential.  The notebook structure would benefit
significantly from the ideas developed by the W3C for the creation of
interactive documentation programs.

Something tells me there is a similar kind of compactness hiding under the
current use of Mathematica.

> And for those worried about it: electric power will be available at least
> as much as sunlight and digital copies will last longer than chiseled
> stone.

??? My understanding is that DVDs and CDROMs decay comparatively quickley.

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