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Re: Range of Use of Mathematica

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  • Subject: [mg88847] Re: Range of Use of Mathematica
  • From: AES <siegman at>
  • Date: Mon, 19 May 2008 05:16:23 -0400 (EDT)
  • Organization: Stanford University
  • References: <g0m8tt$14$>

In article <g0m8tt$14$1 at>,
 "David Park" <djmpark at> wrote:

> For some years now 'AES' (actually Professor Anthony E. Siegman, McMurty
> Professor of Engineering Emeritus at Stanford University) and I have engaged
> in a running dialog on the extent of Mathematica's usefulness in preparing
> research material for publication. I believe that AES's basic position is
> that Mathematica is fine for doing computer algebra (traditional CAS
> operations), numerical calculations and generating starting graphics for
> publications. But then he advocates using outside programs for perfecting
> the graphics, doing typesetting and preparing the final publication. He
> thinks that "..even attempting (to combine these functions in Mathematica) .
> is inherently a bad idea."
>  [Remainder of post snipped]

I appreciate David Park's setting out this outline of our respective 
views and differences. I believe he's given a fair and accurate summary 
of these views and differences, and also that there is a quite sizable 
amount of agreement, but also some definite and persistent areas of 
disagreement, in our views.  And, I also believe there are some 
additional factors and arguments that also need to be brought out on 
these issues.  

I'd like to respond on all these aspects (although I suspect there are 
others on this group who may feel that I've posted more than enough 
already), and I hope to respond eventually; but this may not happen for 
a while because of pressure of other commitments on my side (and very 
likely on his also).  Others may of course also want to add other 

One response I'd make immediately is that the issues here seem to me to 
be quite a broader than just the "range of ways in which Mathematica can 
be used".  The real underlying issue is (even if phrasing it this way 
may sound a bit pretentious):  What is, or what could be, or should be, 
the _strategic vision_ for Mathematica, as a system or as a product line 
or as a useful tool or even as a communications standard?  And then, as 
a necessary of this strategic vision, what is really the target market 
or audience for Mathematica?

And then, if there's any agreement on this strategic vision, and on the 
market for it, how do those choices influence the way that Mathematica 
should be designed, and developed, and marketed, and documented, and 
delivered, and priced? --- including especially, what should it's 
interface look like?

Those are all questions that can, of course, be argued and discussed at 
immense length --- and such discussions, while providing lots of grist 
for entertaining comments and flame wars, may come to very little beyond 
that, if Wolfram Inc already has its strategic vision, thank you, and is 
not inclined to open this vision up very much to outside knowledge or 

And finally, my pretty strong personal impressions (for what little 
they're worth) are that if Wolfram Inc. (or Wolfram, person?) really has 
a clear strategic vision for Mathematica, it's certainly not clear to me 
what it really is; and secondarily, despite the obvious levels of skill 
and ability  and dedication in those who create and maintain 
Mathematica, there are a lot of ways in which Walfram is seriously 
missing the boat in building a product to occupy and serve a larger user 
environment, with user documentation being the most obvious area for 
this kind of criticism.

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