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Re: Re: Viewing packages in mathematica

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  • Subject: [mg102771] Re: [mg102755] Re: Viewing packages in mathematica
  • From: "David Park" <djmpark at>
  • Date: Thu, 27 Aug 2009 06:31:34 -0400 (EDT)
  • References: <> <10084375.1251080623042.JavaMail.root@n11> <h6tv7b$drf$> <2996030.1251289244342.JavaMail.root@n11>

It was in a fit of pique, that resulted partly from my own silly errors.
With some kindly handholding from WRI people I got back on the right path.

Still, doesn't the fact that I fell into this problem and a bit of despair
teach us a lesson about Mathematica? Yes, but not the lesson you draw.

WRI is not being over ambitious to design Mathematica so it could be used as
an advanced communication medium that would replace static documents. They
have already basically done it. It's a matter of learning how to use it and
learning a new skill is always painful.

I suspect that most users of Mathematica use it as a super
symbolic-graphical-numeric calculator, and use notebooks as scratch pads.
They do just like you say and copy the results out to other applications
where they create their publishable documents. You act as if this is an easy
process but if you look at postings on MathGroup it seems there are a lot of
stumbles and problems. Maybe things are not so platform independent as
thought, or maybe versions of all the applications are changing over time.
Maybe one has to get all the obscure settings right. Maybe various people
use various paths through the applications to get to the final product and
there are different particularities for each path, and for each combination
of applications used. Maybe you have worked out a particular set of
applications and a path that works for you, but I bet it wasn't something
you just did offhand. Even converting a Mathematica notebook to a static PDF
gives vastly different results in terms of quality and file size depending
on the path used.

If one is going to stay with the scratch pad paradigm of using Mathematica
then one might as well eliminate all the formatting and dynamic capabilities
added since Version 2. What use would you get from them other than your own
private enjoyment?

LEARN HOW TO USE IT. It is no more easy to do this than it is to write like
Hemmingway. It's a problem to be solved. It requires experimenting and
experience. It requires smoothing out the mechanics in Mathematica and
Workbench. It requires good examples and tutorials. It requires education.
But it is all worth it. Here is the old and the new:

Notebooks:    scratch pads     ---->    active technical papers
Workbench:    documented package -----> active electronic books

Advantages: 1) everything works together, 2) generated knowledge is
preserved in an active form, 3) lots of self-proofing, 4) active and dynamic
material is far better for communicating ideas.

In my opinion these advantages overwhelm the present method of generating
documents. You have never answered why you think these advantages are not
real. (One answer might be that it is too much work. But it's not that much
work once we learn how to do it.)

The facilities are already 98% there. WRI developers are receptive to ideas.
There are problems to solve but they are more in the way of users learning
how to employ these facilities than they are at WRI.  

David Park
djmpark at  

From: AES [mailto:siegman at] 

In article <h6tv7b$drf$1 at>,
 "David Park" <djmpark at> wrote:

> So that is what happens with Mathematica. One wants to work on math, or on
> some technical project, but one is always sucked down into a morass of
> undocumented features, and computer science, and guessing. One spends 95%
> one's time working on Mathematica problems and 5% actually doing something
> interesting!

My God, David!  It seems to me you have suddenly started to sound 
exactly like me, before I more or less gave up on posting on these 
issues and tried to get refocused on "actually doing something 
interesting" myself.

Let me just say again:  I believe the core lesson in this saga -- or to 
phrase it differently, the core cause of this disaster -- is the attempt 
(one might say, if one wanted to be nasty about it, the megalomaniacal 
attempt) to have one single massive app that will be all things, provide 
all tools and capabilities, to all users, rather than some kind of much 
more modular approach.

Can't be done, has never been done in this field.  Causes all kinds of 
problems, which get increasingly unsolvable as the basic system gets 
larger and expands out of control; ultimately suppresses creative 
innovation rather than enabling it.   Very sad, especially given the 
massive talent, massive accomplishments, and massive innovations that 
have now gotten so entrapped in the congealing molasses of Mathematica.

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