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Re: "Do What I Mean" - a suggestion for improving

  • To: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net
  • Subject: [mg97110] Re: "Do What I Mean" - a suggestion for improving
  • From: Bill Rowe <readnews at sbcglobal.net>
  • Date: Thu, 5 Mar 2009 04:57:10 -0500 (EST)

On 3/4/09 at 7:09 AM, siegman at stanford.edu (AES) wrote:

>In article <gogc0l$oga$1 at smc.vnet.net>,
>Bill Rowe <readnews at sbcglobal.net> wrote:

>>While I understand this is small comfort to a new user, there
>>really isn't much else to be said. Mathematica forms a rich complex
>>toolset for doing mathematica analysis. Any such system will
>>require significant time and effort on the part of an user to
>>become proficient in making use of its capabilities.

>I'm afraid that this, if true, is small comfort to me -- but it's
>because I thought that the point to Mathematica was making a toolset
>with which many different levels of users -- smart high school
>juniors and seniors, college students at all levels, working
>engineers at BS or MS levels, professionals in many other fields
>without extensive math or computer science bckgrounds -- could do
>both analytical and numerical analyses, make plots, graphs,
>animations, demonstrations, in their own areas, **without having to
>invest "significant time and effort" (which they may simply not
>have) in learning the increasingly arcane, massive, and complex
>complications involved in working with Mathematica.

Since I don't work for Wolfram, I cannot truly know what there
goals are for Mathematica. While I do think Wolfram does try to
make Mathematica as easy to use as possible, I don't believe
this is their primary goal. I do not think it is even a good
idea to attempt to make Mathematica accessible to users with
minimal computer/mathematics experience/knowledge assuming this
is even possible.

There are a great many things in mathematics that work in
specialized cases. For example, a user with little experience in
mathematics likely would expect Sqrt[x^2] to simplify to x. But
that transformation is only valid when x is real and positive.
If Mathematica were to automatically do this simplification (or
many others of a similar nature) it would not be an adequate
tool for me or many other users since it would be creating
erroneous output. Worse, even for those users where this
happened to be the correct output, the issue gets hidden and
they would learn to trust Mathematica only to lose trust when
things were more complex.

The point is mathematics is complex. A tool designed to
implement mathematics can hardly be less complex. Attempts to
reduce the complexity invariably mean some aspects (typically
special cases) of the mathematics are being ignored or hidden.
Ignoring or hiding such special cases limits the usefulness of Mathematica.

>The second sentences above says,  "Mathematica forms a rich complex
>toolset for doing mathematica [NOTE: 'mathematica'] analysis."

>Freudian slip?

Simple typo. It should have been mathematical analysis.



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