Mathematica 7.0.1.0 and some General Comments

*To*: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net*Subject*: [mg97148] Mathematica 7.0.1.0 and some General Comments*From*: "David Park" <djmpark at comcast.net>*Date*: Fri, 6 Mar 2009 04:26:52 -0500 (EST)

I was mildly disappointed that some fixes did not appear in Mathematica 7.0.1.0. Some of these appear to be platform dependent but they were verified on MathGroup by other users besides myself. 1) In Input cells the vertical bar or Mathematica Alternatives symbol does not display properly. It only shows a short truncated stub. It does display properly in Output cells and it does perform properly. This seems to occur only with certain font sizes and magnifications. a|b 2) There is still a problem with the various types of Density plots in that part of the plot Frame is cut off. DensityPlot[Sin[x y], {x, 0, 3}, {y, 0, 3}] 3) In many situations Copy and Paste do not work properly from the context menu. I consider this a major problem. I was warned that this fix would not appear in 7.0.1.0, but I would have preferred that the update be delayed until it could be fixed. It is a bit more than a minor chore to do an update of Mathematica. 4) The following may have nothing to do with WRI but may be a Windows Vista feature. Since Version 6 (which was when I also started using Vista) the WRI palettes would never remember their positions or states. The problem is that the Security setting for the Wolfram program files FrontEnd/Palettes folder is such that the user can't modify the contents. One can go to the folder, right click, choose Properties and then change the Security settings so the user has full control. Then the palettes will remember their positions and states. It is now two months short of two years since Version 6 was released with its new style of documentation. It is a bitter disappointment to me that there is still no adequate support for documenting the kind of packages that could be documented in the older Help Browser format. Specifically it is not possible to document packages that have multiple sub-packages whose loading is controlled by a stub package with DeclarePackage statements. A fully functional and well documented Workbench would be a valuable tool for producing fully active and integrated textbooks, university courses, or major research projects. They could contain multiple packages with documentation, separate chapters or courseware notebooks (with their own style sheets) and all be linked together to form a unit. I wish that WRI would give some serious attention to this. The 2 January 2009 issue of Science was largely devoted to 'Education and Technology'. There were many articles about the use of 'computer games', 'virtual reality', java applets and such but I could not find a single mention of Mathematica or even CASs in general. To me, this is absolutely incredible! I cannot see anything that can come even close to Mathematica for students who actually want to DO some mathematics or learn some technical subject matter. I'm thinking of actually organizing calculations, derivations or proofs, trying examples and alternative methods, and describing and explaining the methods. Isn't this what 'STEM' education should be all about? A year or so ago, on sci.math.symbolic a high school student stated that he was interesting in studying pure mathematics and wanted to know what computer language he should learn to further that goal. There were hundreds of responses with some threads going to great depth. As far as I could find, there was not a single mention of Mathematica and only one reference to using a CAS. Everything else concerned the merits of C++, Perl, List, Fortran etc. To me, this again was incredible. This all leads me to believe that Mathematica is poorly positioned in the marketplace. At the present time, static printed documents are the dominant method of publication and communication in the technical world. Mathematica is primarily an ancillary tool to produce calculated results and starting graphics for these static documents. I believe that static documents are a dying technology and they will sooner or later be replaced by active and dynamic Mathematica notebooks - or their equivalent. Why? Because they are orders of magnitude superior for presenting and explaining mathematical and technical ideas. WRI seems to have this concept in mind but one feels that they don't take it with full seriousness, or realize the impediments in the way. I like to encourage people to think of Mathematica not so much as a super calculator or programming language (although it is in part those things) but as simply a piece of paper on which they are developing and expressing their technical ideas. It would be very nice if by the time students got to university they were proficient enough with Mathematica so they could spend most of their time thinking about their subject matter and not about Mathematica. That is a tall order! As Bill Rowe and others point out, there is a lot of study and practice that goes into becoming proficient with Mathematica. It means that students headed for technical careers must begin their Mathematica learning while very young, and that Mathematica should be dominant enough that many will want to do it and think it the natural thing. Mathematica was probably conceived without consideration for the Internet (however WRI has caught up with a vengeance). But it is a creature of the Internet because it is so extended and complex that it is absolutely necessary for users to help each other. MathGroup and the Internet in general give Mathematica a life it could not have without it. One other requirement to make a breakthrough is the necessity of anyone to be able to freely read an active and dynamic Mathematica notebook. It should be something like the model of the free Acrobat reader. PlayerPro would do the job but it is too expensive. I know there are problems here. I wouldn't care if the reader couldn't print or save the notebook. Perhaps dynamic InputFields could be limited in the total number of typed characters for the notebook. Anyway, if it is so easy to hack PlayerPro in a usable way, why don't some people just pay the $200 and do it? A free general Mathematica reader would do more to smash the old technology and advertise the power of Mathematica notebooks than anything else I can think of. David Park djmpark at comcast.net <http://home.comcast.net/~djmpark> http://home.comcast.net/~djmpark/