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Re: Re: Mathematica and some General Comments

  • To: mathgroup at
  • Subject: [mg97200] Re: [mg97187] Re: Mathematica and some General Comments
  • From: DrMajorBob <btreat1 at>
  • Date: Sun, 8 Mar 2009 05:49:14 -0500 (EST)
  • References: <goqphr$lt2$> <>
  • Reply-to: drmajorbob at

I disagree completely as to Power(less)point, at least.

Like Project, Excel, Word, Windows, Money, Windows itself, and every other  
MS application I can think of, Powerpoint has barely improved AT ALL in 15  
years. More bells and whistles, yes; significant improvement in  
functionality or paradigm? No. But if that's what you like, fine.

Of that group, Money is WORSE than frozen in time. It degrades  
continually. It has no on-disk documentation now, its online docs are  
useless, EVERY default setting is the least convenient possible, and Vista  
was shipped incompatible with it due to IE security defaults. You couldn't  
reach banks, and you couldn't reach online documentation so that you could  
hope to fix the problem. A MS app, incompatible with a MS operating  
system. Astonishing! (I found a fix, but MS was definitely not the source.)

Encarta was my favorite encyclopedia, better than anything I can find  
today, but they simply abandoned it.

So... if you depend on Powerpoint for anything, you're very trusting.

Meanwhile, Mathematica gains power in all directions at a phenomenal rate.  
True, it outstrips its documentation, and I'm a well-known critic of  
THAT... but MS applications, arguably, are worse.

Anyway, I like being able to do just about ANYTHING in a single  
application (Mathematica).

I agree on the price-point for a first-time purchase, but Premium Support,  
with its free upgrades, isn't a bad deal, at all. (The support has never  
helped me one iota, but the upgrades are worth it, anyway.)

In every way, it's a long-term investment.


On Sat, 07 Mar 2009 01:40:57 -0600, AES <siegman at> wrote:

> In article <goqphr$lt2$1 at>,
>  "David Park" <djmpark at> wrote:
>> 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.
> I am absolutely as saddened and dismayed by the above observations as I
> believe David Park is -- but unfortunately also not much surprised by
> them.
> I would especially endorse every word of the last three sentences of the
> first paragraph above.  I have long believed in, and personally and
> extensively used Mathematica for exactly those purposes, in research,
> teaching, educating, learning, publishing, lecturing, and personal
> avocations, ever since the day I got my hands on Mathematica version 1
> (and, in fact, I pursued all those objectives using RealBASIC, Igor,
> Excel, and other even more primitive tools well before that).
> On the other hand, I am also (equally sadly) not at all surprised by the
> above observations.  The bizarre and idiosyncratic and dysfunctional way
> that Mathematica has evolved, in its structure and syntax, in its user
> interface, in its pricing, and in its documentation, among other
> factors, all contribute significantly to the dismal situation summarized
> by David above.  I don't understand how things can have gone so wrong
> for Mathematica -- but they have.
> Ten years ago I was writing enthusiastic memos to my Deans and Vice
> Provosts for Research, and my university's IT people, urging them to
> invest university funds in Mathematica licenses and bookstore discounts;
> to sponsor (or pay for) free training courses for students, faculty and
> staff through the university; to promote the use of Mathematica
> throughout every even mildly technical area of the university; and to
> make it a kind of semi-official university standard for all areas of
> research and teaching (as they had, at that time, semi-officially done
> for the Mac platform).
> To be blunt, if a proposal like that were actually to be taken under
> consideration by my university today -- not that there's any chance that
> this could actually happen at this point -- I would actively oppose it,
> or at least recommend that a major effort be undertaken to explore every
> other possible substitute (and there are some out there) to meet the
> same needs.
>> 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.
> Unfortunately here we have to part company.  Your second sentence above
> makes it seem as if you've never heard of PowerPoint -- which is very
> possibly "the dominant method of publication and communication in the
> technical world" today -- along with QuickTime, HTML, Flash, Word, TeX,
> LaTeX, the entire Adobe product line, and the ever expanding set of
> online and multimedia journals and innumerable personal and
> institutional web sites, all of which, working together quite
> constructively in most cases, are nearly obliterating "static printed
> documents", in the technical world and everywhere else.
> Mathematica is (or at least in earlier versions was, from the beginning)
> absolutely an insanely great "ancillary tool to produce calculated
> results and starting graphics" (including all kinds of animations) for
> all the objectives we've both agreed upon.  Adding a certain level of
> interactivity to these graphics in recent versions is quite wonderful
> also.
> But the idea that these results, along with all the underlying analysis,
> will then also have to be "delivered" (presented, displayed, put on
> screen) (and also organized, maintained, cataloged, re-purposed,
> modified, edited, annotated), using (and _only_ using) Mathematica and
> Mathematica notebooks, is just, in my considered opinion, an absolute
> non-starter -- and a _highly_ destructive concept as well, in its impact
> on the usability of Mathematica for what it's really good at (and where
> it in fact really has very limited competition).
> I'm afraid that I'm strongly enough convinced of this point that
> examining this idea further is just of no interest to me.  We should be
> focusing on what's needed to keep Mathematica highly _usable_ for the
> particular things it's really near uniquely _useful_ for, not trying to
> make it a monster tool for everything in the world.

DrMajorBob at

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