Re: Mathematica 126.96.36.199 and some General Comments
- To: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net
- Subject: [mg97448] Re: Mathematica 188.8.131.52 and some General Comments
- From: Szabolcs Horvát <szhorvat at gmail.com>
- Date: Fri, 13 Mar 2009 04:52:25 -0500 (EST)
- References: <firstname.lastname@example.org> <email@example.com> <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Mariano Su=E1rez-Alvarez wrote: > > Well, if you come up with a proof of a theorem > which depends on non-trivial Mathematica code > to do non-trivial computations, in what way can > you possibly say that you know how the proof works, > if *you* yourself, the author of the proof, do not > know what Mathematica is really doing? Using > closed-source code simply goes against the very > spirit of open review which is essential to > the scientific endeavor. > > There was a recent discussion in this subject > on the AMS Notices, which you can get at > <http://www.ams.org/notices/200710/tx071001279p.pdf>. > This is a very misleading argument---a nasty sophism, I should say. And it's quoted way too much. A piece of software is not any less buggy by virtue of being open source. People usually don't know how the software they use works *exactly*, open source or not. And they usually don't have the time or the knowledge to check it either. The sane approach is to accept that software are buggy, and check the results with different methods rather than e.g. learning the theory of indefinite integration, and start reading open source system X's source code. (Unless your field of research happens to be indefinite integration, of course.) Blindly trusting open source programs leads to just as bad mistakes as blindly trusting commercial software (expect that with the current state of scientific software, it is likely to take longer and be more painful to obtain those bad results with open source programs than with the popular commercial choices).