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Re: Re: Re: Mathematica and some General

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  • Subject: [mg97435] Re: [mg97360] Re: [mg97324] Re: Mathematica and some General
  • From: George Woodrow III <georgevw3 at>
  • Date: Fri, 13 Mar 2009 04:50:00 -0500 (EST)
  • References: <goqphr$lt2$> <gp5fou$9nr$>

Sure, there are problems with proprietary software of any kind.  
Companies close, or change the direction of their products. (In my  
opinion, MS would be in much better shape and useful to me if Word had  
stuck with version 5.2 other than compatibility updates. ;-)

However, the important thing in mathematics are the ideas. The  
Mathematica, c++, or other codes are 'just' implementations.

The hard part of any task is solving the problem. One the problem is  
solved, the implementation can, in some sense, be termed trivial. Over  
the years, I have had to implement the solution to the same problem  
several different times, as the tools available changed -- from PDP-5s  
to my MacBook Pro.

Mathematica is an efficient means. I have to write far less code than  
I would implementing a solution in c. Despite minor problems with  
documentation, using Mathematica has far less hassle than dealing with  
a set of open source tools.

One is 'locked in' to Mathematica only if one is using the system as a  
crutch: not learning how to integrate because Mathematica does it for  
you or not learning how to deal with matrices. Granted, it takes time  
to master any system, and 'experts' may be locked in because their job  
depends on knowing the specific magic incantations for Mathematica,  
but this is true for almost any job.

All of us are dependent on the kindness of strangers, even those who  
just use a number 2 pencil and pad. All the books and journal articles  
make it possible to solve problems without re-inventing the wheel. In  
principle, software tools are essentially the same. Unlike my work in  
the 1970s and 1980s, I don't have to roll my own routines or design my  
own graphics.

I see no insurmountable problem with 'changing brands'. If Mathematica  
disappeared tomorrow, it would take time to learn the specifics of  
another system, but my knowledge of the problem and the solutions to  
problems would not change.

I am reminded of the lines from a temp secretary in the movie "Dave" :  
"I learned on the Wang, and they put me on the IBM. I can't do the  
IBM". (This was a 1993 movie when Wang sold intelligent typewriters.)

Some people are interested in Mathematica for its own sake, just as  
there are people who are interested in c++ for its own sake.

For my part, I am interested in finding out things using mathematics.  
Mathematica is a wonderful tool that I use on this journey, but it is  
only a tool. I can use other tools, but I cannot replace my knowledge  
of mathematics, logic, chemistry, philsophy, .... Mathematica, at its  
best, lets me solve problems efficiently so that I have time for my  
real work.

george woodrow

On Mar 12, 2009, at 3:14 AM, peter wrote:

> Its the danger of being "locked-in" to a product that people are  
> concerned
> about. Changing chalk brand isn't going to ruin your Maths day,  
> unless the
> chalk is rubbish of course. One can imagine there is some risk to  
> getting
> locked-in to Mathematica or any other proprietary brand competitor.  
> Even
> with C++, Fortran etc you can get so dependent on proprietary  
> libraries,
> which may be "black-boxes", that you'd be struggling to cope if you  
> had to
> change brand ?
> 2009/3/11 <mike.honeychurch at>
>> On Mar 10, 5:35 am, Sebastian Meznaric <mezna... at> wrote:
>>> I don't think Mathematica should replace mathematics. It is an
>>> important tool, but very importantly, a commercial closed-source  
>>> tool.
>>> It costs a great deal of money and you do not know what it is doing
>>> (although most of the time it gives correct results). Only systems
>>> that can be considered to generally replace Mathematics have got  
>>> to be
>>> open source (although I admit I do not use any). If at least the  
>>> basis
>>> of Mathematica was made open-source with paid-for support from  
>>> Wolfram
>>> that would make things a lot better. As it stands, we should not  
>>> chain
>>> people to commercial software.
>> Other than people who use pencils and paper, or blackboards and
>> chalk*, everyone is "chained" to commercial products in their
>> workplaces. We need to "free" our minds a bit from the idea that
>> software should somehow be an exception to everything else that  
>> occurs
>> in our workplaces. Or alternatively perhaps someone can explain to me
>> why software should be any different to scientific equipment, cars,
>> dishwashers... I cannot use an open source mass spectrometer, drive  
>> an
>> open source car [although GM and Ford are verging on open source :),
>> or at least maybe publicly owned soon] etc.
>> Mike
>> *these are also commercial products of course
> -- 
> Peter Lindsay

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