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Re: Subscript[x,

  • To: mathgroup at
  • Subject: [mg104073] Re: Subscript[x,
  • From: danl at
  • Date: Sun, 18 Oct 2009 05:22:28 -0400 (EDT)
  • References: <hb9jt6$ke$> <>

>  "Nasser M. Abbasi" <nma at> wrote:
>> Before, I used to use Clear["Global`*] to clear all variable, until I
>> just
>> found subscripted variable do not get cleared
>> In[31]:= Remove["Global`*"]
>> In[33]:= Subscript[a, 1] = 5
>> In[34]:= Subscript[a, 1]
>> Out[34]= 5
>> In[35]:= Clear["Global`*"]    --> now clear it
>> In[36]:= Subscript[a, 1]
>> Out[36]= 5      ----> did not clear
> In related vein, I find the following long-standing behaviour to be
> irksome and illogical:
> In[1]:= Subscript[x, 1] = 3
> In[2]:= Clear[Subscript[x, 1]]
> Clear::ssym: Subscript[x, 1] is not a symbol or a string. >>
> To clear the subscript, you have to use Unset, which produces beeps if
> the Subscript[x,1] has not been assigned a value. All so messy.
> Why not just make Clear do what it is meant to do, or at least, make it
> do what people reasonably expect it will do?
> Cheers
> Colin

I have also run afoul of this, and found it to be a minor irretant. But I
don't think the "obvious" thing would be the right thing, and I am not
convinced it would be feasible within the current design of the language.

Unset is meant to undo Set/SetDelayed, and handles this as it ought. Clear
is meant to remove DownValues and the like. These are attached to symbols,
not toexpressions. I think this is quite appropriate, as it supports a
substantial portion of Mathematica programming. So invoking Clear on a
non-symbol is not going to manage what you have in mind.

Should it be extended to perform Unset on non-symbol expressions? I would
surmise that might have some unexpected side effects (this is a quick
guess and I have not thought it through in detail). It would certainly be
a bit weird to overload Clear to do what it normally does with symbols,
and something else with non-symbol expressions.

Daniel Lichtblau
Wolfram Research

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