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Re: Mathematica daily WTF

  • To: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net
  • Subject: [mg115093] Re: Mathematica daily WTF
  • From: Andrzej Kozlowski <akoz at mimuw.edu.pl>
  • Date: Thu, 30 Dec 2010 19:04:49 -0500 (EST)

On 29 Dec 2010, at 11:55, Richard Fateman wrote:

> When common programming terms are used in a different
> manner, it sows the seeds of misunderstanding.

Actually, it works both ways. No doubt for people with a "deeper" understanding of other languages who tend to assume that they are dealing with something familiar when in fact they are not, this could be a source of misunderstanding and as such a "bad thing". But for most "unsophisticated" users (whose cause you often claim to champion here) the situation is usually the opposite to this; this sort of superficial resemblance helps them to use Mathematica without the need for an extensive study and is therefore a "very good thing". In fact, this is closely related to an aspect of the Mathematica programming language for which you have explicitly expressed a dislike (in a private exchange with me): the fact that it contains all these "procedural" constructs like loops etc. While this certainly would be offensive to the aesthetics of a pure functional language like Lisp (or better Scheme), it actually is one of the main reasons for the success of Mathematica. I remember someone 
 t!
elling me that the lack of such constructs was the principal reason for the (relative) failure of SMP (I don't know if this is true, I have never used SMP and don't know anything about it). While Mathematica's procedural programming is usually unattractive and often inefficient, there are plenty of users who will not use anything else (including one user who frequently takes similar positions to yours on various Mathematica related issues) and would not even consider a alternative program that used Lisp for programming - just for that very reason.

What I referred to as a matter of "convenient syntax" is actually a quite crucial issue, for most people easily overriding in importance anything else mentioned in this thread.

Andrzej Kozlowski


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