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Re: Journals dying?, apparently rather slowly (was , I->-I)

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  • Subject: [mg106826] Re: [mg106791] Journals dying?, apparently rather slowly (was , I->-I)
  • From: "David Park" <djmpark at>
  • Date: Sun, 24 Jan 2010 05:42:33 -0500 (EST)
  • References: <27994965.1264251543203.JavaMail.root@n11>

Two topics: technical publishing in general and technical publishing with

All those journals are known as vanity publishing, Richard. You pay the
publisher, they don't pay you. In the technical world it is hugely
expensive, interminably slow, and grossly inefficient at making the useful
communication links.

More and more, work is published on the web. It is the better archive.
Everyone has access to it. An adequate descriptive title and good search
engine will find any paper. There is at least one very important paper that
is only available on the web. Any useful paper is probably useful to a
rather small selected group of people. It is only important that they read
the papers. (And one might hope that they would read them closely.) Various
groups may have prime characters like Father Marin Mersenne, who spread word
through emails and may even send copies of the important papers. It doesn't
take long for the scientific world to separate the good from the bad and the
useful from the useless. 

The price of tulips soared before it crashed. Trading in mortgage backed
derivatives soared before it crashed. The only thing worse than linear
extrapolation is exponential extrapolation. Instead of looking at trends,
look at what the intrinsic qualities of things are before deciding what is

Active, dynamic Mathematica notebooks are a better medium for communicating
technical information than static papers. Most of us already know that. I've
tried to give some of the reasons why this is so in previous posts.
Basically it is because they have more avenues for presenting information,
because it is easier for humans to understand actions than static objects,
and because there is higher integrity since things have to actually work.
That is why Mathematica notebooks, or something like them, will eventually
displace static papers. You already see the interest in this with web based
Java displays. But they are not yet a part of standard paper publishing.

Andrzej suggested that active, dynamic notebooks could be useful for
publishing in a field such as financial economics but perhaps not in a field
such as algebraic topology. Even though I myself couldn't write anything
useful in either of these fields, I wouldn't concede the point. I think
Andrzej is saying that dynamics may be more useful with graphics than with
algebra, derivations and proofs. This may be only because we haven't worked
hard enough at developing the techniques.

In fact, algebra, derivations and proofs are the difficult things. They are
not only difficult to work out in the first place, but they are difficult
for students to understand and for readers to follow. Why are they difficult
to follow? Basically because they are presented as a set of static objects
and the reader must fill in the transitions. But suppose we think of a
derivation or proof as a kind of animation, but instead of an object moving
from frame to frame we have an algebraic expression that changes from step
to step. The transformations could be carried out by axioms or previous
Theorems in the form of rules and definitions. It is much more convincing to
see a transformation effected by an active symbolic calculation than having
to fill it in by hand, or by imagination. Furthermore, if the writer
develops the axioms and theorems in the form of rules and definitions, he
has a powerful set of tools at his disposal for further work, and he
presents these tools to his reader. One of the difficult things for students
is to know precisely what are the starting givens for a proof or derivation.
They are often implied or vague. An active, dynamic proof makes them clear
and explicit.

A proof may be complex and long. It may have an inherent structure and be
more like a tree than a straight linear development. It may run on for pages
and, especially if there is poor typography, be difficult to follow. It
would be much nicer if we could present a proof as a single compact object.
Proofs sometimes omit the justification for a step, or refers to it
cryptically (Axiom A.5, found 3 pages earlier.) The reader is like a real
estate lawyer doing title searches. One part of a proof may depend on other
parts that are separate so one has to do a certain amount of flipping back
and forth. 

With dynamics we can do a lot to overcome these problems and clarify the
presentation of proofs. We could lay out the proof with buttons in a grid or
tree, or any structure we want that might reflect the actual structure of
the proof. Thus, in a notebook, the proof would be a compact object. Each
button could display a particular 'page' of the proof so we could read the
proof in organized chunks. The pages could consist of two-column displays
that had explanations on the left the current expressions on the right.
Putting the cursor over the expressions would display the Mathematica
statement that produced that expression. Then you could arrange it so each
button could either produce the page directly in the notebook, just below
the structure, or bring it up in a separate window. That way you could
arrange any two pages side by side when it was convenient. For example, one
page might be the axioms and lemmas (in full useful form) used in the proof.
(All of these facilities are actually in the Derivations sub-package that
comes with the Presentations package.)

One of the principles of dynamic notebooks is: Don't jerk the reader around.
Bring the needed material TO the reader, when and where he needs it.

Of course, Mathematica notebooks as papers are only useful if they can be
universally and freely evaluated. That's the sticking point.

David Park
djmpark at  

From: Richard Fateman [mailto:fateman at] 

I just checked my online catalog for names that include "computer" and 
"journal"  and got 945 hits.

Now these are either online, or they appear in the catalog which is on line.

Do you really think these are all going to be replaced by 
Mathematica-based dynamic .nb stuff anytime soon?

Even stuff like
	Interactive multimedia electronic journal of computer-enhanced
[electronic resource] : IMEJ of CEL
(started in 1999).

and what about

	International journal of applied mathematics and computer science / 
Technical University of Zielona

That's in Poland.

searching for mathematics AND journal  I got 600 hits.
searching for mathematica AND journal  I got 18, e.g. Acta Mathematica 

So, in spite of all protestations to the contrary, journals seem to be 
around, and in fact new ones are starting up and apparently making 
money, even now.

I'm not saying it's a good thing, of course.


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