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Re: Fonts, Formats, and examples as learning tools

  • To: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net
  • Subject: [mg113623] Re: Fonts, Formats, and examples as learning tools
  • From: AES <siegman at stanford.edu>
  • Date: Fri, 5 Nov 2010 05:11:11 -0500 (EST)
  • References: <iatt31$egu$1@smc.vnet.net>

In article <iatt31$egu$1 at smc.vnet.net>,
 Murray Eisenberg <murray at math.umass.edu> wrote:

> I tried it and got exactly what I expected, including having the input 
> spit back at me when I used RowForm (since there is no such built-in 
> Mathematica function).

Consistency -- for the reasons stated.

By the way, Column appears to yield the same default vertical spacing 
between elements as does TableForm.  So, I'd assume Row also yields the 
same default horizontal spacing between elements as does TableForm?

I can appreciate that some applications might routinely want zero 
horizontal spacing in a Row; but then others might not.  In fact, many 
might expect that Row[{a,b,c,d}] and Row[{ab,cd}] ought to come out 
looking different, at least in the default case.  Anyone who wants to 
can of course then easily reduce this spacing to zero.

Given the natural similarities between rows, columns, and tables in 
everyday life, might it have been sensible to build Mathematica using a 
basic structure in which Row, Column, and Table all had consistent 
iterators, and RowForm, ColumnForm and TableForm all were formats or 
"wrappers"?  

Maybe there are subtleties that would make this difficult -- but maybe 
not.


> What were _you_ expecting, and why?
> 
> On 11/3/2010 3:57 AM, AES wrote:
> > In response to a query about Fonts and Formats, Bob Hanlon
> > <hanlonr at cox.net>   suggests the example:
> >
> >> Style["This is a test of various fonts 0123456789",
> >>      FontFamily ->  #, 18]&  /@
> >>    {"American Typewriter", "Arial",
> >>     "Papyrus", "Playbill", "Webdings",
> >>     "Zapf Dingbats"} // Column
> >
> > I was intrigued by the "// Column" suffix -- a usage I had not
> > previously encountered.
> >
> > And, it took my mind back to a couple of recent threads where posters
> > enthused over 'examples' as a desirable form of documentation, and as a
> > good way of learning the intricacies of Mathematica.
> >
> > My (unposted) reaction at that time had been that examples can give you
> > good bits of code, which you can copy and use immediately; but they can
> > also be a *bad* (or at best misleading) way of learning Mathematica,
> > because of the human tendency to think that if some particular coding
> > gimmick works in one example, it's likely to work in other apparently
> > similar or parallel situations -- in other words, the natural human
> > tendency to generalize.
> >
> > The above example provides a beautiful example of this.  Try copying it
> > and executing it six consecutive times, replacing the word 'Column"
> > successively by
> >
> >     Row, RowForm, Column, ColumnForm, Table, TableForm
> >
> > [and, as always, make your own prediction *in advance* as to what's
> > going to happen in each case.]
> >


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