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what should Mathematica be?

  • To: mathgroup at (Mathematica mailing list)
  • Subject: what should Mathematica be?
  • From: msdrl!nachbar at (Dr. Robert B. Nachbar)
  • Date: Tue, 8 Dec 92 9:07:56 EDT

when the first note about possible directions for development of
Mathematica hit this mailing list, i sided with the author for more
math, more science, more engineering. since that time, many users have
responded both pro and con for "presentation" capabilities. it seems to
me that the root of the matter is COMMUNICATION.

Mathematica has to be able to communicate with its user. this stream of
information is bidirectional. it has to be productive. for the most part
wri has a very good product. the Mathematica language (is it officially
"m"?) is compact yet not overly terse and cryptic (as, for example, one
might say about UNIX). sure, there are niggling thing about graphics on
the different frontends (e.g., rotated text is not fully transformed in
the macintosh frontend), but overall Mathematica does an outstanding

but each man/woman is not an island. we have to communicate with our
bosses, students, deans, chairmen/women, customers, clients,
professional peers, .... to this end, there does need to be some
improvement. this does not mean that one has to go to the extreme and
build in the ability to make "chart junk" (see Tufte, "The Visual
Display of Quantitative Information" and "Envisioning Information"). All
of the human languages are rich in expression, and english has borrowed
much from many languages, and it is natural for us to want to be that
expressive in our written and graphic communication. it is indeed
difficult and painful to "squeeze math throught a keyboard," as it was
expressed in this forum recently. personal computers and workstations
have become very powerful, and the graphic display can show math (and
science and engineering etc.) in a meaningful and efficient (that is
productive) way. what we need to do is develop a means of expressing
ourselves to our computer programs that is natural for us and
unambiguous for the machines. let the computer count the points, picas,
inches, and centimeters. wri has many talented people, and i am
confident that they can build the tools we need so that using
Mathematica will become as easy as using pencil and paper.

Dr. Robert B. Nachbar | Merck Research Laboratories | 908/594-7795
nachbar at     | R50S-100                    | 908/594-4224 FAX
                      | PO Box 2000                 |
                      | Rahway, NJ 07065            |

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