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Re: Language vs. Library why it matters / Turing

  • To: mathgroup at
  • Subject: [mg61612] Re: Language vs. Library why it matters / Turing
  • From: Richard Fateman <fateman at>
  • Date: Sun, 23 Oct 2005 05:46:39 -0400 (EDT)
  • Organization: University of California, Berkeley
  • References: <dipr57$hfl$> <> <dj4p5f$gpf$> <> <djcvu8$epr$>
  • Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at

Andrzej Kozlowski wrote:

> ... snip...

>> RJF claims Mathematica is not deterministic.
> Most of these are bugs. 

So some of the non-determinisms are not bugs but .. features?

The issues arising from a change that takes
> place due to a change in algorithm should be solved by better  
> documentation. There are also issues of different behaviour on  
> different platforms due to the use of TimeConstrained. These are  
> harder to deal with (probably one would need to somehow estimate the  
> speed of the CPU starting of Mathematica.)

I do not think that this is the totally of the non-determinism.

  By in any case, all of
> this concerns the "mathematical" aspects of Mathematica

No, look at Maxim's reports.  Also note that data structures like lists
or tables show peculiar behavior independent of mathematics.

  and I thought
> you supported the notion of "core language" (your brilliant idea of  
> Atica that is supposed to make you rich at SW's expense), and that  
> the math functions do not belong to that.

I was not planning my retirement based on that.

  So which one you are
> objecting to teaching in a first programing course, Mathematica the  
> CAS or Atica the programming language?
Atica, the programming language.  I think it is reasonable to have
students learn Mathematica, as a tool, in a different course.
>>  Actually, I remember from the days when I tried programming in
>>>other languages (including C) that they would also produce
>>>unpredictable results if you violated the official syntax (one would
>>>sometimes get correct and sometimes incorrect output).
>>Unpredictable by you because you don't know enough about the language
>>is different from
>>Unpredictable by anyone because the language implementation varies
>>according to (say) where in memory the pages are loaded.
> Fail to see much difference as far as the use is concerned.

In other words, you think
that "Andrzej can't do X"  means "It is impossible to do X".

>>I know of no first-programming-language courses in American  
>>that use Mathematica.  I think it would be fine to teach Mathematica
>>in an engineering problem-solving symbolic/numeric course to students
>>who already know how to program.  Nancy Blachman taught such a course
>>at Stanford.  I believe it was not open to Computer Science majors.
>>(I even lectured once in it!)
>>But most computer scientists would, I think, object to teaching
>>mathematica as a program language as such.
> This is merely an unsupported assertion.
1. I think I might have heard of a university teaching Mathematica as
a first programming language. The most plausible would be Univ. Illinois,
where Jerry Uhl is a big fan. But I think he is in Math, not Computer
Science.  A brief search using Google came up with a book, (with Sam Kamin
as one of the authors) but no signs of course adoption.
The fact is, I know of no course. Are you
doubting this statement?

  I can also make such
> assertions but what is the point?

You could assert that there is a computer science course in the USA
using Mathematica as a first language.  But  is it in a secret place, and
you can't reveal it?

  Obviously Mathematica is primarily
> what is somewhat misleadingly called a CAS.

> Most computer scientists  
> do not know its programming language and it is my impression most  
> programmers tend to object to teaching languages they are not  
> comfortable with.

teachers of intro programming language courses have to balance
many criteria for choosing a particular language. Mathematica
fails on a number of criteria, and unfamilarity is not even on
my short list.

> But obviously I meant a first programming course for mathematicians  
> and scientists.

I think that mathematicians and scientists should gain an appreciation
of computer programming, data structures, and computer arithmetic that is on a firmer
basis than that used in Mathematica.  Afterward they can learn about
CAS.  YOu might see what you can find out about a project at
Sun Microsystems regarding a new programming language for science,
called Fortress. Maybe a superset of Mathematica.
> Andrzej Kozlowski
> Tokyo, Japan

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