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Re: Mathematica and Lisp

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  • Subject: [mg129709] Re: Mathematica and Lisp
  • From: Richard Fateman <fateman at>
  • Date: Wed, 6 Feb 2013 01:52:22 -0500 (EST)
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On 2/3/2013 5:20 PM, John Doty wrote:
You seem to think I haven't written Mathematica programs.
Maybe looking at the appendix here would change your mind.
Maybe not, though.

(JD writes..)

> Considered as software failures, both of these occurred in application code and were not the result of programming language deficiencies.

Was the code not written in a programming language?
Even if it was written in assembler, that too is
a programming language.  I expect that the bug
occurred because the programmer did not realize the
semantics of the code.

>I don't find Mathematica to be especially mysterious relative to its capabilities.

Mathematica the language is, I think, relatively mysterious. The 
application underneath it adds both capabilities and extra mystery.

>> (RJF)
  I would hope you would be very aware of the Ariane 5
>> and similar disasters.
> I am aware of those, as well as many that you've never heard of.

How would you know that I don't know? Are they secret?

> Not all bugs are of equal importance. An error of 5.5E-79 in a Bessel function is very unlikely
 >to cause trouble in a practical application.

One of the marvels of computing today is that it is possible to do so 
much in such a short time.
One can execute billions of instructions a second.  If only
one in a million does the wrong thing, and is wrong only
by a tiny percent,  you can accumulate a whopping mistake
in a second.

  I've been using Mathematica to do practical work since version 1,
 > and I've never encountered a bug in its numerics.

I guess it is my turn to wonder if YOU know much about Mathematica.

> Crazy results from numerical codes are a normal occurrance,
 > I don't find Mathematica to be unusually hazardous here.

I guess I disagree on this point.
>> This is pretty far afield from the original question which I
>> think was somehow...s Mathematica somehow Lisp-like.... should I learn Lisp...
> I'm unusual in that I write practical engineering code in Scheme (a Lisp dialect),
 > along with code for both science and engineering in Mathematica.

I think that is unusual, but I count it as a good thing.  Though
Common Lisp  (a Lisp dialect) is used in space computations --
the Hubble telescope.  For more applications, see

> Programming language specialists have many interesting ideas,
 > but lousy judgement when it comes to which ones are important
 >in any particular application context.

Somewhat over-generalized, I think.


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