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Re: Stephen Wolfram's recent blog

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  • Subject: [mg129810] Re: Stephen Wolfram's recent blog
  • From: Andrzej Kozlowski <akozlowski at>
  • Date: Fri, 15 Feb 2013 03:35:12 -0500 (EST)
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This sort of thing has appeared on this forum so often that it is in 
danger of catching up with RJF's tedious nit picking but unlike in this 
latter case there is no obvious intention to annoy someone so it merits 
a brief response.

All the things written below may well be arguably true of Mathematica 
but not of the language used by Mathematica. That such a language exists 
is beyond dispute: it has syntax and it has semantics which makes it a 
language. Unlike most other computer languages (but like natural 
languages) it has never been formally defined and so there is some doubt 
about what belongs to it and what does not, but that does not stop it 
being a language. Just like with a natural language, having a name for 
it or deciding what belongs to it or not, is not very important unless 
the language begins to be used outside its native environment. Anything 
that is spoken by people in England is English by definition, the issue 
only arises when other's start using it. Is American English a different 
or the same language? The very asking of this question requires naming 
the language(s) involved.

Similarly the issue of the name of the Mathematica language arises only 
if it is going to be used by other programs than Mathematica. This is 
actually already happening. These programs, by the way, do not aspire to 
reproduce the "MagicPaper" aspects of Mathematica, hence this and the 
other proposals below are quite irrelevant. The issue is really only 
about syntax and (to a lesser degree) semantics and therefore about "a 

Andrzej Kozlowski

On 14 Feb 2013, at 08:10, djmpark <djmpark at> wrote:

> Can we answer here? That's what I'm going to do because it seems the 
> venue and I don't have to type into a small box.
> This raises a number of questions. What does "freely available" mean? 
Can we
> expect a major change in the business model? And what does Stephen 
mean by "
> the programming language of Mathematica ". Is it everything one types 
in a
> notebook? Or just things that get sent to the kernel? How about things 
> get sent to the front end? How about Text cells and Section headers?
> The way I feel about it is: "We don't need no stinking programming
> language!" Many of the employees at WRI need a programming language 
but why
> do the users need one?
> Instead of thinking of writing a computer program, why can't one think 
> writing function definitions, equations, specifications (for a graphic 
> table say, or for initial data), axioms (as Rules say) and other 
> forms of expression? I like to think of Mathematica as a piece of 
paper on
> which we develop, write, and communicate ideas with a significant
> mathematical or computational content.
> So how about a name like MagicPaper because the piece of paper has 
> magical qualities, with its computational power, memory and access to 
a wide
> spectrum of information? Or maybe CPR for Computational Paper with
> Resources. It really does get to the heart of the matter. Maybe static
> "Paper" is not quite right but Windows might annoy the Mac people and
> Screens isn't too great. Anyway, paper was used to doodle, try out 
> calculate and do symbolic math, and communicate ideas and that's what 
> want to catch.
> I see people who write in "Mathematica" as ranging from those simply 
> it as a graphical calculator, to those writing extensive scholarly 
> (which I call Actomes for Active Tomes) that consist of books in the 
form of
> a collection of notebooks, a number of packages with full 
> (through Workbench unless WRI comes up with something better). These 
can be
> wonderful things because they can act as a vehicle for exchanging 
ideas and
> further development between authors and readers, or among groups of 
> The other users are readers of such productions.
> It doesn't seem quite right to try to isolate the "programming 
> part of this - or even think in the paradigm of programming.
> David Park
> djmpark at
> From: danl at [mailto:danl at]
> Readers of comp.soft-sys.math.mathematica (MathGroup) might be 
interested in
> the latest blog from Stephen Wolfram.
> athematica/
> It raises the question of what to call the programming language of
> Mathematica. I will quote from near the end:
> "What should the name be? I'm hoping to get feedback on the ideas I've
> discussed here, as well as to get new suggestions."
> The Comments section has reached 66 as of the time of my writing this note.
> And the blog is but a few hours old. Suggestions are solicited.
> Daniel Lichtblau
> Wolfram Research

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