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Re: Mathematica and Lisp

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  • Subject: [mg129490] Re: Mathematica and Lisp
  • From: W Craig Carter <ccarter at MIT.EDU>
  • Date: Fri, 18 Jan 2013 00:49:52 -0500 (EST)
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  • References: <kcqkv4$lq5$> <kct7fj$sgo$> <kd03ej$6dl$> <> <kd5huk$jk6$> <>

On Jan 17, 13, at 12:14 PM, Richard Fateman wrote:

> On 1/15/2013 10:39 PM, Murray Eisenberg wrote:
>> On Jan 14, 2013, at 11:31 PM, David Bailey <dave at> wrote:
>> It all depends on just what you want somebody to accomplish when learning his/her first programming language.
> There are several issues here.
> For a starter, 4-year colleges generally do not offer credit for "a
> course to teach you to program in language X" in a department of
> computer science.
> There may be such courses in physics, statistics, etc departments,
> but this should be classified as a utility course, akin to "how to use
> the microwave oven in the lunchroom".

Was this analogy meant to be pejorative?

I  teach such a course and receive current and a posteriori feedback on the benefits of learning to  rapidly construct a model, compute it, and visualize it. Equally important, the students learn math and a means to acquire more math on their own---and quickly.  I teach fundamental concepts of my discipline by using novice programming, numerical analysis, symbolic algebra: voila, canonical discipline knowledge and transferable skills in one course.

The "microwave usage" analogy diminishes the importance of an indispensable tool to an applied scientist or engineer.

I have physical science colleagues who consider programing and linear algebra to be superfluous because they use spreadsheet tools.  I consider their myopic view marginally more perverse than (paraphrasing) `classifying computer language tools as microwave ovens for those who don't build microwaves or understand their operating principles'.

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