FAQ

On Sep 11, 2004, at 5:21 AM, Gene Boggs wrote:

This is a cool quote from the paper, "Parsing TEX into Mathematics":

We agree that there are good reasons for trying to come up with a
single universal grammar and semantics for mathematics notation, but
we are concerned that any efforts to find a fixed and complete
notation must founder on the shoals of ambiguity. Even granted some
oracle of disambiguation, it appears that total generality must
require fairly substantial extensibility and the ability to
incorporate context into interpretation. One simply cannot expect to
represent all past and especially all future mathematics with a fixed
set of notations. Therefore one must provide tools for extension that
are sufficiently "universal" for all further work.
Math, like everything else, needs an enema. Style and content are
mixed up all over the place:

x is a scalar, but B<x> is a vector.

R stands for range, but ornate R (&real;, for those keeping score in
HTML) stands for the set of real numbers.

Probability folks use middle-dot as a placeholder, like $_. (OK,
that's pretty cool.)

Inconsistency across disciplines: most fields use I<i> for the square
root of -1, but electrical engineers already use i for current, so they
use I<j> for the square root of -1. I hope this has resulted in at
least one electrocution.

Requires too much flexibility from typesetting packages (consider
Eulerian notation, where the eighteenth derivative of "f" is "f" with
eighteen dots over it, or cascading exponentials (2 to the 3 to the 4
to the 5 to the 6 to the 7 makes for a pretty eentsy 7).

People who flip A upside down and turn E around left-to-right just for
kicks deserve no mercy.

-Jon

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postedSep 11, '04 at 9:20a
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