[om] DefMP elements

Andreas Strotmann Strotmann at rrz.uni-koeln.de
Mon Dec 8 19:43:19 CET 2003

Jacques Carette wrote:

>I find that Andreas Strotmann's email eloquently voices many concerns that
>are similar to mine.  Thanks!
You're welcome :-)

> On the specific recommendations:
>I definitely agree with those first 3.
>As to the fourth:
>d) use signatures in definitions: this might prevent a definition from 
>being misapplied in an application that doesn't know any better. This 
>may well be done in the simple way of using universal quantifiers and 
>set memberships inside the defining FMPs, so that this may simply be 
>added as a recommendation to CD writers.
>Could you be more precise?  I believe I agree, but perhaps an example would
>help a lot.
>My understanding is you mean for the definition to explicitly mention the
>concepts it needs defined for it to be meaningful.  So a complex definition
>of exp would need the notions of complex numbers, series, convergence over
>the complex, to exist.  This would be a nasty looking signature if expanded,
>but if it is expressed all in terms of CD references, it would probably be
>quite compact.
>On the other hand, aren't you saying that perhaps OMDoc should be that
>'main' method of communication, and OpenMath serving OMDoc in the same way
>that XML serves OpenMath?
This is all one big question, so let me try to answer it as such.

I think I understand what you're saying: to be really precise, one would 
need to tag a definition by the concepts that it requires to hold true, 
but as you say, that might very well require a system like OMDoc to 
realize -- OpenMath as it stands is not really designed to handle that.

But then, a lot of applications of OpenMath would not be able to handle 
that kind of meta-reasoning about their own capabilities anyway, which 
is probably exactly the problem that James is trying to find a way to 
solve (and I'm very sorry that I can't agree with the solution as-is). 
In that sense, an exact specification of the concepts required feels 
like yet another Bourbaki fallacy to me (to use your own terminology, 
Jacques) -- like trying to find the most general set of circumstances 
under which a concept is still recognizably the same.

I was thinking of something much simpler, really, and thus something a 
bit more in James' line, I hope. For example:

for all x in R, sin(x) := series(...)
for all z in C, sin(z) := <James's definition>
for all angle in Angles, sin(angle) := quotient of sides of appropriate 
right triangle
for all (A,B) in Segments x Segments, sin((A,B)) := ...

for all x in R,  csc(x) := <quotient definition>
for all x in ]a,b[, csc(x) := series(...)   <with appropriate real 
constants a and b>
for all z in C, csc(z) := <quotient definition>
for all F in Fields and for all y in F, csc(y) := <quotient definition>
for all R in Rings and for all y in R, csc(y) := series(...)

for all z in C, exp(z) := series(...)

As you can see, none of these claim to completely define the concepts of 
sine or co-secant, respectively. All use simple type definitions 
(reals...) to define a domain where they are guaranteed to work. It 
would be reasonable to expect that fairly simple applications could 
discover useful definitions by using simple pattern-matching based on a 
rough characterization of their own capabilities (e.g. "use only 
definitions that involve functions over the reals"). Some applications 
may even be able to use the definitions that involve general rings and 
fields, but I doubt that there would be very many of those around. All 
definitions, however, are supposed to be guaranteed to be correct 
(though not necessarily useful) in their stated domains -- there is no 
danger (well: less danger;-) of inappropriate over-generalization  
(unless perhaps performed by some AI system like Steve Linton et al's 
mathematical discoverer that explicitly tries to discover valid such 

Definitions like this one should also be allowed:

sin:function := the[f:C ^ 2] (f''=-f and f(0)=0 and f'(0)=1)    <!--C^2 
as in twice differentiable functions-->

but the idea is that it would usually be a good idea for simple 
applications to shy away from such a definition because it doesn't 
specify the kind of signature that it can reason with.  James' idea of 
classifying definitions might help with putting up warning signs on 
definitions like this one.

What I'm trying to say, I suppose, is that there may be a reasonably 
simple way to do what James wants to do (namely, to provide definitions 
that applications might find useful) and still be honest about the 
potential limitations of the useful information we provide.  Beyond 
that, yes, I suppose OMDoc or something like it would be more 
appropriate to carry the complex  higher-order concepts necessary for 
formulating definitions that are as general as we can figure out to make 
them, but I doubt that there will be many software systems that could 
make use of those -- and those that could, would profit from 
implementing full-blown OMDoc, anyway.

 -- Andreas
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