[om] Matlab phrasebook?

Alberto Gonz ález Palomo Alberto.Gonzalez at matracas.org
Sun Oct 28 04:58:31 CET 2001

On Mon, 22 Oct 2001 07:44:45 -0700
Richard Fateman <fateman at cs.berkeley.edu> wrote:

> Andrew Solomon wrote:
> >>Converting to an openmath XML object in between is
> >>pointless, I think, unless maybe array of float
> >>is going to benefit from being copied over a few
> >>extra times. 
> >>
> > OpenMath is helpful in the case you're using Matlab to process the
> > output of another computer algebra system which also speaks
> > OpenMath. This is just one example.
> This suggests that you believe that Matlab is "another computer
> algebra system".  It is a numerical computing environment.
> It has string functions, file handling too. But fundamentally
> does numbers.

	I understand his assertion in other way: that he wants to
communicate Matlab with various different CAS (hence the "other")
that already "understand" OM, by writing just one translator.

> >>There are, I suspect, entirely other issues that make
> >>Matlab semantics unwelcome in the rest of the world, at
> >>least if it is still the way I remember it:  the meaning of a
> >>variable Z depends upon whether there happens to be a file in some
> >>file directory with that name.  Is Z a function or an array?
> >>Whose file directory are you talking about?
> >>
> > Honestly, Richard, you must be the only living computer scientist 
> > who doesn't acknowledge the utility of establishing standards to ease
> > the path to interoperability and accessibility.
> Who was it who said "standards are wonderful --- that's why there are
> so many of them!" ?

	It takes more than publishing a standard to get anything useful
from it.
	In the last two years, I've spent much of my spare time writing
software to deal with OpenMath first and later OMDoc (since March 2000),
and I'm still unable to get it to be useful for anything more than
experimenting. Sure, I can use my stylesheets to get MathML, and others
to get some LaTeX, but it's not nearly usable.
	I fail to see it as competitive with other options unless your
project requirements include specifically using OM. I'm in this case:
my personal drive is to experiment with it, and that's why I'm spending
my own time and resources on it.

	After this rant, I would like to remark that Mr. Solomon has
probably missed the one supportive point for OM in Prof. Fateman's
paragraph above: in many systems (perhaps all) you can't really be
sure of the meaning of symbols just looking at the strings they
produce. So the real way to get a non-ambiguous response from them
would be to implement the phrasebook inside the system, when it has
an opportunity to resolve the ambiguity.
	In some systems, this "insider" level can be reached from
some scripting language. In others, you would have to go down to
the source code.
	But trying to make a phrasebook work with the textual output
of a normal system, which is intended to be understood by a human,
soon becomes futile. You can get some trivial examples working, but
to get the advertised benefits that OpenMath could bring us (and I
believe we could get there), you need something more scalable than

> > If the idea offends you so much
> > I suggest you unsubscribe from this list since it is our basic
> > premise.
> Actually, setting up small groups of people to establish standards that
> do not correspond to clear requirements specifications, and that
> are outside any standardization bodies (like ISO or IEEE), and which,
> additionally discourage critics, seems to me like a clear route
> to irrelevance.

	Except for the standarization body part, I agree.
	That's a clear risk for OpenMath.
	In particular, trying to exclude such a clueful critic as
Prof. Fateman is an error. While I think that OM has some utility and
hence I'm not in complete agreement with him, I've been reading very
carefully his writings about the issue (posts to mailing lists, news
groups, papers) and many of his objections match my experience as a
	OpenMath's future is not going to be any better just by
rejecting reasoned (albeit debatable) criticism.

	Alberto González Palomo
	Toledo, Spain.
	Alberto.Gonzalez at matracas.org

om at openmath.org  -  general discussion on OpenMath
Post public announcements to om-announce at openmath.org
Automatic list maintenance software at majordomo at openmath.org
Mail om-owner at openmath.org for assistance with any problems

More information about the Om mailing list