[om] Matlab phrasebook?

Andrew Solomon andrews at it.uts.edu.au
Mon Oct 29 01:50:29 CET 2001

Dear Richard,

On Sun, Oct 28, 2001 at 11:02:44AM -0800, Richard Fateman wrote:
> I'm not sure which email this refers to, but assuming that
> it has to do with Matlab <--> JavaMath and a CD for Matlab,
> I did not think I was attacking the notion of "a standard" nor was I 
> trying to hinder the work of people with that ambition.  

Great! I think this puts the discussion on a good footing.
I'm happy to proceed on this basis.

> What I was 
> saying was communicating amongst arbitrary programs can be done in a 
> variety of ways, and viewing everything as an application of OM is 
> probably NOT productive.  

I certainly don't view everything as an application of OM and I'd be 
surprised if anyone else does. That's why I include a native code interface
in JavaMath. I also anticipate building interfaces for other standards,
depending on the application.

> My point was:  it is not at all obvious to me that using OM for Matlab 
> gains any traction on any problem whatsoever.  

It is a rather overarching comment:)

> Anyone communicating, 
> even through OM, to Matlab, would have to be extremely aware of the 
> semantics of Matlab.  

Hence my argument for constructing small well defined services out of 
problem solving environments by wrapping them appropriately, see:

> I think that people with the ambition to make their creation into a 
> standard have the obligation to listen to, be aware of, and respond to 
> criticisms.  In fact a "real" standard requires a public request for 
> comments, collecting of comments and responding to them, voting, etc.

Well, the community of people interested in a standard for mathematics
is rather small, so our processes tend to be dictated by our resources
rather than our intention. As to responding to criticism - I agree
but when the criticism is of the form
"OpenMath does nothing in situation X"
without even an explanation of how X is a standardization problem, 
and what *kind* of solution OpenMath should be able to deliver, 
it is rather difficult to make any progress on that basis.

> Perhaps I am also concerned by the naivety of the view that OM is 
> unique in addressing an important problem and has solved it.

I don't hold this view. Again, I'd be surprised if anyone
on this list does.

>   Techniques for communicating between programs are quite common. Many 
> of those techniques are as suitable for communicating mathematics as OM, 
> and may be more portable.  Java serialization. Lisp s-expressions. TeX. 
> PostScript. even TIFF.  

\Yawn{As well as OM I use RMI/serialization, HTTP, HTML and 
plain text/CAS syntax to communicate mathematics in the JavaMath project. 
I really don't recall describing OpenMath as a magic bullet.
Oh, JavaMath also uses TCP/IP.}

> In my opinion, communication between any pair of 
> programs can be done directly with less effort than writing 2 
> phrasebooks and a CD. You must make your case with n programs, n>>2. 

I disagree - in many cases, if you can assume the existance of a 
basic OpenMath parser, a lot of work can be avoided in lexical analysis. 
This really is significant.

> It may also be 
> because I had hoped you guys would solve problems of interest to me, 
> which seem so central to your goals, but have so far failed.  What problems?
>   a. Recall that I have been running a table-lookup integration web site 
> for quite a number of years.  Last I looked it was fielding over 120 
> queries per day.  Math+database+internet? I've published a few papers on 
> this topic.
>   b. I have been studying the problem of reading journal articles (OCR) 
> containing math formulas, with the intention of studying how to encode 
> the results (e.g. TeX, MathML, Lisp, OM?) and how humans can enter math 
> into a browser.  I've also published in this area.
> c. I actually have programs that read TeX (e.g. the Gradshteyn/Rhyzik 
> table of integrals and sums, and produce computer algebra code (Macsyma, 
> as it happens) for some 70% of them.  I think this appeared in some 
> poster session at ISSAC.
> d. I have worked with others who have looked at OM (e.g. for the revised
> G&R book published by Academic Press), and found that OM just didn't do 
> the job, and did not even seem to be a suitable basis for doing the job.
> (Augmented TeX worked.)

Thanks for the list of projects, but what particular problems did you encounter
that could be fixed by having an adequate standard for representing 
mathematical objects?
If you can list the specific needs you want OpenMath to address, we can
probably have a productive discussion! Please feel free to discuss 
the particular issues you want to resolve on this list. Don't just say
read such and such a paper, where you'll find a list of reasons OM is bad.
That is boring and we all have better things to do than scour your papers and
guess what point you're trying to make.

> I think that if you want to exclude me or anyone else from a discussion, 
> you can do so on the basis that I am not sufficiently fundamentalist.
>   I can even suggest a name for this discussion:  ClosedMath.

I look forward to hearing your constructive suggestions, Richard,  and no
more of your tedious threaping!

with best wishes,


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