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RE: Goals verses syntax in MathML

From: Andy Felt <felt@math.wsu.edu>
Date: Thu, 7 May 1998 09:46:34 -0700 (PDT)
To: Stan Devitt <jsdevitt@maplesoft.com>
cc: www-math@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.HPP.3.96.980507091416.1752C-100000@phi.math.wsu.edu>
Hi-
I'm new to this discussion, so please forgive me if my questions are naive
or have been covered already.  I read and understand most of Stan Devitt's
note, but I have a few questions on one part of it:

On Thu, 7 May 1998, Stan Devitt wrote:

> Dear Andrew:
> 

-snip--

> (1) Initial attempts in the MathML working group to deal with an input
> syntax seriously considered all the issues you raise.  Some of the
> alternatives considered and rejected for (1) included:
> 
> 	- TeX / LaTeX

-snip--


> To be be acceptable,  (remember we were seeking to provide the
> infrastructure for the next generation of publishing tools) a solution
> needed to support professional quality publication (as rich as TeX) and
> archival of machine readable mathematical data for purposes of automatic
> searching and computation.  The latter was based on the mathematical
> meaning of the expressions, not their appearance. 
> 
-snip--

> publishers.  At the same time, TeX was fully presentation based and did
> not provide any mechanism for capturing semantics. For example did
> $D^2\,y$ represent a double application of a differential operator to
> the function y or was it a simple monomial?  
> 
> As an interim position on simple input syntax, perhaps
> the only position consistent with ensuring that adequate information
> could actually archived on Web pages, we have been translating to and
> from MathML from many of the above formats.  Each of the companies
> involved has found this fairly easy to do and it has meant that everyone
> can work with the simple input syntaxes and tools they are already
> comfortable with.  

-rest of note removed--

Here are my questions:
1)  Are we really trying to come up with a standard way to code *and
display* all common mathematical expressions, such as the differential
operator?  This seems like an admirable but impossible task.  If you ask
10 mathematicians how to display the differential operator, you will get 5
different answers.  So, for automated search-ability, are we giving up
quite a bit of display flexibility?

2) If there are translators from LaTeX to MathML, how can this `context'
possibly be included?  LaTeX did not meet the needs of MathML because it
is only display oriented (i.e. the same expression may stand for two
different ideas, depending on context), but how can a translator add such
context?

3) Why is automated searching for math syntax so important?  If I am
searching for a paper on trigonometry, I would search for `trigonometry',
not \cos (or the MathML equivalent).  Or is it searching within a document
that we are talking about?

Again, I appologize if I am rehashing old material.  For what my vote is
worth, I would rather stick to a display-only language, tell the browser
developers to include a LaTeX compiler, and be done with it.  However, I
can understand that searching for context-based material might be
important to some people.

Thanks for listening,

Andy Felt
---------------------------------------------
Department of Pure and Applied Mathematics
Washington State University
felt@math.wsu.edu
---------------------------------------------
Received on Thursday, 7 May 1998 12:39:40 GMT

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