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Re: The disappointment and embarrasment of MathML

From: Ka-Ping Yee <ping@lfw.org>
Date: Thu, 13 Apr 2000 17:27:52 -0500 (CDT)
To: Thomas Cool <cool@dataweb.nl>
cc: timbl@w3.org, www-math@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.10.10004131639550.21377-100000@server1.lfw.org>
On Thu, 13 Apr 2000, Thomas Cool wrote:
> 
> You are probably under the impression that MathML is a good idea.
> May I invite you to read the paper linked below ?
> It isn't too late to stop it - but perhaps I am an idealist like you yourself.
> 
> Kind regards,
> 
> Thomas Cool
> http://www.dataweb.nl/~cool
> 
> http://econwpa.wustl.edu:8089/eps/get/papers/0004/0004002.html

Thomas,

Have you heard of MINSE?  See: http://www.lfw.org/math/

This system was designed, implemented, and deployed in 1996,
many years before MathML came together as a standard.  Today
its implementation is still much more widely accessible than
MathML's -- ever since it was deployed, it has enabled the
display of math expressions at reasonable quality in any
graphical browser, and the easy writing of such expressions
by document authors (neither readers nor authors need install
any software at all).

For the MathML

    <msup>
        <mfenced>
            <mrow>
                <mi>a</mi>
                <mo>+</mo>
                <mi>b</mi>
            </mro>
        </mfenced>
        <mn>2</mn>
    </msup>

the corresponding MINSE form is simply

    (a+b)^2

as anyone might reasonably expect.

You quoted the design goals of MathML in your document, and
i agree with you that Mathematica meets most of them -- but
not all of them.  Mathematica notation isn't extensible to
support new expression forms in general, simply because all
the Mathematica forms are required to be implementable with
a real algorithm (as far as i know).  You can't just make up
a new kind of form to represent a concept by itself, or a type
of value that is not already part of Mathematica's type system.
Of course, it is also the case that since Mathematica is
tightly controlled by a single company, it is difficult for an
individual to extend the system even within its assumptions.

MINSE addresses that goal by allowing extensible representation
(you can add new compounds) and an extensible stylesheet
mechanism for presentation.  Its attempt to provide a generic
hierarchical structure for data with a generally applicable
transformation mechanism, though not as popular, predates the
arrival of XML and XSL on the scene.  When it was presented to
the MathML group the goal of extensibility was scoffed at,
though it is clear now that others have finally come around to
recognizing the importance of extensibility and flexibility,
leading them back to XML.  It is comforting to see that we have
at least this goal in common, even if it is four years later.

All we need now is a short form for XML -- like MINSE -- that
is readable and enterable by humans, and we will have come
full circle back to achieving the dreams of MINSE in 1996,
except that this time around, there is all the hype necessary
to provide a greater chance of success.


-- ?!ng
Received on Thursday, 13 April 2000 18:23:55 GMT

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