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Re: Semantic information for math representations of physics

From: JB Collins <joebmath@yahoo.com>
Date: Wed, 9 Feb 2005 11:22:26 -0800 (PST)
Message-ID: <20050209192226.47980.qmail@web31108.mail.mud.yahoo.com>
To: Stan Devitt <jsdevitt@stratumtek.local>, paul@activemath.org, romeo@roua.org
Cc: www-math@w3.org

Stan, Paul, Romeo

I would like to thank you and the others who responded
to my inquiry. I am impressed with the extensive and
on-point responses. I have tried to follow up on the
various suggestions provided.

If anyone on the reflector has more interest in what
types of requirements I am trying to meet, I can
forward a couple of papers and presentations directly
(sorry, no web-page).

I took the opportunity to re-visit the OMDoc web-page.
I had done so previously and downloaded software and
tried unsuccessfully to use it two months ago, though
I forget the details right now. As I was trying then
to review multiple applications in limited time, I
didn't pursue it. After the responses here and my
re-look I am much encouraged to try again. If I run
into problems, I'm trusting that I'll find helpful

My renewed interest in OMDoc is due to what appears to
me to be the constructs required to define models and
theories, including models of physical objects. I'm
thinking of things like giving an author control of
the scope of definitions and declarations within a
document to define and describe one or more models
within that document. An example of a model might be a
partial differential equation combined with initial
conditions in time and boundary conditions in space.
An example of a physical "Law" would be a statement
that for all PhysicalObjects that have a mass greater
than zero, there exists an attractive force between
each pair, given by an equation called "Newton's Law
of Gravitation". I'm also hoping that mappings between
models can be expressed as well, such as between a
real-variable model to a discrete, (more) computable

Regarding the TeX/LaTeX issue: 
I think that new standards rarely supercede old ones
by completely bypassing them. The value of standards
is in creating efficient infrastructures. Superceding
an old standard means a whole infrastructure must be
modified or replaced, and that's hard to do without
grafting the new standard to the old in some way, if
only temporarily. Content/ semantic representation is
a higher level of abstraction then typesetting, and
TeX/LaTex is principally typesetting oriented. I don't
think that re-defining TeX/LaTeX so as to directly
incorporate semantic representations is necessarily
the final answer. But I wouldn't reject it outright,
either. A pristine standard without users is not
useful. Getting users to abandon their familiar tools
is very difficult. For example, physicists still use
Fortran - they don't want to take a few weeks off to
learn a better language. (Last I heard, the best
compilers for fast code were still Fortran compilers).
That being said, it seems to me that OMDoc having a
LaTeX output format may be an adequate answer to this

As part of my effort I need to provide a "business
case" as to how what I do will be used, so I really
need to pay attention to these issues and I welcome

Joe Collins
Naval Research Lab

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Received on Wednesday, 9 February 2005 19:22:57 UTC

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