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Re: Math on the web without MathML

From: Patrick Ion <ion@ams.org>
Date: Thu, 13 Jul 2006 11:32:23 -0400
Message-Id: <E80A2AAE-4070-4B88-AD1B-5AA2FAF96EB0@ams.org>
Cc: www-math@w3.org
To: juanrgonzaleza@canonicalscience.com
[Warning: this message does not contain technical argument
about markup.]

Dear Canonical Scientist Juan,

I assume that you intended to say

> Prof. Hutchinson finished his talk by recognizing that

and so on.  However, I don't find the phrasing that seems
to be important to you in his publicly posted slides.  I
do note [http://silas.psfc.mit.edu/mathmltalk/] Slide 8's text is

<<<
Conclusions

MathML has a number of weaknesses. But it's close to being the best  
we've got for browsable web publishing of mathematics.

Producing MathML from the dominant mathematics authoring systems is  
rather straightforward.

Reading MathML is currently still not as effortless as it needs to  
be. Browsers need improvements. Progress is being made.

Will MathML "take off" and take over web mathematics publishing?

My guess is that it won't. But with luck it will gradually become  
more widespread.

There will remain a place for formats with perfect layout control  
(PS, PDF etc.) MathML will have to establish its own niche.
<<<

which does NOT seem to be your quoted

> we abandon the MathML approach, encourage to all our users,
> collaborators, and visitors to abandon MathML,

which is more the sort of phrasing one finds on your home site

http://www.canonicalscience.com/

If the 'Canonical Science' site does eschew MathML and does
put out publications of interest using some other style of markup
then I personally think that will be all to the good for MathML
and for science.

Examples of  other proposed solutions for markup of
formulas  will help the discussions of the newly revived
MathML WG.  I hope you, and others, may suggest solutions to
problems with mathematical documents on the Web based on
actual practice.  And I hope the MathML3  effort may be able learn
from them, as the Math IG did when real examples of difficulties
with the markup of mathematics in Arabic documents were produced.

The scientific claims and aims set out on your site suggest that the
content you and your collaborators will be marking up should be of
far-reaching consequence.   There are clear cases in the history
of mathematics where notation has caught on because the thoughts
expressed in it were understood to be significant, and the new  
calculations
it permitted were ground-breaking. The canonical (if I may use that word
in an ordinary sense) example is probably the notation of Leibniz for
derivatives, which was for many purposes superior to that adopted
by Newton.   I can only wish you luck in your endeavors to reform
the scientific world and hope you will concentrate on reasoned argument
in the recent scientific tradition to do so.  As you say on your page

<<<
what is canonical science?

Canonical science is a novel and very advanced theory providing a  
revolutionary point of view about nature.

Canonical science is multidisciplinary (it is not just physics) and  
permits us to derive the different academic disciplines (e.g.  
thermodynamics, chemical kinetics, quantum mechanics, or mathematical  
ecology) like special cases.

is canonical science the theory of everything?

Everything, in the complete sense of the word, means all. A simple  
ontological analysis of the structure of universe shows us that the  
theory of everything does not exit.
<<<
[Presumably the last word should be 'exist'.  I have to assume you think
we are all presumably in the position to carry out a quick ontological
analysis of the structure of the universe.  I agree that a theory of  
of everything
cannot exist without doing that.  The string theorists' use of TOE is
possibly not quite so over-reaching, and I personally don't think  
they have
one there either.]

Unfortunately I have some problems accepting all your conclusions
at face value in some of the material on your site, where I happen
myself to be familiar with some of the literature or some of the  
science.
e.g, on quantum field theory and the history of mechanics and  
relativity.
In neither case do I think the situation anywhere near as simple as
you paint it.  Your references often seem to be to your own work (in  
press)
so that one cannot even check the sources you claim support your
position.
[e.g, on http://www.canonicalscience.com/en/researchzone/history.xml]

If you have technical points to make about the use of W3C markup
for mathematics and can provide examples we can try then I welcome
your discussion.  But let's stick to that if we can, as I suppose I  
just did not.

Best regards,

	Patrick Ion


P.S.  It seems to me that David Carlisle's little XML document
he sent in his last message makes his point very well --- the
markup he offers is natural enough in the context or of common
level of complexity and does display right (at least in Firefox 1.5.0.4,
if not in Safari 2.0.4, which emphasizes the variability of renderers  
today).
Received on Thursday, 13 July 2006 15:32:54 GMT

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