[whatwg] Mathematics in HTML5

James Graham wrote:
> juanrgonzaleza at canonicalscience.com wrote:
>> James Graham wrote:
>>> I could go on but
>>> at least in academic  fields, LaTeX is either the only format
>>> accepted for publication or the  preferred format.
>> In mathematics, and theoretical physics sure, in rest of science? I
>> doubt. In chemistry, LaTeX is not preferred for example.
> Not just in theoretical physics, but in all varieties of physics that I
> have ever encountered. Nor, as far as I can tell, is th widespread use
> of LaTeX just limited to the mathematics and physics communities. It is
> also, for example, one of four accepted submission formats of the Royal
> Society of Chemistry (Word, Wordperfect, RFT, (LaTeX), the only format
> accepted by Electronic Notes in Theoretical Computer Science and the
> only acceptable format for IEEE Transactions On Wireless Communication.
> In general, Googling for these examples, I was unable to find a single
> print journal which accepted electronic submissions but did not accept
> LaTeX as a format. Indeed, it is the _only_ hand-authored format
> accepted by the journals I encountered on my brief search, except for
> one online-only robotics journal which published in HTML and accepted
> submissions in HTML. Even in that case, the submissions page is quick to
> suggest a LaTeX to HTML workflow, implying that engineers are  another
> group who often work with LaTeX, a speculation lent credence by
> http://www.eng.cam.ac.uk/help/tpl/textprocessing/ which contains an
> extensive set of notes for engineers on using LaTeX and begins "TeX is a
> powerful text processing language and is the required format for some
> periodicals now").
> Of course using Google to turn up a few journals hardly makes for a good
> sample  and you can no doubt provide counter-examples but it is
> extremely disingenuous  to suggest that only pure mathematicians and a
> small subset of physicists  commonly use LaTeX - it is clearly in very
> widespread use wherever mathematical  communication is required.

You said

>>> at least in academic  fields, LaTeX is either the only format
>>> accepted for publication or the  preferred format.

I replied

>> In mathematics, and theoretical physics sure, in rest of science? I
>> doubt. In chemistry, LaTeX is not preferred for example.

LaTeX is *not* the prefered format outside of mathematics and theoretical
physics. I have colaborated and published works with chemists,
oceanographers, and physicists working in nonlinear phenomena and chaos.
None of them usually used TeX-LaTeX. My rusian colleague A. Shagaev has
published articles of electrochemistry in electronic journals publishing
in HTML.

I know some chemists and many of them never worked in TeX-LaTeX. In
?Overview of the Manuscript Submission Process? in the Journal of Physical
Chemistry (ACS) you can see that prefered format is not LaTeX.

LaTeX is *not* the preferred format for submissions in Physical Review
journals (Letters and A, B, C, D, and E versions). That TeX-LaTeX is not
sufficient for the web is also recogined even by TeX gurus as David
Carlisle [1].

[1] Fragment of discussion from panel "TeX and Math on the Web". Published
in TUGboat, Volume 20 (1999), No. 3?Proceedings of the 1999 Annual
Meeting. Emphasis below in mine.

Timothy Murphy and Michael Doob predicted that most mathematicians will
stick with TeX, no matter what; mathematics is a separate world, which TeX
serves very well. These comments provoked a spate of "on-the-other-hand"

? Carlisle: TeX users need to get onto the Web somehow.

? Patrick Ion: Engineers at Boeing (for example) use math too, and they
need to read and write it.

? Fulling: We can?t reach our students if they encounter mathematics only
in an environment that is alien to them.

? McArthur observed that TeX has surprising difficulty in dealing with
elementary school math.

Ogawa summarized the task before: Both rendering and document creation are
crucial needs, and both will be hard sells as the small TeX community
struggles to integrate itself into the XML/MathML world.

"small TeX community ... to integrate itself..."

> Ah. That would be called "doing one thing and doing it well". I've heard
> that it's commonly believed to be a good design principle. In this case,
> the problem I would like to solve is "how do we typeset mathematics on
> the internet so that people actually use the technology rather than
> ignoring it into oblivion"? We've already determined that LaTeX solves
> the same problem offline so it seems like a reasonable place to start
> when addressing the question for online publishing.

TeX-LaTeX is good to mathematical typesseting in paper. TeX is not good
enough for the web. That is reason that TeX-LaTeX was not reused for
ISO-12083 not for MathML. Also Mathematica, Maple, AAP, EuroMath,
OpenMath, and others rejected TeX-LaTeX systems.

> I'm not a "TeX-person", merely a LaTeX user and, in the context of this
> discussion, my "pro-LaTeX" stance is merely a practical one;

Precisely people who refused to use LaTeX for the web was practical one:
TeX does not work for the tasks that SGML/XML and HTML are doing very
well. Somewhat as HTML was based in SGML rather than TeX, HTML-Math would
be based in SGML Math (i.e. ISO 12083).

Already is said that TeX and LaTeX were abandoned in electronic publishing
in *all* markup languages -such as SGML, ISO12083, HTML, Docbook, MathML,
or OpenMath between others-.

Do you know that LaTeX3 is moving towards SGML/HTML model of publications
in some aspects?

For example the research groups promised will provide a *new* syntax that
allows highly automated translation from popular SGML DTDs into LaTeX
document classes (these will be provided as standard with the new

The syntax of the new LATEX user-interface will, for example, support the
SGML concepts of ?entity?, ?attribute? and ?short reference? in such a way
that these can be directly linked to the corresponding SGML features. And
This interface will also support DSSSL speciffications and style-sheet
such as those we used today with HTML and XML.

>> However, most of web pages generated from TeX-LaTeX systems are really
>> unprofessional even at that small subset of static and boring academic
>> webpages.
> Indeed. But there are two main reasons for that:
> 1) latex2html sucks

TeX ?sucks? at web and this is reason is not popular except for a small
community of mathematicians and physicists using LaTeX for everything.

> 2) Academics have no interest in learning any language other than LaTeX
> (did I say that already?).

That is not argument against HTML-Math, somewahat as was not an argument
instead HTML, which is not based in TeX but on SGML. Moreover, there are
much more people using mathematics that dislike LaTeX, let me repeat
Patrick Ion comment [1]: ?Engineers at Boeing (for example) use math too,
and they need to read and write it.?

Who won HTML or TeX (which was more young that HTML)? Yes a small subset
of mathematicians and physicists are using LaTeX, amstex or plain TeX,
rest of the world is using other things. My emphasis is on providing a
good language ?for the rest of world? was cheap and simple.

>> Some weeks ago I received a draft of manuscript prepared by a
>> mathematician and will probably be published in MSOR journal in brief.
>> He is not using TeX or LateX because limitations and write:
>> <blockquote>
>> Mathematicians have been served well by TeX and LaTeX for their
>> mathematical typesetting. Too well, perhaps. At least, if an dedicated
>> TeXnician of the last
>> ten years has a chance to \relax and look about himself he will see
>> that the rest
>> of the world has moved on in several incompatible ways to the cosy
>> world of TeX.
>> </blockquote>

> Why should I listen to this person?

End of debate. Why would I pay attention you?

Juan R.


Received on Friday, 9 June 2006 03:04:34 UTC