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Re: [Axiom-developer] Re: hyperdoc

From: Bob McElrath
Subject: Re: [Axiom-developer] Re: hyperdoc
Date: Fri, 14 Jan 2005 17:18:52 -0800
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.6+20040523i

root address@hidden wrote:
> > I do not believe that making images out of equations is a horrible way

That should have read "I DO believe..." whoops

> > to go, for the long term.  As has been pointed out, it's impossible to
> > change the font size, violates many rules of web accessability, printing
> > looks terrible, and it's in general impossible to get fonts that look
> > the same as the images.
> Here's a subtle point.... if you are aware of what you do when you 
> read math(s) texts, physics texts, etc you'll find that equations,
> once you understand them, are actually just icons for you. for instance
>   E = m c^2
> is almost certainly not something you actually think about once you
> understand it. 

No, especially when c=1 and E=m.  ;)

> It has become an 'icon' that gets used to remind you
> of all of the associations. The only time I actually read and parse
> an equation is the first time I'm trying to understand it. Even then
> I find that I'm doing algebra in my head to convince myself that the
> equation has been correctly derived, not working with the semantics.
> This point came up during my last discussion of the crystal project.
> Almost all of the actual semantics of an equation is NOT contained
> in the equation but in the surrounding text. 

I disagree...I usually skip the text and only read equations.

This is also a function of the length of an equation...we make long ones
in physics, then have to do tricks like looking at units and limits to
see if a long equation makes sense.  In the paper I'm working on today,
I have several equations that took several pages each to derive, and are
not obvious when you look at them (but relatively straightforward to
derive).  They're also too long to remember.  I presume people would
mentally iconify them like:

    cos(theta) = f(some masses and energies)

and forget the actual eqation until they have to go write it in some
code, and then they go look it up.  The semantics is that this is an
angle between a couple of particles, and that has to be gotten out of
the text...

Bob McElrath [Univ. of California at Davis, Department of Physics]

    "Faith: Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks 
    without knowledge, of things without parallel." -- Ambrose Bierce

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