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Mailing list for the LaTeX3 project <[log in to unmask]>
Hans Aberg <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 26 May 2001 17:21:28 +0200
Mailing list for the LaTeX3 project <[log in to unmask]>
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At 23:05 -0500 2001/05/24, Phil Parker wrote:
>working mathematicians ... will use whatever symbols they deem
>appropriate with no deference to anyone else's notions of propriety.
>Collaborations have been known to spend more time arguing about notation
>than proving theorems.

At 11:07 +0100 2001/05/26, Robin Fairbairns wrote:
>in short, i don't think latex actually _needs_ to descend to the level
>of the mathematicians' squabbles about notation: latex markup can deal
>with more-or-less anything.

That's what I am saying: avoid that "squabble" or whatever you want to call
it. Either you will hear from people when they discover when they cannot
use the notation they want, or more likely, they will not use LaTeX at all,
as in the past.

>the unicode bods _do_ exist at that level, though.  fortunately we
>merrily sail along at a far higher level.

Just sail along on top of Unicode + private extensions, and everything will
be fine.

>the great thing about a markup language like latex is that you can
>define a macro \thing, and each collaborator can use his/her own
>representation of \thing.  what's more, at publication time, you may
>find that some other group has cornered the market in the
>representation of the object you defined as \thing, and you can _all_
>change to the now "generally accepted" version.

Don't try this as a publisher though: Don't mess with the math notation at all.

More likely, provide namespaces or something, ensuring that each manuscript
has exactly the notation each author intended.

The thing is that apart from risking to upset authors by intruding into
their right of expressing math in the manner they consider scientifically
right, the process of symbol altering is usually not convergent: Some
symbols that should not be changed may be changed as well.

This was (as I see it) one of the important reasons for writing the TeX
program: Bypassing flaws in the (traditional) proofreading process.

>semantic markup works: i commend it to you all...

If it should be something more than a personal approach, it is in math a
hope for the future: You will have to work yourself up to the god level,
before people will obey your call. :-)

But some generic things might be possible.

>(i first learnt of set notation from reading whitehead and russell in
>my spare time at school.  they used (as it were) \epsilon for set
>membership; if they'd been marking up using (la)tex they could easily
>have used their own \belongs which they would have defined as a mathop
>variant of \epsilon, but we would redefine for the 2001 edition (!) as
>\in or whatever.)

I couldn't remember if it was \epsilon or \varepsilon in that particular
book: I once had several hundreds of math books, but I sold them because I
felt it was difficult to move around with them.

And when reading such books, I am not concentrating on the notation, but
trying to figure out the underlying math.

So even though the principles for notation may be well-known, namely that
different looking glyphs may be used to denote semantically different math
objects regardless of what others do, it can be difficult to find explicit
examples in the already published literature.

  Hans Aberg