Date: May 31, 2013 3:15 AM
Author: Richard Fateman
Subject: Re: Applying Mathematica to practical problems

On 5/30/2013 3:09 AM, John Doty wrote:
> Changing the topic here.
> On Tuesday, May 28, 2013 1:49:00 AM UTC-6, Richard Fateman wrote:

>> Learning Mathematica (only) exposes a student to a singularly
>> erroneous model of computation,

> A personal, subjective judgement. However, I would agree that
> exposing the student to *any* single model of computation, to the
> exclusion of others, is destructive.

Still, there are ones that are well-recognized as standard, a common
basis for software libraries, shared development environments, etc.
Others have been found lacking by refereed published articles
and have failed to gain adherents outside the originators. (Distrust
of significance arithmetic ala Mathematica is not a personal
subjective opinion only.).
>> Nice that you concede it is eccentric.
> Concede? I praise its eccentricity! It takes me places other tools
> cannot easily go.

I don't know what other tools you are considering. Certainly symbolic
computing goes places that numerical programs do not go (easily). That
doesn't really justify support for eccentric arithmetic. If you
say that eccentric arithmetic is praiseworthy, I find that peculiar.
>> Productive perhaps if you do not encounter a quirk.
> There is no nontrivial quirk-free software.

This is a non-sequitur.


Your shoelace is untied and you should tie it.
No, because elsewhere there are some untied shoelaces.

>> Especially a hidden quirk that gives the wrong answer but no
>> warning.

> Mathematica applied to real problems is pretty good here.

Maybe, but is "pretty good" the goal, and the occasional identified
errors be ignored?
>> And if you are not in a hurry for numerical results.
> OK, let's consider how I use Mathematica in mixed-signal chip design.

Please, too much.


> You think Mathematica
> has problems? You've never used SPICE.

I've never used SPICE,though numbers of people have made academic
careers (at Berkeley) about it, and some people have made a great
deal of money directly or indirectly from it.

My impression is that the authors and implementers of SPICE
were substantially under-educated with respect to computer science
language design principles. Electrical engineers writing user
interfaces, initially in FORTRAN --> prospects look dim.
Wolfram got some excellent people doing UI early on.

> But the big problem with SPICE isn't that it's quirky and
> error-prone, but that it buries the problem in (mostly irrelevant)
> detail.

I'm not going to defend SPICE. I do assume that a better "shell"
can be developed (and, I'm pretty sure, has been) to steer SPICE.

> Because SPICE is so slow and detailed

I thought that the reason people used SPICE, esp. proprietary
improved versions, was that it was fast.

> Furthermore, I
> haven't seen any errors attributable to the "quirks" of Mathematica
> in this process.

You may be using parts that work well. But you might have encountered
errors but not noticed. Would you have noticed if numeric results were
only good to 4 decimal digits rather than (say) 16?


But correct and accurate
> calculation in Mathematica just isn't a problem in this engineering
> flow.

That certainly can happen. I am not asserting that results are
necessarily wrong!