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Topic: Mathematica and Lisp
Replies: 6   Last Post: Jan 18, 2013 12:50 AM

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W. Craig Carter

Posts: 266
Registered: 9/10/05
Re: Mathematica and Lisp
Posted: Jan 18, 2013 12:50 AM
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On Jan 17, 13, at 12:14 PM, Richard Fateman wrote:

> On 1/15/2013 10:39 PM, Murray Eisenberg wrote:
>> On Jan 14, 2013, at 11:31 PM, David Bailey <> wrote:
>> It all depends on just what you want somebody to accomplish when learning his/her first programming language.

> There are several issues here.
> For a starter, 4-year colleges generally do not offer credit for "a
> course to teach you to program in language X" in a department of
> computer science.
> There may be such courses in physics, statistics, etc departments,
> but this should be classified as a utility course, akin to "how to use
> the microwave oven in the lunchroom".

Was this analogy meant to be pejorative?

I teach such a course and receive current and a posteriori feedback on the benefits of learning to rapidly construct a model, compute it, and visualize it. Equally important, the students learn math and a means to acquire more math on their own---and quickly. I teach fundamental concepts of my discipline by using novice programming, numerical analysis, symbolic algebra: voila, canonical discipline knowledge and transferable skills in one course.

The "microwave usage" analogy diminishes the importance of an indispensable tool to an applied scientist or engineer.

I have physical science colleagues who consider programing and linear algebra to be superfluous because they use spreadsheet tools. I consider their myopic view marginally more perverse than (paraphrasing) `classifying computer language tools as microwave ovens for those who don't build microwaves or understand their operating principles'.

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