Good Math/Bad Math

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Question for the readers: Should I use MathML?

For talking about things like logic, it would be useful to be able to use something that lets me put stuff into posts formatted in a mathematical style. There's an HTML extension called MathML which would make it easy to do that. But, alas, it's not yet supported by all browsers.

For Internet Explorer on windows, there's no built-in support, but there's a free extension that you can install to view MathML.

Recent versions of Mozilla and Firefox for all platforms has built-in support for viewing MathML.

For Mac users who use Safari (like me), there's a slightly kludgy applet that you can install to view MathML.

So, dear readers, would you still read Good Math, Bad Math if you needed to use a browser that did MathML to be able to read it?

29 Comments:

  • I don't know if blogspot is using wordpress, but if so, then check out LatexRender as an alternative. I use it and haven't had any complants.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:06 PM  

  • Yes, I would definitely continue reading.

    By Blogger Zeno, at 5:27 PM  

  • I say definitely do it. Just provide the links included in this post for those who need it and make the rest of the browsers catch up.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:30 PM  

  • Blogger owns BlogSpot and provides little in the way of features - if you want to go through the hassle of typing out the MathML, go for it. You won't lose my readership, for one.

    By Blogger Thomas Winwood, at 5:32 PM  

  • I seem to be using a browser (Fireforx) that will show MathML without any effort on my part ... so yes I will keep reading ...

    cheers

    Andi

    By Anonymous AndiChapple, at 5:38 PM  

  • er, you may not have heard of Fireforx, it's a browser for people too sleepy to check their typing

    Andi

    By Anonymous andichapple, at 5:40 PM  

  • The examples in http://www.w3.org/Math/XSL/csmall2.xml and http://www.w3.org/Math/XSL/pmathml2.xml seem to work ok in the browser I view your site in, Camino. I'm less convinced they'll look ok in my RSS aggregator, but as long as you use equations sparsely enough that I can tell from context whether I want to view the equations more carefully that shouldn't be a big problem.

    By Anonymous D. Eppstein, at 6:09 PM  

  • Yes! Please do. Equations help a lot.

    By Blogger neuralgourmet, at 6:49 PM  

  • Well, you've just given me reason to upgrade my version of Firefox! I agree that the maths-notation capabilities in browsers is severely lacking. There's many a time where I've just wanted to write $\sum^{n}_{i=1}$ or similar. Alas it was not to be...

    PS This is my first comment, so keep up the good work. I'm enjoying the posts!

    By Anonymous Ithika, at 6:51 PM  

  • I would second a vote for LaTeX, but I'd be down with MathML as well.

    By Blogger The Neurophile, at 6:51 PM  

  • First, I would still read this blog.

    Now, what I'd like to know is what advantage does MathML give you over something more portable like html. I only ask this since I've used html exported from Mathematica on my class web pages before because of its portability to all browser configurations.

    MathML doesn't seem to have the portability of html, what are you getting in the tradeoff?

    By Anonymous john aleshunas, at 9:06 PM  

  • john:

    MathML is a markup language for writing math. You can't write anything in real math syntax using HTML; not equations; not logical inference rules; not the mathematical symbols that we use.

    Just for example: I'm working on a post about first order predicate logic. Try to write about FOPL without symbols for the quantifiers, without being able to use the logical "entails" symbol, without the equivalence symbol, and without the ability to write inference rules in the standard form.

    Mathematical syntax was developed for a reason: it's *hard* to write a lot of this stuff in natural language. I don't want to use a lot of equations or symbols in my writing when I don't have to, but there are definitely times when math is easier to understand written in its own syntax.

    By Blogger MarkCC, at 9:24 PM  

  • Anything that nudges people towards Firefox is unabiguously good.

    By Blogger TW Andrews, at 9:50 PM  

  • I speak math, and I use Firefox. Bring it on!

    By Anonymous wheatdogg, at 11:50 PM  

  • I'm all for MathML. This is exactly what it's made for.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:01 AM  

  • Please use it!.

    By Blogger Julián García, at 8:28 AM  

  • if it will help teach me to speak math, go for it.

    By Blogger shrek, at 8:54 AM  

  • I would still read, and understand your frustration; but before you jump off the deep end consider whether you really need to. Many of the symbols in most common use are actually defined as HTML entities. Here is a handy application that will let you use them pretty easily as plain HTML:

    http://www.foxinternet.co.uk/bloggerkeyboard.html

    Making superscripts and subscripts is almost trivial as well.

    It seems to me that most things you want to write about -- for a general non-mathematical audience -- can be covered (albeit clumsily) with HTML.

    By Blogger Amateur, at 9:13 AM  

  • I would suggest doing a little research on using LaTeX.

    By Anonymous Eric Blaska, at 1:56 PM  

  • No problem

    By Anonymous Malky, at 2:31 PM  

  • Put an example in your post -- if I can read it I'm on side.

    By Anonymous bmurray, at 4:03 PM  

  • This here loyal reader would love it if you used MathML.

    By Blogger jayinbmore, at 4:17 PM  

  • Actually, I use Firefox instead of Safari, so cool over here!

    Just expect the less-mathed amongst us to query you now and then about what all that stuff represents. I think one of my neurons got fried when I learned that mu means one thing in physics and something else the next hour in stats.

    andrea

    By Anonymous andrea, at 6:13 PM  

  • Is that extension for Microsoft Explorer easy enough to install and is it sure to be free of spy ware and the like?

    You might lose a few of your targeted new-to-math types if there is going to be very much involved in setting it up.

    Otherwise, it sounds good.

    By Blogger driftwood, at 7:08 PM  

  • Yes!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:34 PM  

  • OK, so i already use FireFox 1.5 (the latest), and on Linux. It's Red Hat 9 - a little dated now, but still widely supported with RPMs. Though MathML is installed in this FireFox, some of the fonts are not. So, my first attempt to view some MathML examples resulted in a Firefox error saying that there are missing fonts. While the error dialog has a helpful URL on what to do, the *@#&$^* dialog doesn't allow one to copy the text from it. So, one must remember it, then type it into the browser. It's a modal dialog, so you can't even move it to one side and type it from the screen. Feh.

    I've just spent a half hour following these directions as best i can:

    http://mcelrath.org/Notes/MathML

    Though i got through the TrueType Mathematica fonts and Adobe fonts OK, and i don't have the MicroSoft symbol fonts to remove, installing the newer versions of fontconfig and freetype brought me down dependency hell, and i gave up.

    So, most of the examples now work, but those using font styles like:

    http://www.w3.org/Math/testsuite/testsuite/Presentation/TokenElements/mi/mimathvariant14.xml

    just shows the plain roman text. (Sorry, but tinyurl.com failed to produce a working short link).

    I agree that it's a pain to host your images somewhere, then post your blogspot stuff with little images pointing to the right spot. But using images for your math is the one way to make sure everyone can read it.

    By Blogger Stephen, at 3:25 PM  

  • Yes. Use MATHML.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:46 PM  

  • Go for it. And if I have to upgrade to the latest Firefox, that's not going to hurt anything. :)

    By Blogger Julia, at 8:41 AM  

  • My advice is not use it!

    Mathematicians are not using it, scientific publishers are not using it and browsers are not implementing it.

    Why?

    Due to error designs, limitations, verbosity, bandwidth, and incompatibilities with other w3c technologies.

    A note, Mozilla firefox does not implement MathML. Firefox implements a subset of presentation-MathML only.

    Moreover, due to errors on MathML specification, MathML support is offered via an external layer is not unified with rest of rendering engine. This does browser slow (you may wait minutes before big mathml documents are rendered). Moreover, Firefox does not pass even elementary test suite for MathML, therefore several documents will be not adequately rendered.

    And you need to download and install specific fonts, and you will need modifications in your blog before publishing (at the best you are offering HTML and this will do problems). Distler has devoted last years to offer MathML support on a blog and has still not achieved the goal.

    Others blogs are offering a LateX pluging...

    Opera users can render advanced mathematical content via CSS (via Maiden approach) i cannot using Firefox and MathML.

    ...


    Juan R.

    Center for CANONICAL |SCIENCE)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:31 AM  

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