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This site will (I hope) attract people from a wide variety of technical disciplines. As a result, most of the users will have a well developed mathematical and scientific vocabulary. However, each specialty comes with it's own set of connotations for any given technical term.

For example, I will refer to this question: Uses of power series maps. I just want to be clear that I've got no problem with the question and I think it's quite good; it just serves as a good example to explain my point.

I'm not expert in accelerator physics, but I do have sufficient mathematical background that I'm comfortable with every mathematical concepts referenced in the question. I know what phase space typically means; I know what a fixed point is; and I'm more than familiar with power series, etc. Yet, the phrase "a map of phase space" doesn't quite make clear what is meant.

I could guess that he is talking about a plot of $P(r, \dot{r})$ where $P$ is a probability density and $r$ is the radial coordinate in the plane normal to the beam central axis. Is this right? I don't know, which makes it that much tougher to figure out if there is any overlap between the computational techniques I am familiar with, and those that would answer the question.

For this site to work, we need the people asking questions to make themselves understood to people from different specialties. We may want to consider an FAQ entry encouraging people to define any terminology that has a special meaning, or even an implied context in their specialty. Alternatively, we could encourage people to describe their problem in purely mathematical terms, abstracted (when reasonable) from the underlying application.

Thoughts?

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    $\begingroup$ This also emphasizes that we need MathJax. $\endgroup$ – David Ketcheson Nov 30 '11 at 14:57
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Definitely. If you want your problem to have better chances of being solved by other people, you would take great pains to ensure that your question can easily be understood.

It has often happened that an important problem in field A turns out to have been nicely solved in field B, but the terminological thicket has prevented most people from seeing the connection(s).

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  • $\begingroup$ A thousand upvotes to you, if I could. I think that tags will also help. $\endgroup$ – Dr_bitz Nov 30 '11 at 8:46
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Yes. And as you demonstrate, clear statements of computational science require mathematical formulas. So this is additional impetus to add MathJax.

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