Subject: "Mathematics as a Language": Ambiguous review?
Date: Tue, 01 Sep 1998 23:20:35 +0300
From: Jukka Tapani Santala

Nothing better than celebrity names in an example. I came across this review-quote in the latest (third) revision of "The Art of Computer Programming", currently three volume "programming-bible" by Donald E. Knuth, one of the foremost computer scientists in the world, often referred to as the world's best programmer. (His works even frequently appear in references at this sites' articles) Most algorithms presented are provided with complete mathemathical analysis of the problem, and an implemntation of it in Knuth's self-designed assembler language, leading to a presentation many people call unreadable.

The quote, by no other than Bill Gates, stands literally, "If you think you're a really good programmer ... read [Knuth's] Art of Computer Programming ... You should definitely send me a résume if you can read the whole thing." In the accompanying text, the writer has added "A programmer in China even compared the experience to reading a poem." One has to wonder if these are really(emphasis on this word - another embiguity) good ways to characterize an informational book, or just tongue-in-cheek (and I don't mean that literally, either) references to Knuth's presentation.

Reading about the deliberate misuse of english on the site, I immediately thought of this review. I had to read the review several times over trying to figure whether it was a good or bad thing, and I'm still not entirely sure. I hope others will benefit from my observation as well.

Language of Mathematics, Language of Science and Plain Language

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