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NIST Publishes Preview of Math Reference 27

An anonymous reader writes "Abramowitz & Stegun has been one of the most authoritative references for special functions and engineering mathematics since the 1960s, when it was published by the US Bureau of Standards (now NIST). NIST has been working on an freely-available online updated version to this legendary reference for years. A preview of the digital library of mathematical functions (which uses MathML and requires some of its fonts) is now available from NIST's website."
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NIST Publishes Preview of Math Reference

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  • Yeesh. (Score:5, Informative)

    by gardyloo ( 512791 ) on Friday June 13, 2008 @10:22AM (#23778895)
    Yes, the summary is correct: the preview is available now. However, it's been available for at least a year and a half, and perhaps much longer than that. I can't remember exactly when it was put up; I visited it almost immediately after it appeared, but was quickly disenchanted with the supplied content and ended up using the original A&S for my grad school work.
  • MathML (Score:5, Informative)

    by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Friday June 13, 2008 @11:15AM (#23779885) Homepage
    It's really a shame that mathml is so poorly supported in browsers. There's basically no practical, reasonable way to do write a single xhtml page that will do something reasonable in most browsers and display inline mathml. Firefox requires the file to have extension .xhtml, and standards say to serve it as application/xhtml+xml; but if you do this, a default install of IE will display a file download dialog, with a warning that "some files can harm your computer." IE wants it served as text/html, and will only display the mathml if the user has installed the MathPlayer plugin. The MathPlayer plugin also implements mathml in way that isn't standards-compliant. The bare minimum you really need is:
    • The majority of users, who have IE with no plugin, should see some kind of graceful degradation.
    • Firefox users should see the math displayed correctly.
    • The tiny minority of users who have MathPlayer+IE should see the math displayed correctly.
    Unfortunately, you just can't accomplish this by any reasonable technique. The technique I've ended up using for the web browser version of my own physics textbooks is to use mod_rewrite to serve mathml to Firefox 3+ users, and serve a version with bitmapped renderings of the equations to everyone else. This also seems to be what DLMF has done []. What a disaster.
    • Has this support level changed in the IE8 beta?
      • As far as I can tell, [] MS has no intention ever to support xhtml, which means it can never properly support inline mathml. Essentially a lot of people are treating xhtml as a failure, and focusing on html 5 instead. The problem with that is that it makes it impossible to support inline mathml or svg.
        • by Excors ( 807434 )
          HTML 5 recently added [] inline MathML support, and temporarily defined inline SVG too (but then removed that since the SVG Working Group didn't like it). So you can write an HTML document like

          <!DOCTYPE html>
          <title>MathML test</title>
          <p>Here's an equation: <math><msup><mi>e</mi><mrow><mi>i</mi><mi>&pi;</mi></mrow></msup><mo>+</mo><mn>1</mn><mo>=</mo><mn>0</mn></math

          • Cool! Thanks for the reply. I was really starting to think that mathml and svg were going to end up never being supported in any standard, cross-browser way, and it would just be a total defeat for standards. This is good news.
    • Re:MathML (Score:5, Informative)

      by Thyrsus ( 13292 ) on Friday June 13, 2008 @12:50PM (#23781895) Homepage
      In case anyone else is trying to see these in Firefox on Fedora 8, the instructions at the Mozilla site were incomplete and took me down several blind alleys. What worked for me:

      * Download these specific Mathematica fonts:

      Don't worry about the self extraction. Create a directory (I named mine "mathematica"); cd there and run "unzip /path/to/MathFonts_TrueType_41.exe" (give the full path name). In that directory, first run "mkfontscale", then "mkfontdir".

      At this point, I chose to make the fonts available by default for anyone on the system, so I copied the directory: "cd ..; sudo cp -r mathematica /usr/share/fonts/mathematica" and "sudo ln -s /usr/share/fonts/mathematica /etc/X11/fontpath.d"
      followed by "xset fp rehash".

      I'm not convinced it was necessary, but I also added this line to my $HOME/.mozilla/????????.default/prefs.js file:

      user_pref("font.mathfont-family", "Math1, Math2, Math4, Symbol");
    • I agree that MathML support in browsers is not what it could be. However, I feel the need to argue the case for our MathPlayer plugin. It works just fine and is as standards compliant as IE lets it be. There are guidelines for serving up MathML in a way that is compatible with both IE and FF on our website: While making IE properly display math takes downloading and installing a small plugin, makeing Firefox properly display math takes downloading and installing fonts. Do you thi
      • It works just fine and is as standards compliant as IE lets it be.

        I realize that MS's poor support for the standard isn't your fault, but basically IE doesn't support xhtml in any standard way, and doesn't make it possible for mathml to be supported in a standard way by third-party developers like you.

        There are guidelines for serving up MathML in a way that is compatible with both IE and FF on our website:

        Yes, but IIRC it's a technique that violates standards, and it doesn

  • MathML... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 13, 2008 @11:25AM (#23780095)
    The quadratic formula in LaTeX markup:

    x = \frac{-b \pm \sqrt{b^2 - 4ac}}{2a}
    The same in MathML:

    <math xmlns="">
    • 'Nuf said (but having said that, I will say more). The notion that all things are made better with XML seems to be a particular class of programmer's corollary to the priest's notion that all things are made better with God. The true believers in each are just as insufferable.
      • by skeeto ( 1138903 )
        Don't you know? It is said that, "XML is like violence: if it doesn't solve your problem, you aren't using enough of it."
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I think that MathML is still quite fine as an exchange format, even in spite of this unwieldiness - as long as you do not have to write it by hand, that is. At least no one will feel jealous that the competitor's format (Troff eqn, TeX markup, textual format, OOXML markup, whatever...) is going to be used as a standard. I would even go as far as to say that the exact format, in fact, does not matter at all, as Internet Explorer is never going to support it anyway.
    • by mxs ( 42717 )
      If and when you get LaTeX rendering implemented in Firefox and Opera, you can start complaining about XML.
  • According to that site, the 3j symbol can be written as a terminating generalized hypergeometric series 2F3 of unit argument. Amazing! I had no clue! I can see that this publication is going to be a great boon for people everywhere.

    (Especially for people who like looking at the angular momentum of colliding subatomic particles in their spare time.)

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