Python syntax in Lisp and Scheme

Alex Martelli aleaxit at
Sat Oct 11 13:23:40 CEST 2003

Andrew Dalke wrote:

> Alex Martelli:
>> would you kindly set right the guys (such as your
>> namesake) who (on c.l.lisp with copy to my mailbox but not to here) are
>> currently attacking me because, and I quote,
>> """
>> Software is a department of mathematics.
>> """
> And anyone who doesn't think mathematics has its own
> culture with ideas and even mistaken preferences for what
> is right and wrong should read
> The Mystery of the Aleph: Mathematics, the Kabbalah, and the Human Mind
> to see how Cantor's ideas of transfinite numbers (and other ideas,
> as I recall, like showing there are functions which are everywhere
> continuous and nowhere differentiable) were solidly rejected by
> most other mathematicians of his time.
> Mathematicians are people as well.

Your point is very well taken, and I should have made it myself; Kuhn's 
"Structure of Scientific Revolutions" applies to maths just as well as to
other sciences (even though I wasn't aware of your specific reference --
and I'm ordering it right now:-).

But, there's more: maths is emphatically NOT only done by mathematicians;
and the favourite languages and notations used by other scientists and 
technicians to speak maths *often differ by field*, all the way down to 
silly little lexical quibbles such as using j or i to denote sqrt(-1) .

So, even if software WAS mostly about maths, rather than mostly about
interactions among human beings, this *still* wouldn't suggest that a single
programming language "good for all uses" should be adopted instead of
following a "horses for courses" approach.


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