[Top][All Lists]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: [Axiom-developer] Re: AMS Notices: Open Source Mathematical Software

From: Michel Lavaud
Subject: Re: [Axiom-developer] Re: AMS Notices: Open Source Mathematical Software
Date: Tue, 27 Nov 2007 20:00:30 +0100
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.0; fr; rv: Gecko/20070728 Thunderbird/ Mnenhy/

M. Edward (Ed) Borasky a écrit :
If the plane I'm flying is built based on simulations with commercial mathematical software tools, whose accuracy is guaranteed in the usual way, i.e. no guarantee at all except refund for the price of the software whatever consequences and it is forbidden to get the source code to check if it is correct - then I will for sure take the next plane, if it has been built with free Open Source software :-)


I've heard this argument before -- it's fallacious on a number of levels, and I don't have time to dig into it right now.
Ah dear, you win, I confess I am unable to refute your argument. So, after closed source programs, we have now closed source arguments! Very clever. Can I buy a licence ? (Ok, just a joke:-))
But I want to remind people that: 1. Aircraft used to be designed with slide rules and mechanical desk calculators. The equations involved are "open source" in the sense that everyone who is a professional aeronautical engineer learns them in college, knows them intimately. What today's computers allow us to do is build larger and more complex aviation systems that are more economical on fuel.

Yes of course, I don't deny the usefulness of computers for aviation. As for "open source" equations : we inherited the old traditional scientific way of not selling knowledge. In the new framework of so-called "economy of knowledge" (which is, in my opinion, an oxymoron, but that's another story), that promote to put property rights on knowledge, this will not be the case any more. That's one of my points : the trend (i.e. the derivative) is that the situation will go worse, i.e. less and less "open source" equations, if we scientists do not stop this trend by realizing that selling scientific software and more generally selling knowledge is "tuer la poule aux oeufs d'or" (don't know in English : "kill the hen with golden eggs"?)

2. Very few aircraft crashes are caused by design flaws of any kind, and even fewer by incorrect software. Human error at the time of the flight and sabotage/terrorism/military actions are the two main causes of aircraft crashes. The only really blatant example of a design flaw causing aircraft crashes I can remember was the DeHavilland Comet. That was not a software flaw as far as I know -- I'm not even sure scientific computers were available outside of the military when the Comet was designed, and they would have been on the scale of a Von Neumann/IAS machine, or maybe an IBM 704, if they were.
Yes, OK : in the times when computers were inexistant, I agree it is highly improbable that plane crashes were caused by sofware errors :-) However, in the times when they existed and were used, I would bet that most numerical computations for planes were made in Fortran, and Fortran is the exception :that confirms the rule : there are many free libraries of subroutines in this language, and some (if not all ?) commercial libraries of subroutines are sold with the source code. But maybe I'm wrong ?

Best wishes,

reply via email to

[Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread]