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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: Wed, 28 Nov 2007 00:16:29 +0100
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.0; fr; rv: Gecko/20070728 Thunderbird/ Mnenhy/

Gabriel Dos Reis a écrit :
On Tue, 27 Nov 2007, Michel Lavaud wrote:


| Personnally, I think the only valid, scientific way is the first one : any
| work proposed for publication that uses commercial software ought to be
| rejected by the referee, unless it says explicitly and honestly that it used
| commercial, non-provable software, so that another researcher can then improve
| on the article later, and publish another article using a completely Open
| Source software and provide a complete, rigorous, verifiable proof..

So, are you arguing for or a against

 # If the plane I'm flying is built based on simulations with commercial
 # mathematical software tools, I surely want them to be the best.


I am not sure I understand the question, is it about your remark on planes ? If yes, it was more of a joke because I assumed your remark was too : was it not ? I would believe that big aviation companies use their own software, so it is Open Source internally, even if it is not published outside of the company. I assume that, if they use commercial software, they use it only in drafts or for double-checing, and they use their software for real definitive work ? My serious remarks were for software used by academic scientists, not by engineers in big companies.

| This trend is especially common among experimental scientists, for two reasons
| : first, they have lot of money so they can buy very expensive software, and
| second, there is an inherent uncertainty in experimental results, so they
| translate their tolerance to errors in experimental results toward tolerance
| to possible errors in commercial software, without realizing (or wanting to
| realize) that errors in experiment and software are of a complete different
| nature : error in an experimental measure is unavoidable and inherent to
| experimental work, while error in a software is completely avoidable since it
| is pure mathematics, expressed in a computer language instead of plain
| English.

That may be the case.  In the interest of rigor and openness as you
promote, do you have data for that scenario we could all check so that
it does not appear to be a gratuitous anecdote?

Once again, I'm not sure I understand the question : which data would you like that "all could check" ? Do you mean a table that would list the number of licences of commercial softwares that were bought in the various laboratories of my university, with prices ? It probably could be obtained, but I have not. All I can say is that, among physicists, chemists and biologists I know, only a handful use free software, most use commercial software under Windows, many use commercial software sold with measurement apparatus, or sold by vendors of software that organise journeys of formation and propose reduced prices for grouped commands. Those colleagues I know who use CAS use Mathematica, several chemists use very expensive software on workstations for representing molecules, some biologists use expensive software to analyze data. I know only one colleague who writes free software and distribute it on its web site. Linux is popular only at the computation center.

Best wishes,

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