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[Axiom-developer] Passing of Dr. Gilbert Baumslag

From: daly
Subject: [Axiom-developer] Passing of Dr. Gilbert Baumslag
Date: Mon, 3 Nov 2014 19:52:16 -0600

Gilbert Baumslag has died. 

It might not mean much to you but the world has lost another person
who founded and organized pioneering work in computational mathematics. 
Gilbert was the force behind Magnus, a system for Infinite Group Theory. 
Like Manuel Bronstein, he invented some of the fundamental algorithms. 
And, like Manuel, he is now gone.

I have tried over the years to document Magnus so that the ideas could
be understood by others. It is a large C++ program written by a person
who died a few years ago. That makes it very hard to ask questions.

We are losing the first generation authors of the big systems.  We are
unlikely to have research funding for such large systems in the future. 
We are unlikely to construct systems of this size and power anytime soon.

We must make an effort to document these systems so the next
generation can maintain, modify, and extend them. If we don't do this
then systems like Magnus will simply bit-rot. The algorithms will be
lost. The high level descriptions and ideas will remain buried in some
journal but, as we all know, there is a huge difference between a
paper description and a reduction to practice. Issues such as choice
of representation matter deeply and are not in the papers. Paper
algorithms rest on other algorithms, some of which are never
published. The details matter.

If nothing else, we need to raise the standard of computational
mathematics going forward so the next generation will not lose
the benefit of current work. It is vital that we document our work.
Otherwise our effort will go with us to the grave.


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