[plt-scheme] Re: Why "lambda"?

From: wooks (wookiz at hotmail.com)
Date: Tue Jun 2 13:21:43 EDT 2009

On Jun 1, 5:44 am, Erich Rast <er... at snafu.de> wrote:
> > Insofar as the message is - there's a good reason why we do this
> > (clarity, avoids ambiguity, makes no difference if you abstract
> > etc...). No. I ain't swallowing it.
> I tried to avoid it, but can't resist any longer. :O
> There is a good reason for Greek letters and it's not just convention.
> I'm not sure how much you've been exposed to formal logic so far, but at
> least in this domain I'd say it's impossible to have a clear, correct
> and concise notation without using additional letters such as the Greek
> ones. Arbitrary symbols, usually taken from a huge Latex symbol list,
> are harder to read than Greek letters, and when you write down a
> complete logic including some meta-theorems, you'll quickly run out of
> ordinary Roman letters. Having the Greek alphabet is a matter of
> necessity when  you're doing logic, because you frequently need
> different *types* of letters. Try to distinguish normal, italic and
> boldface 'A' on the blackboard---impossible. Even upper vs. lower-case
> letters can be a pain to write on the blackboard.
> IMHO, the most important thing with 'strange' letters is that (a) you
> have to know how to pronounce them, and (b) they need to be easily
> writable on the blackboard. Greek letters are fine with both respects
> and beat any kind of hand-made symbol at anytime. Personally, I have
> problems with Kyrillic, some of the less common Hebrew letters, and old
> German Fraktur fonts, though. Yes, I've seen logic books that used the
> whole Kyrillic alphabet, which might be easy for a Russian logician, but
> is hard to read for someone who never learned Russian. Fraktur, on the
> other hand, is not hard to read, but in my opinion impossible to write
> and read on the blackboard.

Fair cop. I was too careless with the scope of my statement.

My exposure to Greek has been from classes and texts in Theory of
Computation, Machine Learning and Bayesian Statistics and that is the
appropriate scope for my comment.

Coming from a discipline where it is suggested that for reasons of
clarity the maximum number of arguments a module should have is 7 (I
either read that in Code Complete or Larry Constantine's Peopleware)
it is hard to envisage a scenario where you need so many variables to
present a concept that you have to resort to Greek ones.

I watched a lecture on OCL and remembered wondering whether it's
raison d'etre was other than to provide a Greekless formal
specification language which would be palatable in the "real world".

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