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

From: Jos Koot (jos.koot at telefonica.net)
Date: Sun May 31 14:41:45 EDT 2009

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "wooks" <wookiz at hotmail.com>
To: <plt-scheme at list.cs.brown.edu>
Sent: Sunday, May 31, 2009 6:58 PM
Subject: [plt-scheme] Re: Why "lambda"?

On May 31, 2:38 am, Marco Morazan <moraz... at gmail.com> wrote:
> Frankly, we can use two different squiggly lines as far as I
> am concerned. The simple fact is that the use of a variable is a form
> of (low-level) abstraction. Who cares if the symbol used for the
> variable representing the abstraction is latin, greek, russian, or
> mayan? If you understand the abstraction it does not matter, period.

It matters when the Greek doesn't let you make the cognitive leap you
would otherwise make when you see something similar to something you
are already familiar with.


I had an assignment to implement an Dorigo's Ant Colony algorithm.
So I'm staring at this Greek for selecting the next edge trying to
grok what the new concept was.
I searched high and low...everywhere else presents the thing in Greek

Wasted loads of time before going back to the lecturer.

Lecturer: OK lets look at this formula. What does this formula remind
you of?.
Me: Nothing.
Lecturer: How about the formula for fitness proportionate selection.

So I told him why I hadn't seen it and thats when he told me he had
the same problem as an undergrad and used to rewrite the formula's in
x's and y's.

That does not sound like a sound idea. Learning programming, or maths or music is like learning a language. The alphabet is part of 
it. If you don't master the alphabet, you can'r read communications of others.

There is a (small) possibility you only want to understand the essentials without being disturbed by a new language (cq alphabet). 
But if the subject catches you and you want to read more about it, ignorance of the language gives you no access to other 

We are even lucky compared to Chinese people, I think. May be we should use Chinese characters in our maths too. A very rich set of 
new symbols!

An important thing may be: do you read written words without attaching a sound to them, or do you first convert the words into 
sounds and then interpret the sounds.? I do as the curcumstances require. For example, a poem I would read with sounds. When reading 
a novel translated from Russian, I do not attach sounds to the names of the characters. When I read Scheme, I do not attach a sound 
to the parentheses. When I read maths I just see symbols (although I prefer a book on maths to have an appendix on the notation (as 
for example in Barendregt's bible on the Lambda Calculus )) And what to think of 'LC' and 'CL' and other acronyms. (Luckily 
Wikipedia provides a survey of shorthands like IIRC, AFAIK and so on. I have to consult it often) I have more difficulty with those 
abbreviations than with soundless symbols that relate their meaning to the context. As another example: long ago I wrote an article 
on virtual memory in Dutch, using Dutch words for terms like page-swapping and page-faults. The article was very well received, with 
one exception. The collegue responsible for the maintenance of the virtual memory software did not undersytand one word of it. When 
I told him a pagina-wisselaar (Dutch) is just a pager-swapper, he understood my story at once or at least pretended to do so. But I 
was left with the following worry: if people only understand (if they do at all) text written in an already known vocabulary and 
cannot understand the same story when written in their native language, how much do they understand of the software they are 
supposed to maintain?

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