We can blame [Abu Jafar Al-Khwarizmi] for the development of modern algebra. … He’s the guy who invented that tedious exercise of “balancing” both sides of an equating by adding, subtracting or dividing by the same amount on both sides, a plague for high school students to this day. He called his brainchild “comparing and restoring.” Since the Arabic word for “restoring” is al-jabr, today we know this discipline as algebra.
Al-Kwarizmi did this without the benefit of one little character, literally, that we’ve come to take for granted. The equal sign didn’t exist until the sixteenth century. He didn’t use modern algebraic notation, either. Instead, he expressed his unknowns in words rather than variables, and his equations in sentences. [Emphasis added]
Jennifer Ouellette, The Calculus Diaries
Research publications rarely get to the fun parts of research. Most ideas are lost as they are made to fit the formula: intro + motivation + background + design + experiments + conclusion = paper. It is not clear how this formula came into existence but the reasons behind its existence are clear: we want to project an air of seriousness (intro + motivation), thoroughness (design + experiments) and confidence (conclusion). We are told, research journals target a smaller, familiar audience, so its okay to be formulaic and pedantic. Perhaps, the research audience grew smaller and smaller because of the way we communicate our ideas. Newtown intentionally wrote Principia, his most influential book on the laws of motion, in excruciatingly pedantic Latin prose to keep away dilettantes. I started this blog after attending a two-day workshop led by Carl Zimmer on Scientific Writing for the masses. This is my venue to describe some of my research work, interests and side study for the dilettantes as well as the pros.
I will try to describe ideas with stories. After all, when we recall the laws of motion, we picture an apple falling on Newton’s head. When we try to figure out the volume of a sphere, we might drift of and picture Archimedes being killed by a Roman soldier as he solves his last geometric problem. We need more myth, legend and story in Computer Science, especially in the field of data analysis and management.