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Greek letters in math (was Re: Old Languages)

From:Yoon Ha Lee <yl112@...>
Date:Thursday, October 4, 2001, 22:07
On Thursday, October 4, 2001, at 11:25 AM, Andreas Johansson wrote:

> YHL wrote: >> I would love to learn Ancient Greek, it's just trying to learn Spanish >> *and* juggle teaching *and* classes right now is probably all I can >> handle. >> At least the alphabet is half-familiar from years of physics and >> math. :-) Stepping-stones are useful... > > Speaking of Greek letters in math, I've got math prof who absolutely loves > using lowercase xi, most commonly for a certain undetermined value of a > variable x. Now, of course, lowercase xi is about the most undrawable > character I've ever come across ... > > ... and don't get me started on minus xi-null prime ...
<shudder> God, yeah. Of course, I've had my share of profs whose x's, k' s, 5's and s's were *all* indistinguishable. Not to mention profs who reuse variable names by accident when you have some ungodly subsubscript notation (I kid you not) because they start running out of reasonable letters. I have always thought, that if I became a research mathematician and had the chance to name some concept or constant or whatever, I would use runic letters, or at least the Old English (?) thorn. Or even, to add to the confusion, some lonely isolated Korean consonant. =^) We badly need notation reform in large chunks of mathematics, but it ain't gonna happen. I remember how boggled some of us got when people started using pi for functions, instead of the familiar 3.14159... YHL