Why I admire MathJax

It is, in some ways, a deep irony that the community which spawned the web (i.e., physicists and mathematicians) should, until recently, have had such a hard time using the web to fluently and easily communicate in the natural language of their disciplines: mathematics. Certainly, domain-specific solutions have evolved through the use and combination of tools and techniques such as jsMath, MathML, SVG, bitmaps, LaTeX text and so forth. The author of this post wrote a COM-based (i.e., Windows!) DVI-to-SVG conversion tool 6 years ago but, at the time, the ultra-specific environment in which it worked precluded its mainstream use. Anyone recall Adobe’s SVG plug-in for Internet Explorer…? It has taken nearly 20 years for the cluster of associated technologies to catch up and coalesce into providing a viable and mainstream solution: MathJax, which delivers into the browser the exquisite beauty of the typesetting algorithms developed by Donald Knuth in the late 1970s. Anybody who has read the infamous Appendix G of the TeXBook or the article Appendix G illuminated will, or should, have profound respect and admiration for the work of jsMath and MathJax. Replication of the TeX math-typesetting algorithms in JavaScript (or any language!) is an incredible achievement for which the authors and financial sponsors of MathJaX should be applauded, for they have made a major contribution to the future of scientific communication via the web ecosystem. Three cheers to them!

Just in passing, from deciding to set-up this WordPress blog, to downloading + installing WordPress and MathJax installation was about 1.5 hours in total, which just goes to show how easy it is, even for a non-expert like me! Here’s a simple formula typeset in TeX/MathJax. Assuming you’re using a modern browser, right-click over the formula to see the options presented by MathJax.

\[\vec{F}_g=-F\frac{m_1 m_2}{r^2} \vec{e}_r\]

MathJax, you totally rock!