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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