Thore Husfeldt

Maths on the web solved!

with 2 comments

Why didn’t anybody tell me?

I remember staring at the first drafts of the MathML definition almost two decades ago and obsessively clicking “reload” for checking the next browser version to implement it. After the web had facilated communication around the globe in various human languages and alphabets, I eagerly awaited support for that single, universal language that made it all work: mathematics.

Alas, it didn’t happen. Since then, I’ve revisited current standards and adoption states for maths on the web every few years. The situation was dismal.

For years, everybody has been able to read, write, and communicate “square root of two” with all kinds of funny squiggles: “roten ur två”, “квадратный корень из двух”, “השורש הריבועי שלשְׁתַּ֫יִם”, “二的平方根”. But try to put the symbol “2” under the radical √ on the web? No way. As the information age progressed, we became unable to communicate in its underlying language, because the web suddenly became the playground of nonmathematical people.

Turns out: instead of bitching about it, somebody solved it. Just like that.

The technology is called MathJax, written in javascript. It produces beautiful, scaling, copyable maths on the web. And it’s been around for a while, apparently. I just didn’t notice it—I seem to work too much and spend too little time procrastinating on the web.

Since recently, it works on Wikipedia! As of May 2012, log in, go to “my preferences”, choose the “appearance” tab, and select MathJax as your default rendering engine for maths at the bottom. Then, go to some page like Tutte Polynomial; and feast your eyes. Increase the font size just because you can!

On the MathJax page you can see which other websites support it. This looks like a very healthy system.

Only grumble: Since it requires javascript, the solution doesn’t work with my current blogging platform. The easiest solution seems to be to host a wordpress.org blog on a separate server. 

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Written by thorehusfeldt

May 14, 2012 at 13:56

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Thanks. But this is a WordPress.com blog.

    For WordPress.org, MathJax support is so mature that there’s already a plugin I could just use. The problem, as far as I understand, is that WordPress.com-blogs like the one I’m using switch of all Javascript to protect the server. So MathJax will not run, nor will there be a plugin for it. Once I’d migrate to my own server and run on the WordPress.org platform, I could do whatever I wanted, including MathJax.

    thorehusfeldt

    May 15, 2012 at 10:21


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