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Saturday, January 2, 2010

From Lisp to Mathematics

I was watching one of the video lectures from the course 6.001 Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs from MIT OpenCourseWare. Although the course is even for Computer Science standards up-to-date the lectures were recorded in 1986 at an HP company course. It looks rather outdated, pre-historic even when he demos the Lisp editor / interpreter. But is it really?

I entered the same commands in Eclipse ( using the Cusp Lisp plugin ) and Lisp wise there hasn't changed a thing.

I suppose that there is a difference between old and 'still around'. I could name numerous so-called 4th generation languages invented in the 80's and 90's which are dead and forgotten. The fact that Lisp which dates back to the 50's(!) keeps popping up and is taught at MIT today must make it a very special language.

Single variable calculus dates back to the second half of the 17th century. And we all know what an extremely powerful toolset calculus in fact is. The 'advanced' topics in an undergraduate program date back to the 19th century or before that. Except for maybe graph theory which was developed in the 20th century. To become 'current', knowledgeable of the -state-of-the-art- developments in any topic is difficult but I believe that it is even harder for a science like mathematics. Simply because it has been around for so many years and the field becomes more advanced by the day.

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(Raumpatrouille – Die phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffes Orion, colloquially aka Raumpatrouille Orion was the first German science fiction television series. Its seven episodes were broadcast by ARD beginning September 17, 1966. The series has since acquired cult status in Germany. Broadcast six years before Star Trek first aired in West Germany (in 1972), it became a huge success.)