Landing : Athabascau University


By Viorel Tabara 2 June 2016 @ 11:27am Comments (1)

What started as an enhanced Python interpreter has now morphed into a rich scientific tool that allows collaboration in a connected world. Learn about the evolution of IPython.


  • Viorel Tabara June 2, 2016 - 12:16pm

    The curious-me wanted to know what will happen to IPython. The project documentation hosted at ReadTheDocs links to The Big Split blog. I didn't get past the first line though because I was distracted by the historical perspective on IPython. And that's when I realized that it would be unfair not to mention Sage that isn't only just another tool. The Why is Sage free/open source question under Sage FAQ bridges the open source and scientific communities in a brilliant way and since Internet links aren't permanent it's worth recording the text here:

    Why is Sage free/open source?

    A standard rule in the mathematics community is that everything is laid open for inspection. The Sage project believes that not doing the same for mathematics software is at best a gesture of impoliteness and rudeness, and at worst a violation against standard scientific practices. An underlying philosophical principle of Sage is to apply the system of open exchange and peer review that characterizes scientific communication to the development of mathematics software. Neither the Sage project nor the Sage Development Team make any claims to being the original proponents of this principle.

    The development model of Sage is largely inspired by the free software movement as spearheaded by the Free Software Foundation, and by the open source movement. One source of inspiration from within the mathematics community is Joachim Neubüser as expressed in the paper

    • J. Neubüser. An invitation to computational group theory. In C. M. Campbell, T. C. Hurley, E. F. Robertson, S. J. Tobin, and J. J. Ward, editors, Groups ‘93 Galway/St. Andrews, Volume 2, volume 212 of London Mathematical Society Lecture Note Series, pages 457–475. Cambridge University Press, 1995.

    and in particular the following quotation from his paper:

    You can read Sylow's Theorem and its proof in Huppert's book in
    the library without even buying the book and then you can use
    Sylow's Theorem for the rest of your life free of charge,
    but...for many computer algebra systems license fees have to be
    paid regularly for the total time of their use. In order to
    protect what you pay for, you do not get the source, but only an
    executable, i.e. a black box. You can press buttons and you get
    answers in the same way as you get the bright pictures from your
    television set but you cannot control how they were made in either
    With this situation two of the most basic rules of conduct in
    mathematics are violated: In mathematics information is passed on
    free of charge and everything is laid open for checking. Not
    applying these rules to computer algebra systems that are made for
    mathematical research...means moving in a most undesirable
    direction. Most important: Can we expect somebody to believe a
    result of a program that he is not allowed to see? Moreover: Do we
    really want to charge colleagues in Moldava several years of their
    salary for a computer algebra system?

    Similar sentiments were also expressed by Andrei Okounkov as can be found in

    • V. Muñoz and U. Persson. Interviews with three Fields medalists. Notices of the American Mathematical Society, 54(3):405–410, 2007.

    in particular the following quotation:

    Computers are no more a threat to mathematicians than food
    processors are a threat to cooks. As mathematics gets more and
    more complex while the pace of our lives accelerates, we must
    delegate as much as we can to machines. And I mean both numeric
    and symbolic work. Some people can manage without dishwashers, but
    I think proofs come out a lot cleaner when routine work is
    This brings up many issues. I am not an expert, but I think we
    need a symbolic standard to make computer manipulations easier to
    document and verify. And with all due respect to the free market,
    perhaps we should not be dependent on commercial software here. An
    open-source project could, perhaps, find better answers to the
    obvious problems such as availability, bugs, backward
    compatibility, platform independence, standard libraries, etc. One
    can learn from the success of TeX and more specialized software
    like Macaulay2. I do hope that funding agencies are looking into

    There you have it. Happy open sourcing!