Monday, October 8, 2012

Equation search in a nutshell

How is the scientific language different than other languages?  In English, you can’t just take any three letters and form a new word.  It’s too strict for that.  In mathematics on the other hand, you could take almost any three symbols and form a new, valid expression.  Science is a language with its own syntax, grammar, and vocabulary; it’s a challenging and exciting space.

What happens when equations are processed as a collection of symbols as if they were just like text?  Try using any of the leading search engines to search for (x+y)n   No wait!  you have to type (x+y)^n   At best you get equations containing  x, y, n or just documents about New York  or any other combination of the letters x,y and n. 

So what if we try to search for the expression (x+y)n as is including the symbols? That won’t work either. We should also get results for (y+x)n  ,  (a+b)n ,  (x+y)m  , … to complicate things we shouldn’t  get results for (x+a)n  , Why? Because most likely “a” in this context is a constant. 

Ok, we really need a search engine that can understand the contextual meaning of the equation.  It would also be nice if we could search by the symbols and notations (using Latex is no fun).

Symbolab gives you all this and more

Until the next post,