Hello there, my name is Leandro Chiarini. I am a mathematician, currently doing a postdoc at Utrecht University. During the first year of my PhD, I started coding again (after 6 years since my undergrad’s computer science classes).
Back then, I started coding in Julia which I will talk about on this blog eventually. But for now, I want to focus on something else. My objective is to present a few tools which are known between computer scientists but not necessarily to other areas of science/academia. I am not here to teach someone to code, there are many other people out there better suited to do so. I also do not think every mathematician needs to code (although I think it is very beneficial). What I am here to talk is about dealing with latex files, collaborating with others, keeping version control for articles, and how to keep a comprehensive list of your pdf files. All of this in the context of a researcher in mathematics.
At the end of the day, latex is only a text file, the very same kind of file that computer scientists build a large amount of tools to deal with. And some of those are very effective.
As next posts about different tools come around, I will be focusing on three questions for each
- What problem does it try to solve?
- Why should you care?
- Where to find more information about it?
Notice that (at least for now), I am not providing a tutorial of how to use such tools, there are plenty of great ones online, and I will make sure to link the ones I used in the post. Instead, this is really an attempt of convincing people to use said tools. I will try to keep the first posts shorts and see what happens from there.
I do, however, intend to write mini-tutorials on how to convert such tools to mathematical writing. As most of the tutorials I suggest are focusing on computer science. Think of this blog as “tools I believe would have saved me a lot of time if I was introduced to before”.
Finally, I should make a few disclaimers. First, when I say “computer science tools”, I do not mean that they are the “right” tool that every computer scientist will (or should) agree that they are best.
Second, for the sake of conciseness, I will keep things simple and definitely not have a comprehensive list of features of the tools I talk about. Please follow the references for more details.
Finally, I know very well that looking at the black and white screen of a terminal can be terrifying at first. I only properly started diving into this subjects without pure dread midway through the pandemic. But I will use the words of van Neumann “In mathematics you don’t understand things, you just get used to them”. The first time one is presented with an infinite dimensional space, or whatever other complicated object it probably took feel comfortable with such objects. Same applies here, it takes a while, but after you get used to it, it just feels natural.
The first two topics are:
- git for version control and collaborative writing.
- vim, for dealing with files in a much faster way.