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Please feel free to edit this question! At current this question needs examples of existing posts and how they could be improved. Additionally, more links to related resources could be helpful.

Would it be possible for us to enable TeX, possibly via MathJax?

TeX is great for citing numbers, constructing tables, formatting math, and creating quick figures. Having it would make citing the main points from journal articles and other scholarly sources a lot easier, too!

Reading through SE.Meta, it looks like the appropriate way to request a feature like TeX is to ask on the specific SE's Meta, hence this question. I'm not sure if it might be prohibited by logistical constraints, e.g. too much load on the server, though it'd be very useful to have available if it's viable.

Examples

Following are some example posts that could be improved using TeX.

  1. "Does the logarithmic nature of global warming invalidate climate change claims?"

    • Content: Discussion on climate change and its analytical nature.

    • Needs: Users who posted in this thread wrote a significant amount of data and math, though it's far from pleasant-to-read in the current format.

      Note that log2(280) = 8.1293, log2(560) = 9.1293, log2(1120) = 10.1293 and log2(2240) = 11.1293, so if we have y=c*log2(x), each time we double x, y increased by c, which is why expressing climate sensitivity in °C per doubling is just saying that the relationship is logarithmic in a way that ought to be clear even to someone who doesn't know what a logarithm is. The constant c in this equation is ECS, if you use a log to a different base (e.g. ln or log10) then the numeric value of c will be different, but the relationship is the same, it is just easier to explain in terms of log2. This is hardly rocket science!

      -@DikranMarsupial's answer

    • Needs: Also difficult for posters to quote scholarly sources.

      A more detailed formula is available from Model Forcasts of Global Climate Changes at page 9360:

      ΔT = f(C) - f(C0)

      f(x) = ln(1 + 1.2x + 0.005x2 + 0.0000014x3)

      C0 = 315ppmv

      where ΔT is change in temperature

      -@DavePhD's answer

  2. "Is global warming impossible because of CO₂'s dilution?"

    • Needs: As with the prior example, discussions on climate change require a lot of citing physical constants, including units, which is pretty clunky without TeX. However, with TeX, a good $\frac{}{}$ makes for a nice way to display ratios.
  3. "Does the owner of the Washington Post have a deal with the CIA worth 600 million dollars?"

    • This post is about an alleged contract between Amazon.com and the CIA to set up a cloud computing infrastructure. This post also had significant discussion on the leverage that this contract might have on Amazon.com's CEO, who also owns The Washington Post.

    • Needs: The financial aspect of this post, including calculations to demonstrate the flow of money from the contract to the CEO on whom leverage was alleged, could be far more easily represented in TeX.

    • Without TeX, users left comments that were constrained to simplistic observations, and even then couldn't be written very clearly.

      600 mil * 25% profit margin * 17% ownership stake = $24 million. That's Bezos' part of the deal, potentially. The claim is misleading because "he has a deal" for the most people means that he is getting paid 600 million directly, as an athlete or an actor would.

      -@ventsyv's comment

  4. "Is alcohol beneficial in small amounts?"

    • Needs: This question's all about the current data and research on the health effects of alcohol in small quantities. Most of the interesting data that might be quoted was in tables or described by regressed equations. TeX would allow these to be displayed properly.
  5. "Will global warming reduce available oxygen?"

    • Needs: This question ended up being answered with a journal article written by an assistant professor of Mathematics. Due to the notation used, it's pretty difficult to say anything meaningful about the primary source without TeX.
  6. "Length of uncoiled human DNA"

    • Needs: This question was all about simple chain multiplication of factors to discuss how far DNA could go in astronomical terms. The presentation's unnecessarily confusing and difficult-to-read due to lack of TeX.

      10B miles = 10B * 1.62 / 150M = 108AU

      The [mean distance][4] between Pluto and the Sun = 39AU. Distance between the Earth and Pluto and back = (39 - 1) * 2 = 76AU

      -@user7920's question

      #Calculation

      Total length of DNA in 1 cell:

      6.4×109 × 3.4×10-10 meters ≈ 2 meters

      Total length of DNA of all cells in human body:

      2 meters × 1014 = 2×1014 meters

      The total length of the DNA strands in the human body in units of Pluto roundtrips is:

      2×1014 meters / 1.2×1013 meters/Pluto roundtrip ≈ 17 Pluto roundtrips

      10 billion miles are 1.6×1013 meters (assuming statute miles for "miles" – you never know exactly with uncommon units)

      The total length of the DNA strands in the human body in units of 1x1010 statute miles is:

      2×1014 meters / 1.6×1013 meters/1010 statute miles ≈ 12×1010 statute miles

      The total length of the DNA strands in the human body in units of Moon roundtrips is:

      2×1014 meters / 7.7×108 meters/Moon roundtrip ≈ 2.6x105 Moon roundtrips

      -@Sklivvz's answer

  7. "Do the seeds from 20 apples contain a fatal dose of cyanide?"

  8. "Was the Speed of Light known in 13th century India?"

    • Needs: This question's all about confusion over historical units and unit conversions.
  9. "Did the world Jewish population increase between 1933 and 1948?"

    • Needs: This question's all about population change over time. In the top-voted answer, the poster attempts to provide a table with some numbers, but it isn't particularly legible. I'd suspect that they could've provided more, if they were able to present it.

      The figures listed for total world Jewish population are as follows:
      1941 15,748,091
      1944 15,192,089
      1947 15,688,259
      1948 15,688,259
      1949 11,266,600

      -@tim's answer

  10. "Do four random common words make a stronger password than passwords like “Tr0ub4dor&3”?"

    • Needs: This question's all about entropy in passwords. It's all math, though this is very hard to cleanly represent without TeX.
  11. "Does the gravitational constant fluctuate"

    • Needs: A question about a physical constant needs to be able to show the actual number, which currently can only be shown in scientific notation which is less readable and might not be familiar to all:

      Physical Review Letters Article: 6.667e-11 0.011e-11

      Science Article: 6.693e-11 0.027e-11

      NIST: 6.67384e-11 0.00080e-11

      University of Washington: 6.674215e-11 0.000092e-11

  12. "Will global warming reduce available oxygen?"

    • Needs: This question concerned a peer-reviewed paper that predicted doomsday vaguely around 2100. Because it was primarily a math paper, it was very difficult to discuss it without TeX. Much of what would've gone into @Nat's answer was left out due to being unable to reasonably express it.

      Other parts were hacked-in using HTML tags:

      Finally, after finding a few fake values that they like, they then just pick those values as-if they were real.

      We fix most of the parameters at some hypothetical values as B = 1.8, σ = 0.1, c1 = 0.7, c2 = 1, c3 = 1, c4 = 1, η = 0.7, δ = 1, ν = 0.01, μ = 0.1, and h = 0.1, but vary A in a broad range.

      -"Mathematical Modelling of Plankton–Oxygen Dynamics Under the Climate Change" (2015-11-25)

      -@Nat's answer

      Yet other parts were hacked-in using screenshots:

      This simple flow model's then described by a few differential equations as

      Equations (13–15) then turn into the following:

      enter image description here

      -"Mathematical Modelling of Plankton–Oxygen Dynamics Under the Climate Change" (2015-11-25)

      -@Nat's answer

      This was a very tedious way to have to write the post.

Potentially helpful links

  • 6
    MathJax is not to be entered into lightly as it introduces a noticeable delay to every pageview. I'd want to see that it's useful for many posts before adding the dependency. Could you find some more examples and explain how the posts would be materially improved? – Jon Ericson Jun 4 '17 at 4:50
  • @JonEricson I added a few examples to the question. For me, the big issue is that I often find myself wanting to post something, but can't really do it because I just can't construct the post. I mean, making an image and uploading that's an option, but that's too much tedium to bother with. I think that making TeX available won't only help improve the existing content on the site, but also enable users to post more solid data and better represent analytical thoughts. – Nat Jun 4 '17 at 8:15
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    I'm featuring this to allow a larger discussion. – Sklivvz Jun 4 '17 at 23:46
  • Would it require mass edits to all existing posts that use $ (e.g. to talk about money)? That would be a lot of work. – Nate Eldredge Jun 10 '17 at 21:39
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    @NateEldredge That'd be a good question. The $ tags are a bit strange for Tex; I'm used to other sites using [tex]/[/tex] for similar markup. Other SE's use \$ to avoid the issue with prior content, e.g. \$x\$ instead of $x$. I'm not sure what tools the SE developers have available, though it would seem fairly straightforward for them to replace existing $'s with some substitute if we did use the standard $ using a find-and-replace mechanism (like they used it to change HTTP links to HTTPS recently). – Nat Jun 10 '17 at 21:42
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    A quick SEDE query shows 685 posts and 577 comments with a dollar sign. I've not counted dollar signs in titles. I see no posts or comments with \$ in them. I do remember the mess when Puzzling switched from one to the other and back, very early in their existence. – SQB Jun 18 '17 at 15:06
  • @SQB Awesome, thanks for the numbers! Do you know how forums that rely on $ in the monetary-prefix sense deal with the loss of it for that purpose? For example, does \$ become the new $? – Nat Jun 18 '17 at 15:47
  • @Nat, I'm sorry, but I don't know, I can only guess. All I know is that one does not simply enable MathJax. – SQB Jun 18 '17 at 16:22
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    @SQB It does somewhat surprise me that it's not easier for 'em. I mean, it seems like they just (1) find/replace $'s with \$'s; (2) deploy MathJax; (3) profit; alternatively, (1) deploy MathJax with \$; (2) profit. – Nat Jun 18 '17 at 16:27
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    Code Review and Electrical Engineering already use MathJax with the \$ delimiter, so that is a possibility from a technical standpoint. – David Z Jul 6 '17 at 2:46
  • SE.GameDevelopment recently enabled TeX, demonstrating a list of examples as shown in their Meta question, "Can we enable MathJax on GDSE? (revisited)". Their approach seemed effective; rather than detailing each example question, they just search-and-listed. – Nat Jul 13 '17 at 21:25
  • @Nat: It's funny that you say that $ is a strange tag for TeX. It's the original TeX tags for mathmode. LaTeX introduced \(...\) and \[...\]. – Ink blot Jun 26 '18 at 7:40

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