[OS X TeX] NASA, Word, TeX and PowerPoint

Joseph C. Slater PE, PhD joseph.slater at wright.edu
Wed Feb 4 18:24:54 CET 2009

On Feb 4, 2009, at 12:00 PM, Adam M. Goldstein wrote:

> Right, my thought about the NASA bussiness immediately was, if they  
> had used, say Beamer or TeX in general more widely, their  
> communication would have been that much more effective, and then  
> things such as what Tufte refers to in his little pamphlet wouldn't  
> have occurred.
> Moreover it occurs to me that Springer, at least, has a LaTeX  
> submission option that allows you to upload your source, and it will  
> typeset it and show you the completed PDF. So it's not as though  
> this is impossible. You are supposed to put in any macros you want  
> to use in the document itself. They are not generating a house  
> style, I don't think, with manuscripts, but the auto upload does  
> work. NSF's fastlane works the same way.
> <snip>

My sense, in having worked with NASA and US Military folks for 18  
years, is that they are briefed and briefing to death. Instead of a  
few high quality reports, the tendency is to generate PP after PP  
presentation in what turns into a dog and pony show. IMHO an  
excruciating amount of time is spent trying to show that things are  
"getting done" in place of time better spent a) doing it, b)  
documenting it. I really don't think Beamer, etc. solves the real  
problem. It's about the fact that presentations have an environment,  
and an expectation, that is not conducive to critical thinking about  
details. The details can't be shown in a presentation lest the  
presentation last more than the allotted time/attention span/donut  
supply. We spend a year of class time in engineering going over  
Newton's laws for a variety of situations, and it's not exhaustive.  
However, give me the details showing whether it's safe to de-orbit the  
shuttle seems to have gotten 3 hours of presentation. The devil indeed  
was in those details. The first presentation had an obvious statement  
that would have made me panic, but someone important sipped coffee at  
the wrong time, and oops, the test conditions being totally irrelevant  
to the situation was blown right over.


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