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For people not familiar with this name -- MathJax is a plugin which converts LaTeX math markup like $X_1^2$ into proper math notation, in this case enter image description here.

On one hand equations may appear here too rare to justify it, on the other hand it might be useful for chemistry; maybe it is not a desired use of this system, but it is easier to type $H_2O$ than to fight with HTML subscript.

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    $\begingroup$ I hope that equations on this site are not rare! There are many fields of biology that require math to have any reasonably coherent discussion. Although it's true that using it for molecular formulae may be an abuse. $\endgroup$ – yamad Dec 15 '11 at 18:04
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    $\begingroup$ My only complaint about it is that it seems to freeze up my browser (Firefox), and I have heard about it freezing up other people's browsers as well (IE, Opera, Chrome). This is particularly evident at the Theoretical Physics site. $\endgroup$ – Larian LeQuella Jan 1 '12 at 17:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Larian Very old hardware? The software is actually incredibly mature and stable so this sounds like an uncommon issue. If it persists then you should definitely file a bug on the MathJax developer site. $\endgroup$ – Konrad Rudolph Mar 1 '12 at 16:55
  • $\begingroup$ any idea how long this will take to implement? I had to resort to using an image in this question: biology.stackexchange.com/questions/2599/… $\endgroup$ – Abe Jun 12 '12 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ this one too biology.stackexchange.com/questions/2626/… $\endgroup$ – Abe Jun 14 '12 at 20:08
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Yes, because to be frank, typing out any math without some sort of notation system in the Stack Exchange software is a pain. And I don't necessarily think it's "overkill". While some users might not use it a great deal, most of my work is either mathematical biology or mathematical epidemiology, and talking about predator-prey models, epidemic models, etc. - which don't really have a home to talk about their substance rather than their implementation outside of this site - is essentially impossible without typing out some math.

More to the point, deciding not to have it I think stakes out a somewhat dangerous position that this site isn't interested in questions regarding Biology that require heading into any math more complex than high school algebra.

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    $\begingroup$ +1, there's a lot of mathematics in higher-level biology. We want to promote those questions. $\endgroup$ – user24 Dec 15 '11 at 8:30
  • $\begingroup$ And let's not forget disciplines such as biochemistry, physical chemistry or molecular modeling! $\endgroup$ – nico Dec 15 '11 at 15:49
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    $\begingroup$ lots of mathematics in ecology too! $\endgroup$ – DQdlM Dec 15 '11 at 15:57
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    $\begingroup$ +1, \LaTeX support is essential to the this site. Without it, the scope of questions and answers will be limited. $\endgroup$ – Abe Dec 22 '11 at 5:43
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    $\begingroup$ My only complaint about it is that it seems to freeze up my browser (Firefox), and I have heard about it freezing up other people's browsers as well (IE, Opera, Chrome). This is particularly evident at the Theoretical Physics site. $\endgroup$ – Larian LeQuella Jan 1 '12 at 17:36
  • $\begingroup$ @LarianLeQuella The better solution of this problem is to send MathJax authors good bug reports rather than not-using it... I'm a heavy user of MathJaxed stat.se and I have never had any problems. $\endgroup$ – user59 Feb 21 '12 at 11:48
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Congratulations, you should now have MathJax implemented here!

[EDIT]: I almost forgot to include -- the TeX / LaTeX guides are all on meta.Math. If you'd like to experiment with the formatting, I suggest using their Sandbox.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for enabling it. Could you also change the configuration to the one chemistry.SE uses? The mhchem package for chemical formulas would also be useful here. $\endgroup$ – Mad Scientist Oct 24 '12 at 5:35
  • $\begingroup$ @MadScientist Done! :) $\endgroup$ – Aarthi Oct 24 '12 at 17:04
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The basic gist is, a demonstrated need for MathJax needs to be shown before we can enable it. It's a heavy script that we have to load on every page, and on some machines it can cause a hefty loading time. So if it's extremely rare that it comes up in comparison to the bulk of questions on the site, we prefer not to enable it. Consider Stack Overflow, which we still avoid enabling MathJax, because it just has too much slowdown for how comparatively rare it turns up.

We'll be keeping an eye on this question for evidence for and against the implementation of MathJax.

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    $\begingroup$ "It's a heavy script that we have to load on every page, and on some machines it can cause a hefty loading time." - +1 for this. On math.SE, it's a given. For physics.SE, the necessity is demonstrable. Here... I don't see that many questions that require mathematical notation coming up soon, so I'm not sure if the performance penalty of MathJax is justified here. $\endgroup$ – user132 Dec 15 '11 at 21:36
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    $\begingroup$ Scripts are cached though... $\endgroup$ – nico Dec 16 '11 at 6:26
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    $\begingroup$ I’m not convinced. You essentially have to load the script once. For the whole SE network. Scratch that, for all sites on the interwebs which include the MathJax script from their content delivery network. This once-for-all load time is entirely negligible. $\endgroup$ – Konrad Rudolph Mar 1 '12 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ See my answer when this question was asked for the Cognative Sciences SE site for some details concerning the misconceptions of the load that MathJax places on pages that don't include mathematics. $\endgroup$ – Davide Cervone Jun 15 '12 at 16:28
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We should have LaTeX support - there's no reason not to unless it burdens the system. That's why we shouldn't use MathJax, which is client-side and will increase the size of every fresh site load.

We should use a server-side option which produces SVGs and stores them. They have an excellent system at Scienceforums, which they have open-sourced here. It's for IPB but could be easily adapted for SE 2.0.

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  • $\begingroup$ “will increase the size of every fresh site load” – no, that is wrong. See my comment on Grace Note’s (equally wrong) answer. $\endgroup$ – Konrad Rudolph Mar 1 '12 at 16:59
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As a compromise, I'd like to point out this tool. It allows you to enter LaTeX notation either directly or using buttons then download a rendered image. It works in real time and can be included in answers by copying the URL location then inserting a picture as normal.

Whilst this is obviously not ideal for those used to entering LaTeX directly, it of course doesn't add to page loading times.

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  • $\begingroup$ “it of course doesn't add to page loading times” – and neither does MathJax. See my comment below Grace Note’s answer. $\endgroup$ – Konrad Rudolph Mar 1 '12 at 17:00
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It seems like huge overkill for this site. The only time I'd use it is when talking about biophysics stuff, but there's always Physics.SE. Getting it enabled on EE.SE was like pulling teeth as the administration was fearful of the tremendous burden it placed on bandwidth.

<sub> and &rightarrow; seems fine to satisfy most casual chemical conversations.

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    $\begingroup$ How would it be overkill? It is already implemented in many SO (so it should be easy to add it to this, I guess), and it won't prevent to use <sub>. But it will definitely be welcome when talking of higher-level biology/chemistry. $\endgroup$ – nico Dec 15 '11 at 15:51
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think it would be overkill or rarely used. Mathematical notation is essential for most serious discussions of ecology. $\endgroup$ – DQdlM Dec 15 '11 at 15:56
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    $\begingroup$ @nico echoing Grace Note, if there is a need, it can be enabled. Right now it's putting the cart before the horse. $\endgroup$ – Nick T Dec 15 '11 at 23:47
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    $\begingroup$ I just edited someone's answer to convert things like NH_3 to NH<sub>3</sub>, and it was quite a pain. MathJax might make this easier. $\endgroup$ – Michael Kuhn Jan 17 '12 at 14:28
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Can I also point out it can be used to make much better tables than anything else we have? I think we are limiting MathJax too much if we think of it solely in terms of equations. I just discovered it was active last night and used it to make the table here:

Factor causing Methicilin-resistance in MRSA?

If you look at the edits, you can see the ascii tables I was trying to make, but I think that came out much better.

Also is it highlighted somewhere other than this question that we can use Mathjax? I have wanted to use it before and just assumed we didn't have it. If it is highlighted, I certainly missed it.

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