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I was just looking on Area 51 and saw that there is a Mechanical Engineering proposal trying to be defined. If one were to look at Stack Overflow which uses code formatting, would you not say the equivalent at least for Mechanical, Civil, Electrical and Chemical would be engineering diagrams? I know it is a lot but I was thinking of starting from basic first/second year classes that tend to overlap for example Fluid Dynamics.

So one would post his/her question and to further visualize his/her issue he/she would do something like

[tank water 100 m^3 10 m]

and it returns an image of a tank filled with water (diameter 10 m) and even maybe some additional information, density, temperature (provided by Wolfram Alpha maybe?).

I understand that this is a lot of integration that has to be done, so if that is so, would it be best that I try propose this by creating a StackApp with a simple engineering format or the works (is a mashup with Wolfram Alpha allowed)?

Feel free to edit this if you know what I am talking about or comment and ask which parts are confusing.

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and +1 for the good idea but this would require such an implementation effort that I don't really think it's worth it. – Earlz Jun 9 '10 at 3:39
@Earlz sorry I was predicting for edits, should I delete and open a new question without CW ? I am new to meta. – phwd Jun 9 '10 at 4:00
@phwd CW is always ok. But people usually like getting rep for ideas they have. – jjnguy Jun 9 '10 at 4:33
@phwd Usually I only CW a Question or Answer if it is meant to be a joke, or I predict lots of downvotes :P – jjnguy Jun 9 '10 at 4:34
@Earlz sorry I did not really think about that. It is just an idea. The technical workforce [CS, Web Dev,Soft Dev] (minus engineers) have benefitted from being able to collaboratively tackle simple to more complex problems using SO. I was just trying to see if the power of an app say WolframAlpha can be used in mashup with SO ,maybe a sidebar load on roll over of an item to further convey information about the problem. Thats all :( – phwd Jun 10 '10 at 15:37
@jjnguy Thanks ! :D – phwd Jun 10 '10 at 15:38

How can this be made unambiguous?

[tank missiles 100m3 10m]

could refer to either a tank of missiles or a military tank loaded with missiles.

How would you even begin to document this? What if people wanted to say "container" or "carton" or anything else. How would you implement this? I don't see it as a problem that that can be completely solved.

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I'd like a tank that can fire missiles that are 10 meters in diameter. – Grace Note Jun 9 '10 at 13:52
Good Lord that'd be a big tank. And a lot of thrust. – Michael Todd Jun 9 '10 at 17:03
Maybe the same way a search program gives suggestion of ambiguous terms ? Putting the highest hit to output while giving suggestion to what was meant so the user can just edit in a revision ? Example in Wolfram typing 10m3 of water displays the most reasonable answer and gives the suggestion \\ Assuming "water" is a chemical compound | Use as a food instead // – phwd Jun 10 '10 at 15:40

Specialist sites are quite likely to need specialist content presentation. The Math Overflow site got special support for displaying Tex-like formulae for the same sort of reason.

I guess, though, this is the kind of thing that will get attention once the site has shown itself to be viable. Then one should expect the Stack Exchange folks to be keen on supporting the site's needs.

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IIRC, the Math Overflow LaTeX happens all client-side – balpha Jun 9 '10 at 13:56
@balpha: Sure, but the Javascript is generated on the server, and isn't hand coded by the MOists. The HTML-generating code had to be changed. – Charles Stewart Jun 9 '10 at 16:13
So one need to show the need for the feature after the SE site has gotten popularity ? Thanks ! – phwd Jun 10 '10 at 15:42

Rather than make Stack Exchange conform to your particular image generation requirements, I would suggest you host the image generation on a separate, off-site webserver, which users could easily link to / embed a la imgur or

A simple URL-based protocol could be generated; it could be RESTful or query-string based, whatever you like. You could even build a UI for the site and provide hot-linking to the diagrams. Slap some ads on it, and you could even make a penny or two.

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