Well this hit me after spending a really long time searching for a post I was viewing two days ago. I couldn't understand why can't I find it. I was trying to remember what was written in the title so I could search for it, but any of the queries I tried couldn't get me there.
At one point I thought it was maybe deleted, and just before giving up, I thought about trying changing to a different variable letter - guess what, there it was.

Now this is something you can find for yourselves. Searching $"\frac{1}{a}"$ ,for example, will generate an amount of 3,659 results. On the other hand, searching for $"\frac{1}{x}"$ will generate a totally different set of results with the amount of 16,521! (And this is by the time this was written of course)

Now I know those are two different letters and that it is more common to use one instead of the other for certain expressions, but I can't avoid thinking about all the results I'm missing(?) As for duplicates too I guess this issue is not being very helpful.

How about setting the priority for the letter that was written while also keeping the other results of similar expressions? Or any other option that will benefit the search?


1 Answer 1


I think the problem is that this site uses the same text-oriented search engine as every other Stack Exchange site, and to it $\frac1a$ and $\frac1x$ are two very different queries.

What we would need is a math-oriented search engine, which would take such expressions and not only find instances of those expressions which use different variable names, but also all similar expressions. I don't believe such a search engine is available right now, and I don't see one being developed just for us.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ If I asked a "math-oriented" search engine for $\zeta(s)$, and got back every instance of $a(b)$ for all symbols $a$ and $b$, I would not be happy. $\endgroup$ Oct 27, 2015 at 4:39
  • $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson The problem is, if you ask a non-math-oriented engine for ζ(s), you won't get any results either. StackExchange: 0 results. Though a math-oriented engine would not be hard at all to build. And can be made quite flexible search-wise. $\endgroup$
    – Alex
    Mar 4, 2016 at 5:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Alex, I typed zeta(s) into the search space at a math.stackexchange page, and got 2,442 hits. $\endgroup$ Mar 4, 2016 at 6:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Alex Though a math-oriented engine would not be hard at all to build. Do it then? This is quite a presumptuous sentence. $\endgroup$ Mar 4, 2016 at 10:49
  • $\begingroup$ @NajibIdrissi OK. Just give me the source code of a non-math-oriented search engine [including bot code], so I can convert it into a math-oriented search engine, put it on my personal website, and test it. $\endgroup$
    – Alex
    Mar 7, 2016 at 20:20
  • $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson Alright, so "zeta(s)" works. For code that's already latex-formatted. A math-oriented search engine could do that too, since zeta is not a single-letter variable name. However, searching for "zeta(s)" does not find any instances of, say, unicode versions, "ζ(s)". Also, searching for "ζ(s)" yields 0 results.$$ $$ Not that it makes that big of a difference, but just saying. $\endgroup$
    – Alex
    Mar 7, 2016 at 20:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Alex I thought it was easy, and now you can't even do that yourself...? $\endgroup$ Mar 7, 2016 at 20:29
  • $\begingroup$ @NajibIdrissi No, I mean the "hard" part is the search engine code. Bots to crawl sites, how to get access to subscription-only sites [plus legal issues associated to that: since bots can index those with permission of publisher, but not make the cached version available to the public], efficient ways to retrieve information from servers, spreading information so server load is more-or-less uniform, deciding which information to drop,&c. On the other hand, making an existing search engine be math-oriented is not hard at all: it can be done in about a day's work (depending on the original code) $\endgroup$
    – Alex
    Mar 7, 2016 at 20:37

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