What should be done about postings that contain embedded LaTeX math markup in them?

Certainly we should not ask for that to be enabled; its cost is much too high!

Should we replace them with images with the markup evaluated so that the text can finally be read? To show how nasty it looks, here are example postings with this problem: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. So instead of this sort of garbage:

The square root of the matrix $A$, denoted by $\sqrt{A}$, is well-defined.

It could be replaced with this image:

replacement image for previous text

Sometimes this can be done with Unicode so that it can be left as text, but unfortunately, Georgia is not well disposed towards the needed combining characters. For example:

The square root of the matrix 𝑨, denoted by √𝑨̅, is well-defined.

At least on my computer, it does not correctly join up the overline to the radical sign, and so is inferior to the image replacement.

However, image replacement is a pain to make look good — I have not tried to do so here. I just think these math-markup bits look ridiculous, and that we should do something to improve them.

I’m not quite sure what, though.

  • 3
    Your links [1] and [2] are identical.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 7:59
  • 1
    I wonder if there is scope to enable it on a per-post basis: if a page needs it, it's injected for that page, but it doesn't need to be loaded in every page on the site.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 8:00
  • 1
    Image replacement would also be a hassle for accessibility. I think @Andrew's suggestion for enabling it on a per-post basis is a sensible one, but I don't know if it's possible in SE at the moment.
    – alexwlchan
    Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 15:34
  • If it's ongoing, can we change the interface to use mathjax?
    – SrJoven
    Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 16:41
  • 4
    "its cost is much too high": is that really the case? The cost to who? The SE developers? To the machines processing the posts? To the users?
    – Mitch
    Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 16:53
  • &sqrt; $sqrt; @sqrt;
    – user31341
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 5:08
  • @Mitch It makes pages take longer to load even if there isn't any math being rendered. I can't find the Meta Stack Exchange post on this at the moment, but it was something like a 20% increase in page load times, I believe.
    – senshin
    Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 2:34

1 Answer 1


Enabling MathJax

As a moderator on Code Review who helped to push for MathJax to be activated there, I can say that the current Stack Exchange policy makes you work hard to justify it. Performance is a Feature, and Speed Still Matters, says Jeff Atwood, so they want pages to render quickly. MathJax is enabled per site, not per question, so they are reluctant to incur the performance overhead of loading and executing the MathJax code if it is deemed non-essential to the site.

To request MathJax to be activated, the community needs to come up with a list of posts that would have benefitted "extensively" from MathJax. That is a tough request to fulfill for EL&U. (Code Review had to work hard to convince SE, and we sometimes deal extensively with mathematical notation.)

Making do without MathJax

For the most part, it is possible to convey basic mathematical notation with a combination of Unicode, ASCII art, and, as a last resort, images. One way to make an image is to use latex2png.

Specific posts

I've gone ahead and typeset the specific posts mentioned here using Unicode.

  • One thing that has consistently been a problem with performance is loading the javascript in the head versus the footer.
    – SrJoven
    Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 14:49

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