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### Pulsar Observatory for Students, ORT, July '13 - An overview of the project work

As i mentioned in a previous post, student projects as part of POS was to observe a pulsar & a calibrator using the ORT and infer properties of the pulsar such as period of the pulsar, flux density and dispersion measure (and therefore distance to the pulsar). We were given a list of pulsars (refer to the post aforementioned) & corresponding calibrators and asked to choose one pair.

To be noted here that a calibrator for a pulsar cannot be more than +/- 5 degrees away from the pulsar as the atmospheric response is different at different angles. And we need the pulsar & the calibrator to have the same atmospheric response (DUH!).

Choosing a pulsar was the first problem. I looked up properties (period, profile width and strength) of each of the pulsars from ATNF and NED and chose a pulsar which i felt was interesting (slide 3). ORT observes at 326.5 MHz and the next step was to estimate the strength of the pulsar at the ORT observing frequency (slide 8).

This is needed before observations start as the telescope response can be set according to the strength of the source.

Having observed the pulsar, SIGPROC was used to reduce and analyze the time series data. I am not going to delve into the process now. Before i end, there is one more interesting thing we found during data analysis.

Slides 24 & 25 might not make much sense but note slides 26 & 27.

The x-axis is the frequency of observation and the y-axis is flux (in random units). It is obvious from here that the telescope itself has a frequency dependent response function. Not to brag but i discovered this on my own and the faculty admitted to their being such a problem (for quite a while) and that it was being corrected.

### Animation using GNUPlot

Animation using GNUPlotI've been trying to create an animation depicting a quasar spectrum moving across the 5 SDSS pass bands with respect to redshift. It is important to visualise what emission lines are moving in and out of bands to be able to understand the color-redshift plots and the changes in it.
I've tried doing this using the animate function in matplotlib, python but i wasn't able to make it work - meaning i worked on it for a couple of days and then i gave up, not having found solutions for my problems on the internet.
And then i came across this site, where the gunn-peterson trough and the lyman alpha forest have been depicted - in a beautiful manner. And this got me interested in using js and d3 to do the animations and make it dynamic - using sliders etc.
In the meanwhile, i thought i'd look up and see if there was a way to create animations in gnuplot and whoopdedoo, what do i find but nirvana!

In the image, you see 5 static curves and one dynam…

### on MOOCs.

For those of you who don't know, MOOC stands for Massively Open Online Course.

The internet is an awesome thing. It's making education free for all. Well, mostly free. But it's surprising at the width and depth of courses being offered online. And it looks like they are also having an impact on students, especially those from universities that are not top ranked. Students in all parts of the world can now get a first class education experience, thanks to courses offered by Stanford, MIT, Caltech, etc.

I'm talking about MOOCs because one of my new year resolutions is to take online courses, atleast 2 per semester (6 months). And I've chosen the following two courses on edX - Analyzing Big Data with Microsoft R Server and Data Science Essentials for now. I looked at courses on Coursera but I couldn't find any which was worthy and free. There are a lot more MOOC providers out there but let's start here. And I feel like the two courses are relevant to where I …

### On programmers.

I just watched this brilliant keynote today. It's a commentary on Programmers and the software development industry/ecosystem as a whole.

I am not going to give you a tl;dr version of the talk because it is a talk that I believe everyone should watch, that everyone should learn from. Instead, I am going to give my own parallel-ish views on programmers and programming.
As pointed out in the talk, there are mythical creatures in the software development industry who are revered as gods. Guido Van Rossum, the creator of Python, was given the title Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL). People flock around the creators of popular languages or libraries. They are god-like to most programmers and are treated like gods. By which, I mean to say, we assume they don't have flaws. That they are infallible. That they are perfect.
And alongside this belief in the infallibility of these Gods, we believe that they were born programmers. That programming is something that people are born wit…