Intrinsic spectral line widths and the uncertainty principle

Here's a question for you. According to the bohr model of the atom, the energy difference between two levels is quantized i.e it is an integer. Therefore, an absorption or emission quanta related to these two levels should have a unique energy/frequency value i.e in an intensity vs frequency profile, the emission or absorption line should be a perfect dirac delta function. But it is a known fact that spectral lines, em/abs, have a finite width. The profile is not a delta function but a lorentzian. How come?

The answer lies in the uncertainty principle. The uncertainty people, as most know it, is a relation between the uncertainty in position against the uncertainty in momentum of a species. It can also be written as the uncertainty in energy against the uncertainty in time of the species. As defined on Wiki, natural broadening occurs from the fact that excited species have a specific lifetime and the larger the uncertainty in this lifetime is, the smaller the uncertainty in energy of the transition and vice versa.

Someone had asked me this question a long time back. There are a couple of other reasons for why spectral lines are broadened such as collisional or pressure broadening and Doppler broadening. I got to know of this intrinsic line width roughly an year ago and am still amazed at the concept! I thought I'd share it with you because it has been recurring in my courses over the last couple of days...

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…