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This week's reading list

Best Practices for Scientific Computing : Everyone needs to get their hansd dirty and write programs in this digital age of ours. It'd probably be for the best too, literacy could soon come to include the ability to program, in any language of choice. And the same way spoken languages are standardised such that no matter where you go, you can speak and understand the other person (for example in English.). Similarly, a lot of us will have to read other people's programs from time to time and from what i've experienced, it's one of the hardest things to do. A must read for any student or scientist to who are learning programming such that they can cultivate these rules into their workflow to produce not only working programs but readable and extendable programs.

Learning to Speak Lingerie : At some point or the other, we've all come across that shop run by an immigrant, one who might not even speak the same language as ours or maybe he can barely speak enough to keep his shop going. This is such a story of chinese business men (and women) in Egypt. The interesting thing is that they are selling lingerie.

Section 1: Media Sources: Distinct Favorites Emerge on the Left and Right : The Pew Research Center produces some really interesting work and this is part of a larger report on Political polarization and media habits. While it's common knowledge that certain news channels lean left and some lean center, this part of the report provides interesting insight into the trustworthiness of various news sources by members of the public leaning left, right or center.

How the US Military Helped Invent Cheetos : This is another interesting story that teaches us that we can never really predict where or how the money a country or an establishment invests can end up leading to new avenues of revenue. Wars were a time of great innovation and one of the things money was spent on was to develop dehydrated cheese, so that it is easier to ship it to the front lines. After the war, however, entrepreneurs took advantage of the surplus cheese production and cheap prices to come up with a product that has now become ubiquitous in developing and developed countries.

A Nation of Poverty : I love visualizations. There are many ways to represent and show data and one needs to find a succinct and immersing way to keep the attention of the viewer. This article beautifully shows poverty in various cities in the US, where it is localized, how it has changed over the years and so on.

Prison Born : Sometimes I come across articles which make me wonder as to why I hadn't thought about this issue earlier. This is one such article on babies born in prisons. I do not know what the rules are in India but apparently, in the US, there are a few prison facilities that allow for the new born to grow up in the comfort of the mother. There are extensive studies to understand if it's better for a prison born to be raised in foster care or with a relative until the mother is released from prison or if it's better for them to be raised in such special facilities in prisons.

The Terror Strategist: Secret Files Reveal the Structure of Islamic State : All of us have heard about ISIS, the newest and most radical looking terrorist organization. It has captured the interest of many academics who study such organizations, especially because of their media penetration and their public image. While they maintain a facade as a radical terrorist organization, this post describes how the organization came to be, what it's founding principles or motives were and so on.

The Mob's IT Department : The story of how two tech consultants were tricked, threatened and coerced by a mafia to *hack* into the shipping companies and into the port to aid them in smuggle drugs into the country.

The Wolf of Wall Tweet : Automated trading algorithms are already common in stock markets world wide and there have been enough disasters/crashes associated with bad/weird behavior of said trading algorithms. Popular stock market related news outlets also have specialized news feeds that are fed to trading algorithms so that they can make decisions of their own, whether to buy or sell the stock of a company, depending on the news related to the company's dealings and so on. This is one such story.

The Beauty of Code : Another article on programming, the sheer number of programming languages which exist and new ones which keep cropping up every other day and their prevalence in this digital age.

Last week's blitzkrieg (I don't know what the word exactly means but I still wanted to use it!) of posts with links to articles was a small experiment that I was trying to do, to see how many people actually bothered reading this blog post and the articles linked within. While a couple of people have told me personally that they have indeed read a couple of articles, I didn't get the kind of response that I expected. I write to keep track of all the things that I've read because I will use them in a conversation at some point or the other. I also write to get better at writing and at communicating what I have in my head. I think that science communication is sometimes just as important as pursuing science is but it isn't given as much importance in traditional graduate programs. Because I am writing to get better, I would like comments. And that's what I hoped for. That's what I've always asked for. But I haven't gotten as many comments as I'd expected. Every once in a while someone mentions to me that they've read my blog and it makes me happy, makes me write for a couple of more months. I was going to quit after last week but hell, I can't quit now. I need to get better. Things would've been easier if people gave me feedback but I'm sure I can do without it. So here's me hoping for the best...

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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…