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Pocket reading list : Week 2.2 of March

Minorities exploited by Warren Buffett’s mobile-home empire : Predatory lending is something I've heard a lot about but never really understood. This article shines some light on what I understand about the topic. Poor and illiterate people are deceived and are taken advantage of by this mobile housing industry, making them pay extra to buy the house by adding bogus fees and making them sign agreements they don't fully understand.


The Missing 11th of the Month : There is popular XKCD comic that shows how frequently a date was referred to in English language books published after the year 2000. Weirdly, in the comic, the 11th of the month shows up less frequently than any other day of the month. This article talks about what the reason behind this weird outcome is and how it's a result of the process used to estimate the frequency of various dates found in literature.

Publishers Gave Away 122,951,031 Books During World War II : During the second world war, publishes in the US apparently decided to take a calculated risk and sell books at near-zero-cost to the military, in hopes of increase readership and in hopes of retaining the readership of these soldiers when they eventually return to the US.

The tube at a standstill: why TfL stopped people walking up the escalators : A lot goes on behind the scenes to keep our buses and trains running, the water in the taps and the electricity in our grid flowing. This is such an account of an experiment the London Underground public transport undertook to study how the efficiency of the underground can be increased by something as simple as making people stand on the escalators instead of walking.

A Century of Silence : This is a very heavy article on the Armenian genocide, something that the Turkish government denies still today. This is an account of the steps that one city, it's mayor and it's people are taking to welcome the people that it drove away and had killed years ago. Humans have done a lot of terrible things in the name of Racial purity and this is such an account.

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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…