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Pocket reading list : Week 3.2 of March

Why Pluto is a frigid prison for nitrogen ice : I don't know if you guys know this but a while back, a tiny satellite sent by humans a long time back reached Pluto and sent back some amazing pics (again, the images lead to some very interesting science but let's take one things at a moment). It takes a while to interpret the images and produce meaningful science from them, after which peer review needs to happen. A bunch of papers were finally submitted by the team a couple of days back. This is a commentary on one such. "Science Papers Reveal New Aspects of Pluto and its Moons" is another.

Inside the wild—and wildly successful—early years of Mission Control : I have been amazed by space and spaceflight for a while now and this is an account of the lives of a few people who were behind the scenes, handling the operations of some of America's most successful space missions.

Flint’s children and the burden of betrayal : This article freaked me out. If you don't know already, people in Flint were being kept in the dark by a government which knew of Lead presence (read poisoning) in the city's drinking water. Now, the sadder fact is that this article made me aware of the mental trauma that the children in Flint might be going through! I need to read up on the studies mentioned in this article.

I’ve Had a Cyberstalker Since I Was 12 : A good number of my girl friends have told me that they had guys stalk them. A few of them were troubled by it. A few of them were used to it. But all of them were annoyed by it. This is the account of a woman who tried reporting and taking legal action on someone who was stalking her.

PS : Again, I'm pretty sure that I haven't done justice to the articles I linked above. Do me a favour and read them anyway!

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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…