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Pocket Reading List : Week 2 of April

Study Finds Jack Shit : This story just might hit close to home for a lot of people in science/academia/research. Although it is a satirical piece by the Onion on how a study ended without producing any meaningful results and what the opinions and mood of the researchers involved are, a lot of what's written actually happens. A lot of the time research, addressing a question simply leads to another. Money goes down the drain. Years spent analysing data or conducting the survey turn to dust. People are driven into depression. So, the next time you come across that scientist friend of yours, hug him and tell him that it'll be alright!

“Moon Hoax Not”: Short Film Explains Why It Was Impossible to Fake the Moon Landing : I strongly believe in the fact that NASA landed man on the moon. Multiple times. It's not even belief at this moment. It's blind faith, much like religious faith of a large portion of my family. I've argued with people who don't believe in the moon landing and call it a hoax. I've read about how to disprove the arguments that these non-believers give. This video gave me a completely new set of rebuttals and ways to prove the non-believers and conspiracy theorists. It talks about how it was technically not feasible for NASA to record and playback the whole thing given the state of the recording and playback instruments at the time! And he also comes off as funny and sarcastic. I don't know how he does it!

The Seas Will Save Us: How an Army of Ocean Farmers are Starting an Economic Revolution : This is a brilliant article, which I have been pondering upon everyday. In fact, this article is seriously making me consider quitting what I'm doing now to become a fisherman. Rather, a sea farmer. The article talks about an ex-fisherman who was driven further and further out into the sea every year to catch fish and make a living who now grows sea weed in the ocean to make a living. It's surprising that we ignore a large portion of plant life, albeit under water, from our diet, even though it's just as, if not more, nutritious! It also talks about the need for a new model of economy that benefits the farmer and not the middle man!

These Birds Learn to Recognize Humans They Hate : Birds fascinate me! I've lived for six and a half years on a beautiful campus filled with mesmerising bird songs early in the morning and luckily I'm now living in a huge township that is just as, if not more, diverse in terms of the bird species that inhabit it! This article is an account of how one species of birds can recognise humans, specifically their faces, who posed a threat or caused harm to them or their brethren earlier.

Sherpa: They Die, We Go Home : Scores of westerners try to climb the everest every year. And a lot of them die in the process. Which are of course reported in the news and what not. What goes unreported, as this article points out, is the fact that for every paying westerner who dies trying to climb the everest, there is atleast, if not more than, one Sherpa who also dies. Sherpa are the people who carry the equipment. Who pave the path and make it more secure. And while the agencies that bring the westerners earn in Dollars, the Sherpa probably get paid in Rupees i.e a lot of money is being made by the man-in-the-middle. I, personally, would not put another man's life in risk just to climb, what is currently, the highest peak in the world.

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Animation using GNUPlot

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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…