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Pocket reading list : Week 1.1 of May

What North Dakota Would Look Like if Its Oil Drilling Lines Were Aboveground : I'm fascinated by beautiful visualisations and I want to learn how to make them sometime in the near future. This is one such visualisation, that appeared on New York Times' The Upshot, where they depict the oil wells drilled to extract shale oil/gas in southern US but instead of drawing the wells underground, where they actually are, the authors drew them above ground, to provide a scale as to how deep/tall they are. What is also surprising is the sheer number of bore wells and how close they are to one another. No wonder extracting shale oil/gas at this level is causing serious environmental harm!

Seven Features You’ll Want In Your Next Charting Tool : There are lot of tools out there, offline and online, language dependent and language agnostic, that let you convert a dataset into a meaningful chart/plot/visualisation that will help you convey the message in the data a little easier. This is a brilliant article on features that one might consider essential in a tool if they wants widespread adoption and ease-of-use!

Why Should Engineers and Scientists Be Worried About Color? : You will have to incorporate color into your visualisation if you have data that has more than 2 dimensions. Now, the color scale you choose to display your dataset can have repercussions, such as making you see patterns where there aren't any or worse, not conveying a real pattern in the data! Now you decide which is worse. This article shows how beautiful a dataset can look if the right color palette is used and how easily one can convey the underlying structure in the dataset with the right palette. Another account of how choosing the wrong color palette can lead to bad things can be read here - Why rainbow colour scales can be misleading where the author shows how the data was misrepresented by the visualization/color palette leading the original authors of a paper to see a pattern where there wasnt any!

Why You Hate Comic Sans : Everyone hates Comic Sans. Heck, I did too at a certain point in time. But the weird thing is that I don't know why I hated it! I was just going along with every once else. This article makes an attempt to clear the misunderstanding between the font's intended usage and what it's legacy ended up being, thanks to the Digital revolution!

As you can see, the overall theme of the articles so far was visualisation, plotting, colors, interpretation and what not. So I thought that i'd end on a different note so here's a hip-hop-ified account of one of the founding fathers of USA, Alexander Hamilton, which eventually became a big broadway musical that is taking the country by surprise - Lin-Manuel Miranda Performs at the White House Poetry Jam.

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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…