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Pocket reading list : Week 1.2 of July

Sexy beasts : I don't know why I hadn't asked the questions that were being answered in this article earlier. There are male birds out there with bright and extremely beautiful feathers, feathers that are primarily used to attract their female counterparts. And I should've asked the question "How does the bright and beautiful feathers help the female understand which male is stronger/fitter/better to reproduce with?", which this article answers. And there are things involved that came as a surprise to me.

How Seattle Gave Up on Busing and Allowed Its Public Schools to Become Alarmingly Resegregated : Apparently Seattle schools in the 70s and 80s enforced racial uniformity in schools in the area, by providing bus service to students if they needed to travel to a school a little further away, in the hopes of achieving racial uniformity. But now, the current administration and ignorant/biased/elite/pretentious/dumb parents are apparently resegregating the schools, converting them to be primarily white or non-white in certain regions.

How the New Horizons Spacecraft Was Developed : Science takes time. Sometimes decades. Sometimes budget constrains can force you to go back to the drawing board or get innovative to do more with less. Sometimes plans have to be made for decades in advance. Sometimes redundancy has to be integrated into the system from the beginning because it might be hard or impossible to retrieve the equipment after setting it up/releasing it. This is a brilliant account of how one specific science mission, one that has captured the public attention this past year.

The dark side of Guardian comments : It is common knowledge that women and non-white journalists get verbally attacked more than white journalists do. This knowledge was just empirical. Until The Guardian decided to quantitatively answer this question by looking at the comments it receives on it's numerous articles. And while the results aren't exactly surprising, they are one more thing we can use to silence people who say defend the other side of the argument.

Here’s What Happened When A Group Of Scientists Went To Confront Their Congressional Tormentors : Science reporting isn't an exact science. It should be but sadly, most of the time, it isn't. As such, research can be construed and written about, entirely out of context, and the findings can be construed to fit the narrative that the author wants to convey, instead of what the research actually is about. This is an account of how politicians, to extend their narrative, dumbed down and contorted research findings to demean them and the scientific process.

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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…