Once upon a time, I really could program. Now, I’m lucky to have many students and postdocs who both use up all the time I could spend learning new computer languages well AND learn those languages well “for me.”
As I write this in 2011, it is clear to me that python is currently the language of choice amongst the younger scientific research community. In my own field of Astrophysics, great open-source packages like APLpy (the Astronomical Plotting Library in Python) are seeing widespread participation/adoption. More generic open-source libraries like matplotlib are of use far beyond Astrophysics (as a 2D plotting library), and 3D plotting/Viz routines are in the works (ask me later!!).
An oldie but a goodie! This is the “National Virtual Observatory” use-case video that we made at the IIC in 2006. I upload the link here to show “what scientists want” when it comes to tools for retrieving and visualizing online data. WARNING: There’s a lot of Astronomy jargon in here, but if you can get past that, any scientist will be able to see the common desires of users, and shortcomings of existing technologies (yes, even now…)
Many thanks to all the interviewees, and to the students (Sara Watson and David Kosslyn) who produced the video for us.
Adobe Illustrator is a very powerful inherently object-based (rather than pixel-based) image-editing program. Illustrator’s companion, Adobe Photoshop, is better for dealing with pixel-based files where one wants to manipulate the look of an image, rather than computer-generated objects within an image.
Many scientists think Illustrator isn’t for them, and for many, that’s correct. To be “good” at Illustrator takes concerted effort and training, and some innate aesthetic sense as well (and quite a bit of money, usually). However, Illustrator has the critical ability to open and manipulate Adobe PDF files directly. To many scientists, this (at least) should be a critical feature, as manipulating PDF output created by other programs lets users optimize graphics for the clearest presentation. The full version of Adobe Acrobat will also let users open PDF files and edit them, but its graphical capabilities are very, very, limited in comparison with Illustrator.
Adobe Photoshop is a very powerful inherently pixel-based (rather than object-based) image-editing program. Photoshop’s companion, Adobe Illustrator, is better for dealing with object-based files that have curves, shapes, or text in them one wants to edit as “objects.”
Many scientists think Photoshop isn’t for them, and for many, that’s correct. To be “good” at Photoshop takes concerted effort and training, and some innate aesthetic sense as well (and quite a bit of money, usually). However, Photoshop has the flexibility to open more image formats than most image-editing software, and even a novice can manipulate images within it very usefully. In addition, the “FITS liberator” program makes Photoshop especially useful to astronomers, as this opens their standard “FITS” format files in Photoshop, even offering integration with “AVM” tags for adding/manipulating astronomical and outreach metadata attached to images.
Seamless Astronomy: Keynote at Sage Bionetworks Congress (April 2011)
The embedded video here is just a teaser—the full 29 minutes (with intro + Q&A) is online at this FORA.tv site. This talk is a good summary of why and how astronomical research is facilitated by the “seamless” integration of research data, literature, and software. More information, including an online copy of the slides used here, is online at the Seamless Astronomy website.