MacPhedran’s Musings, Part 2

It is the Yuletide season once again, and the hallways ring somewhat empty just before the week long break. (Though I recognise most of the people still here.) The winds blow -40 degree chills outside. It must be time for another blog entry.

In keeping with the festive spirit, I am getting holiday messages from many sources. One that caught my eye was a demonstration of the graphics in “R” the statistics programming language. This produced the image reproduced below. Apparently, R can generate more than just utilitarian graphs. Merry Christmas.


Now while it might seem to be too late to get a gift out to people for December 25th, there is lots of time before Christmas according to the Julian calendar. I only mention this as the Stereoscopic 3D News tells me that there is a new tablet available that shows 3D stereo – without the need for funky glasses. This is the Hammacher Schlemmer No Glasses 3D Tablet – an Android tablet with a display area half the size of a piece of letter paper. The device uses a parallax barrier to produce separate images for each eye. THIS IS NOT A PRODUCT ENDORSEMENT. I haven’t seen this product, at least not yet. Now, I would certainly review it should one happen to come my way. (It doesn’t have to gift wrapped. That only slow me down in getting to the tablet. A little bit.)

Speaking of 3D – the current popularity of solid printers (AKA 3D printers, rapid prototypers, or other names) has brought a number of interesting articles to my inbox lately. While the sintering of metal powder with lasers is an interesting technology currently getting some attention, I’d like to bring up a more accessible topic – making anatomical models from CT scans in plastic. Kitware has a blog post on building a model of the TMJ using their software (Paraview and Slicer). In summary, a CT image was segmented using Slicer and an STL (solid printer) file was created. That file was modified in Paraview to have a more favourable orientation for printing, and the final STL file was sent to MakerWare for final printing. This is particularly relevant on campus, as the College of Medicine ITU just purchased a MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer. Contact the TTC for more information.

Kitware also notes that the next version of Paraview will support better (i.e. publication quality) plots. This new plot quality will be achieved with a Python library called matplotlib. A nice gift from them to their users.

As for giving, it might be nice to help the researchers trying to replicate published research results. Keith Jeffrey forwarded a note that 80% of research data is unavailable 20 years after publication. That certainly poses a problem in replicating the results of those older papers. The authors of the original UBC paper are trying to help fix the situation, by making their data and analysis code available through Dryad, even including a DOI for the files. That is a nice present for those that follow. Some journals also help directly – the Stata Journal (sorry – it is not a journal we subscribe to) even permits Stata users to download the files and data associated with papers directly within Stata.

I hope that everyone has an enjoyable time between now and the next blog post. Which, of course, will appear in 2014. Happy New Year, everyone!

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