This week the Agile crew is at the SciPy conference in Austin, Texas. SciPy is a scientific library for the Python programming language, and the eponymous conference is the annual meetup for the physicists, astonomers, economists — and even the geophysicists! — that develop and use SciPy.
What is SciPy?
Python is an awesome high-level programming language. It's awesome because...
- Python is free and open source.
- Python is easy to learn and quite versatile.
- Python has hundreds of great open source extensions, called libraries.
- The Python ecosystem is actively developed by programmers at Google, Enthought, Continuum, and elsewhere.
- Python has a huge and talkative user community, so finding help is easy.
All of these factors make it ideal for crunching and visualizing scientific data. The most important of these is NumPy, which provides efficient linear algebra operations — essential for handling big vectors and matrices. SciPy builds on NumPy to provide signal processing, statistics, and optimization. There are other packages in the same ecosystem for plotting, data management, and so on.
If you follow this blog, you know we have been getting into code lately. We think that languages like Python, GNU Octave, and R (a stastical language) are a core competency for geoscientists. That's why we want to help geoscientists learn Python, and why we organize hackathons, and why we keep going on about it on the blog.
What's going on in Austin?
Technical organizers Katy Huff and Serge Rey have put together a fantastic schedule including 2 days of tutorials (already underway), 3 days of technical talks and posters, and 2 days of sprints (focused coding sessions). Interspersed throughout the talk days are 'Birds of a Feather' meetups for various special-interest groups, and more social gatherings. It's exactly what a scientific conference should be: active learning, content, social, hacking, and unstructured discussion.
Here are some of the things I'm most looking forward to:
- Tutorial: Image analysis in Python with scipy and scikit-image with Juan Nunez-Iglesias and Tony Yu.
- Talk: GeoPandas: Geospatial data + pandas by Kelsey Jordhal.
- Talk: PyMC: Markov chain Monte Carlo in Python by Chris Fonnesbeck.
- Session: The geophysics mini-symposium, of course! All Wednesday afternoon.
- How to choose a good colour map by Damon McDougall
If you're interested in hearing about what's going on in this corner of the geophysical and scientific computing world, tune in this week to read more. We'll be posting regularly to the blog, or you can follow along on the #SciPy2014 Twitter hashtag.