Python in Astronomy – day 5

Today we said goodbye to the #pyastro15 workshop. A full week has come and go. A wonderful week I should say, full of incredible moments and of course amazing software for astronomy/astrophysics written in Python.

The morning began with a talk by Emille Ishida on COIN (http://cointoolbox.github.io) an interesting package that tries to make a bridge between statistics in several languages and data analysis. COIN is a clear example of an excellent package built thanks to the effort and good will of a small group of people without any real funding.

Matthew Craig showed us astropy tools for undergraduates including his package reducer (https://github.com/mwcraig/reducer) which makes optical data reduction a simpler and user friendly job. Keep an eye to the talks once they are in youtube to get from Matthew loads of interesting ideas on using ipython notebooks for educational purposes.

Joe Zuntz talked about CosmoSIS (https://bitbucket.org/joezuntz/cosmosis/wiki/Home) a cosmological parameter estimator tool. A really engaging talk that led into a small debate on which tools can/should be used in different situations to merge/embed existent C/C++ code with Python. My conclusion from the discussion was, use Cython is you want to convert your Python code into C/C++ and ctypes (or the numpy version) when the C/C++ code already exists.

We finished the talk sessions with a keynote from Perry Greenfield on contributions from STScl to open source packages in Python. I was really impressed with the amount of time and effort spent by STScl on developing such useful pytools. As an example maybe I could mention Imexam by Megan Sosey (http://imexam.readthedocs.org/imexam/index.html). We also learnt that all the software developed for the James Webb telescope will be 100% open source. Incredible!

Before going to lunch and kick off the last unconference sessions of the workshop, we have our last lightning talk session. We heard about the Astrophysics Source Code Library (http://ascl.net) a place to collect all the available astro packages. Erik Tollerud introduced us to Authorea (https://www.authorea.com), a collaborative writing tool that has a very elegant design. David Perez-Suarez showed a very practical tool called recipy (https://github.com/recipy/recipy) for those cases when you want to know how you created a plot or a table from an old script. Finally I was very impressed with PythonTEX presented by Stuart Mumford (https://github.com/gpoore/pythontex) which let you add python code to your LaTeX file. Really useful to add long complex tables or to update figures based on final comments from co-authors. A must that I will start using very soon.

The unconference sessions today were more to make sure that everybody knew what to do after the workshop was over. There was also a lot of sprinting time to finish code that started during the week. Loads of new issues have been opened to improve packages presented in the workshop. New collaborations that we all hope will bring amazing new features in the near future.

As an example of the dedication and hard work from the people here, the conference was suppose to finish at 4pm. At that time an unconference session was starting. Not because we were running late, but because we still wanted to do/learn/discuss more. In fact, productive discussions run until almost 7pm! I guess hunger in the end played an important role on actually finishing the workshop.

I would like to thank personally to all the participants for making this workshop an awesome experience. You all were incredible, always dedicating time to others helping develop new features/tools. And for those following us via twitter or our blogs and engaging us with questions/comments, thanks for being there all these days. Of course, I want to acknowledge-thank here the amazing job that the organisers (Thomas, Pauline, Magnus, Stuart and many others that helped) for creating such a unique experience. Now it is time to get things done. To put out there those codes that were born or matured during this week. Let’s keep the momentum going. It is time to do more and better science with modern and efficient tools.

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