[SciPy-user] New scipy release before 8/20?

massimo sandal massimo.sandal@unibo...
Wed Aug 8 09:50:51 CDT 2007

Ryan Krauss ha scritto:

> I do think your response was rude and I don't think it fosters the
> kind of community we have on the SciPy list.

Sorry,really. I didn't want to (albeit I understood it could have been 
understood as that).

> I am quite convinced of the value of SciPy.  I did my entire Ph.D.
> thesis work using it and have published at least one paper so far on
> the power and beauty of Python applied to my area of research
> (feedback control systems).

Perfect. So why so much doubts? Why cheating about the failed tests? Go 
ahead. You are the teacher. They will (have to) follow you.

> I am not teaching programming, I am teaching mechanical engineering
> and specifically mechatronics.  For reasons I don't fully understand,
> our students don't think they need to learn much about computers and
> would prefer to do everything in Excel. 

That's exactly the problem I was pointing to.
I am a graduate in Biotechnology, currently finishing my Ph.D. When I 
was studying, there was exactly the same approach "oh well, you don't 
need to learn that much, just throw in some matlab and excel, there's 
this and that, click and go".

I learned on my own skin that this is BAD, BAD, BAD for *every* 
meaningful scientific course of study. Luckly I had a good 
bioinformatics teacher that exposed me to serious programming (and 
Python, by the way), and out of my curiosity I began to explore what was 
in. But the situation, at least here, is desolating. I see even Physics 
Ph.Ds trying to do complex data analysis using (not even VB-scripted!) 
Excel. I see people that try to draw graphs with Powerpoint (no 
kidding). In my field (AFM protein force spectroscopy), serious data 
analysis applications almost do not exist, so everyone is forced to 
reinvent the wheel. Usually using -guess what?- kludgy matlab (or,even 
worse, IGOR) scripts. Heck, I just read a *paper* about a data analysis 
algorithm implemented partially in Excel. How can this be published, is 
beyond my understanding.

I am trying to put up a modular and clean data analysis app myself to 
release soon (as a previous thread by me explained). Tough work, and I'm 
not a good programmer, but someone in my little field has to do it and 
however it cannot worsen the situation. My collegues, at least, are very 
happy. But if everyone of us had had a good informatics background, 
things would be much better. Much,much better.

In 2007, I would expect a decent informatic literacy to be obligatory 
for every scientific course. All steps of our work, from experimental 
work to paper writing, are so dependent from the computer environment 
that it is of paramount importance. That's why I urge you not to repeat 
the wrongdoings of my teachers. Do not give your students the illusion 
that good = click-and-go. They won't be good scientists that way. Give 
your students the truth, and that is better tools can be actually harder 
-but the reward is worth the hassle.

My bioinformatics teacher told us "Ok, there's this thing called Python. 
You can download it and the libraries we need here, here, and here. Do 
it yourself". After a couple of introductory lessons, we were told 
"Python docs are there. Look there for further help." Painful at first 
for many, but a learning experience by itself.

More so if these people are *engineers*. Do XXI-century engineers 
expect, in their work life, to click a big button with written "ENGINEER 
THIS! LOL!" or do they expect, like it was once, to actually think and 
do some homework? :)

> So, I am trying to remove as
> many barriers as possible to getting them to use Python and SciPy.  An
> installation process made up of many steps and that involves replacing
> a file manually doesn't inspire the confidence of windows users who
> are used to things working "out-of-the-box".

Your aim is noble and I understand that, but I think it's not by 
cheating (hiding tests etc.) that you will win them. I think it's by 
frankly presenting what the tools are, why have you chosen them, why 
they are superior. And by teaching them that sometimes not everything 
worthwile is "out-of-the-box". This holds for computers, science and life.

These are my 0.02 euros. Sorry again if I looked rude, but I'm frankly 
sad at the students' situation. You are doing a great job and I'm 
extremly happy you do it. Sorry again for any misunderstanding.


Massimo Sandal
University of Bologna
Department of Biochemistry "G.Moruzzi"

snail mail:
Via Irnerio 48, 40126 Bologna, Italy


tel: +39-051-2094388
fax: +39-051-2094387
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