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Comment The Python open source scientific stack (Score 1) 283

Python is pretty much established as the leading open-source foundation for high-level scientific computing, competing head-on with tools like Matlab and IDL, either via the pure 'python stack' (Numpy, Scipy, Matplotlib, ipython - http://www.scipy.org/ and tools around them) or a project like Sage (http://sagemath.org).

I suggest you find a *topic* that interests you, that you're likely to work on for fun. If it's something that can benefit your research, even better. Then try to improve the specific package that covers that problem. Python is a much easier language to get into than C++, yet there are ways (with Cython and C/C++/Fortran) of getting performance when needed.

The range of topics where significant contributions can be made ranges from the very low-level, hard-core optimization work to high level user interface and visualization libraries. Special functions, ODE integrators, statistics, code generators, visualization, you name it, there's work to be done and welcoming communities in Python. If you'd like more specific pointers, drop an email to the Numpy discussion list as a starting point, indicating with a bit more precision what topics you find interesting intellectually. You'll find a welcoming reception and guidance on where to go from there, until you can find a project to focus your energy on.


Apple's 3D Desktop Patent Filing Examined 156

phantomfive writes "The patent office has released some patent filings by Apple which indicate that the company is working on a 3D desktop of some sort. They call it a multi-dimensional desktop, according to the patent filing." There's also some commentary at ZDNet; both stories link to a detailed run-down at AppleInsider.

The Neurological Basis of Con Games 218

Hugh Pickens writes "If we humans have such big brains, how can we get conned? Neuroeconomist Paul J. Zak has an interesting post on Psychology Today in which he recounts how he was the victim of a classic con called 'The Pigeon Drop' when he was a teenager and explains how con men take advantage of the Human Oxytocin Mediated Attachment System, called THOMAS, a powerful brain circuit that releases the neurochemical oxytocin when we are trusted and induces a desire to reciprocate the trust we have been shown. 'The key to a con is not that you trust the con man, but that he shows he trusts you. Con men ply their trade by appearing fragile or needing help, by seeming vulnerable,' writes Zak. 'Because of THOMAS, the human brain makes us feel good when we help others — this is the basis for attachment to family and friends and cooperation with strangers.' Zak's laboratory studies have shown that two percent of the college students he tested are 'unconditional nonreciprocators' who have learned how to simulate trustworthiness and would make good con men. Watch a video of Skeptics Society founder Michael Shermer running the classic pigeon drop on an unsuspecting victim and see if you wouldn't be taken in by a professional con man yourself."

Comment A Unified Grand Tour of Theoretical Physics (Score 1) 276

By Ian Lawrie:


is an excellent overview of the key ideas in 20th century physics, with an eye for the unifying mathematical principles that underlie them all.

In your situation I think it would be very useful, because it gives you a big picture of what the main concepts in physics are like, rather than dwelling too much into the details of any one topic. Give it a read first, and then move on to a few more topic-specific books like others recommended here.

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