A few of my favorite moments from LPSC 2013

(Note: this was initially posted on my other blog at Glacial Till, but there were some good bits of information that I wanted to share with the Paleoposse.)

Last week I attended my first science conference: The Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, TX. If you followed me on Twitter, then (for better or for worse) you also knew that I was one of about 40 people microblogging the conference. There was a lot of great science to cover and it was fun trying to distill that information into 140 character limit. I got to present a poster on the shock dike that I’ve been working on for over a year now and I received good feedback on the research. I also met a lot of great people, some of whom will be potential collaborators in research and outreach projects.

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Writing a for-loop in R

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There may be no R topic that is more controversial than the humble for-loop. And, to top it off, good help is hard to find. I was astounded by the lack of useful posts when I googled “for loops in R” (the top return linked to a page that did not exist). In fact, even searching for help within R is not easy and not even that helpful when successful (?for won’t get you anywhere. ?'for' will get you the help page but it is by no means exhaustive.) So, at the request of Sam, a faithful reader of the Paleocave blog, I’m going to throw my hat into the ring and brace myself for the potential onslaught of internet troll wrath.

How to loop in R

Use the for loop if you want to do the same task a specific number of times.
It looks like this.

for (counter in vector) {commands}

I’m going to set up a loop to square every element of my dataset, foo, which contains the odd integers from 1 to 100 (keep in mind that vectorizing would be faster for my trivial example – see below).


foo = seq(1, 100, by=2)

foo.squared = NULL

for (i in 1:50 ) {
foo.squared[i] = foo[i]^2
}

If the creation of a new vector is the goal, first you have to set up a vector to store things in prior to running the loop. This is the foo.squared = NULL part. This was a hard lesson for me to learn. R doesn’t like being told to operate on a vector that doesn’t exist yet. So, we set up an empty vector to add stuff to later (note that this isn’t the most speed efficient way to do this, but it’s fairly fool-proof). Next, the real for-loop begins. This code says we’ll loop 50 times(1:50). The counter we set up is ‘i’ (but you can put whatever variable name you want there). For our new vector foo.squared, the ith element will equal the number of loops that we are on (for the first loop, i=1; second loop, i=2).
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53

Of Meteorites and Men

What I lack in looks in make up for in sarcasm. And yes, I do wear bowties frequently.

Yes, I do wear bowties frequently.

Hello Paleoposse! My name is Ryan Brown and I’m one of the newest victims bloggers here at the Paleocave. I made an appearance on Episode 134 where I talked a bit about meteorites and the asteroid mining company, Planetary Resources. I blog over at Glacial Till where, confusingly enough, I do not actually talk about glaciers. Most of my blogging centers around meteorites, planetary science, and some geology. I have no plans on abandoning my own blog, so keep your eyes open for cross-posts between the two sites.

A little about myself: I’m an undergrad in my senior year at Portland State University where I’m majoring in Earth Science with a minor in Space and Planetary Science. While keeping up with my normal classes, I can also be found doing independent research at the Cascadia Meteorite Lab on campus. I’ve been there since I was a freshman learning about the wild world of meteorites and it’s finally culminating in two co-authored papers (one that’s in peer review and the other being written) and a rather unhealthy addiction to space rocks and caffeine. And somewhere in all that, I’ve managed to squeeze in time to lead the skeptic group on campus.

So, why meteorites? What makes this relatively niche science so fascinating? In short, meteorites are the left over building blocks of the solar system. They are to meteoriticists (a person that studies meteorites) what fossils are to paleontologists. They allow us to understand how planets formed and evolved out of the great chemical cloud that swirled around the young protosun 4.5 billion years ago.

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REVIEW: Answers for Aristotle by Massimo Pigliucci

A4A_coverMy grandpa was no philosopher (in fact, he was an engineer, which might be considered the exact opposite) but he used to say, “There’s always room for improvement.” Upon reflection, this may have been relevant to engineering, but I remember him saying this when I asked him why he gave our pizza a 4 out of 5 when I thought it was a fine pie. This sentiment has stuck with me, and it influences a lot about how I comport my own affairs. In my life, I too strive to constantly be improving, and have often struggled with being content while simultaneously wanting better. Now either this is a common philosophical problem for a human to have or Massimo Pigliucci is a mind-reader, but either way his new book seems written just to help people with this sort of problem out.

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Science-y New Year’s Resolution: Learn to Code

Matrix-codeIn a 1995 interview Steve Jobs said he thought that computer programming should be a liberal art. In other words, he thought everyone’s education should include a year of learning a computer language, because it teaches you how to think in a certain way. If that was true in 1995, just think how much more crucial knowing how to code in some language is today. Perhaps learning a computer language should be on your to-do list; maybe a new year’s resolution?

If you want to learn a computer language a logical question would be which one to learn?

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moRe

more_more_more_main_a2Hopefully my first R post whetted your apatite for open source data software.  I’m gearing up for more R posts regardless.  I thought I’d do a quick post about a couple of useful commands, ‘View’ and ‘fix’. When you first break the shackles of Excel one of the toughest things is not being able to see your data. Try this, fire up R (go download it and install it if you haven’t already) and let’s call up a built-in dataset by typing

volcano

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Winter Solstice Gift Guide 2012!

309657_10100638960929038_296217771_nIt’s that time of the year, where the days are about as short as they’ll get (in the Northern Hemisphere) and thus we give gifts to those we care about to make them feel a little less along out in the cold darkness. First, I’d like to remind you that clicking the Amazon banner on this very page takes you to Amazon to buy whatever you desire and a bit of that comes back to us. Also, all of the links in this post that point to Amazon are customized for us, so you can click those and go straight to the product while still helping us out. Thanks!

But as for the content of this post, I’ve asked the Paleopals to contribute their ideas for things you could get the geek in your life for this solstice season. Here are the results. Enjoy!

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