[AstroPy] Proliferating py-astro-libs

James Turner jturner at gemini.edu
Mon Jun 13 15:35:50 EDT 2011

Regarding splinter meetings, I'd say "why not?" -- but I was
thinking of something more dedicated, where people are focused just
on this particular problem and actually achieve something (eg.
contributing then and there to each other's project documentation),
rather than a brief meeting where people say enthusiastic things
and then go away :-). I've already done the latter a few times...

I will be at SciPy for the whole week though (largely so there is
time to talk to people) and will be happy to discuss this again (I
wish our distribution were ready so we could start by announcing it).

Kelle, wasn't there a AAS splinter meeting this year? Did anything
come of it? I probably wouldn't make it all the way from Chile just
for a brief session, but I imagine STScI (or this list) would fill
me in on the discussion and the AAS certainly might be a good place
to get wider input.



On 13/06/11 15:15, Perry Greenfield wrote:
> It may be too late. Those attending may have already made travel plans
> that preclude an extra day or two (I think it deserves at least a
> day). And it may be too late for those that weren't planning to go.
> Perry
> On Jun 13, 2011, at 3:07 PM, Tom Aldcroft wrote:
>> What about a splinter meeting at SciPy2011?  I guess the question is
>> how many interested parties will NOT be there this year.
>> - Tom
>> On Mon, Jun 13, 2011 at 2:59 PM, Kelle Cruz<kellecruz at gmail.com>
>> wrote:
>>> I think a sit-down is desperately needed to resolve these issues,
>>> figure out
>>> the mgmt structure (aka, pecking order), for the BDFL to emerge,
>>> and for
>>> progress to occur.
>>> I'd be happy to participate as a non-python/programming expert and
>>> maybe
>>> provide the voice of the "users".
>>> I propose there be a Splinter Meeting at AAS in Austin. (Splinter
>>> Meeting
>>> deadline is Dec 1.) Or else someone will have to organize at CfA
>>> (Tom A?
>>> Thom R?) or STScI (Marshall? Perry?) since, as far as I can tell,
>>> that seems
>>> to be where most of the movers and shakers in this game are located.
>>> kelle
>>> On Mon, Jun 13, 2011 at 2:00 PM, Perry Greenfield<perry at stsci.edu>
>>> wrote:
>>>> That's a good idea.
>>>> Perry
>>>> On Jun 13, 2011, at 1:43 PM, James Turner wrote:
>>>>> Maybe we should hold an AstroPy conference, where we can discuss
>>>>> co-ordination, get to know each other better and even sit down and
>>>>> work on libraries together (like at SciPy). That might help
>>>>> generate
>>>>> a bit of momentum. Some of us have had meetings before that were
>>>>> full of ideas that didn't go anywhere, but I don't think it has to
>>>>> be that way if active people on the ground are talking to one
>>>>> another
>>>>> rather than having institutions present their plans and try to
>>>>> negotiate at a high level.
>>>>> On 13/06/11 13:25, James Turner wrote:
>>>>>> It seems that several of us would really like to improve
>>>>>> collaboration on Python libraries but have been struggling to pull
>>>>>> it off. I've raised the same issue on this list in past months,
>>>>>> but
>>>>>> my
>>>>>> focus has unavoidably been on other things and since I'm wary of
>>>>>> shouting a lot without contributing much, I haven't really been
>>>>>> able
>>>>>> to keep the discussion alive...
>>>>>> I tend to agree with Mark and Stefan about the question of
>>>>>> leadership.
>>>>>> Perry&  co. at Space Telescope deserve recognition for getting us
>>>>>> this
>>>>>> far with things like PyFITS and PyRAF. Others have taken the
>>>>>> initiative
>>>>>> with things like astronomical plotting and documentation sprints.
>>>>>> We're
>>>>>> still lacking a bit of coherence though, which (as Mark
>>>>>> suggests) is
>>>>>> likely to involve one or a few dedicated, energetic,
>>>>>> knowledgeable,
>>>>>> hands-on developer(s) who can glue things together. Those people
>>>>>> need
>>>>>> to be employed by someone, though, to ensure stability&
>>>>>> continuity
>>>>>> (fortunately there's already a bit of that going on at STScI, eg.
>>>>>> with
>>>>>> Mike and Matplotlib). Personally, I have the motivation but have
>>>>>> not
>>>>>> had the time/independence (and might not be assertive enough).
>>>>>> Apparently we do have several energetic authors in the community
>>>>>> now
>>>>>> (like Thomas&  Eli), but each with their own project.
>>>>>> A couple of years ago, a number of us at the observatories
>>>>>> submitted a
>>>>>> white paper to the Decadal Survey, pointing out the need for more
>>>>>> co-ordinated funding so that we can have people who focus on
>>>>>> cross-
>>>>>> institutional platform development&  support. The report from the
>>>>>> committee did give a nod to our concerns and their importance, but
>>>>>> stopped short of making any recommendation, which basically means
>>>>>> "good
>>>>>> luck with that". Meanwhile, at Gemini we have had our own
>>>>>> problems to
>>>>>> deal with, which make it very difficult for me to propose
>>>>>> something
>>>>>> internally beyond working with STScI on the distribution of
>>>>>> dependencies that Perry mentioned. Perhaps someone obtaining a
>>>>>> grant
>>>>>> for this is not out of the question though.
>>>>>> I would like it if we could get together organically behind
>>>>>> Astrolib,
>>>>>> but sometimes it's difficult to get people away from their
>>>>>> immediate
>>>>>> priorities to focus on that, even within my own institution. If we
>>>>>> could get people dedicated to it, though, it could become
>>>>>> indispensable
>>>>>> enough to attract and co-ordinate more effort. I'm just not sure
>>>>>> how we
>>>>>> get started at this point and my personal options for tackling the
>>>>>> problem seem limited given the overarching funding transition at
>>>>>> Gemini
>>>>>> and the intense focus on projects that are needed to make that
>>>>>> work...
>>>>>> Cheers,
>>>>>> James.
>>>>>> On 10/06/11 09:48, Perry Greenfield wrote:
>>>>>>> On Jun 9, 2011, at 11:12 PM, Thomas Robitaille wrote:
>>>>>>>> I just wanted to also add that (in agreement with Marshall)
>>>>>>>> I'm all
>>>>>>>> in favor of many small modules that accomplish a particular task
>>>>>>>> well, rather than packages that aim for a 'do-it-all' approach
>>>>>>>> and
>>>>>>>> fall short. It's always possible to bundle small packages
>>>>>>>> together
>>>>>>>> afterwards, and I don't mean merge development, but instead just
>>>>>>>> bundling the packages for installation (kind of like EPD). I
>>>>>>>> think
>>>>>>>> that is the easiest approach for all of us.
>>>>>>>> Maybe in the long run, a specific set of core packages will
>>>>>>>> emerge
>>>>>>>> as essential and we can then talk about truly merging them
>>>>>>>> into a
>>>>>>>> scipy-like package, but for now, I think the race is still on.
>>>>>>>> And
>>>>>>>> after all, there's nothing to say we *have* to achieve the same
>>>>>>>> setup as in IDL.
>>>>>>> It sure seems to me that the time is ripe to start trying to
>>>>>>> coalesce
>>>>>>> some of the ongoing efforts.
>>>>>>> Mind you, I don't think it is necessarily good to start with only
>>>>>>> one
>>>>>>> version. Allowing a few different approaches initially has its
>>>>>>> benefits. You get to see more approaches and ideas in play and
>>>>>>> having
>>>>>>> experience with them is very helpful in deciding which one is
>>>>>>> more
>>>>>>> productive. And sometimes there is room for more than one in the
>>>>>>> long
>>>>>>> run. The different approaches may have their own niches. But it
>>>>>>> is
>>>>>>> hard to imagine any long-term need for more than two or three
>>>>>>> different approaches.
>>>>>>> Early on there are some pragmatic needs for different approaches.
>>>>>>> For
>>>>>>> example, having a fairly "literal" translation of IDL tools into
>>>>>>> Python has its benefit. It is very useful for those that would
>>>>>>> like to
>>>>>>> migrate IDL code, and given the existing IDL versions, make it
>>>>>>> much
>>>>>>> easier to test their correctness. But I don't see this as a
>>>>>>> substitute
>>>>>>> for a good set of modular tools that have a better object
>>>>>>> design and
>>>>>>> consistent interfaces with other modules. Doing this is more work
>>>>>>> and
>>>>>>> will take more time. So a need for both approaches is likely.
>>>>>>> Some
>>>>>>> could argue the same for replacing IRAF tasks.
>>>>>>> All this is much easier said than done of course.
>>>>>>> I wish STScI had more resources to devote to this than we've
>>>>>>> actually
>>>>>>> had. We've been planning to do more on this front than we've
>>>>>>> actually
>>>>>>> done. Things come up repeatedly that ruin these plans. But it
>>>>>>> may be
>>>>>>> worth saying where some of our current efforts are going that may
>>>>>>> overlap some of these other efforts.
>>>>>>> 1) We've been planning (along with Gemini, and particularly James
>>>>>>> Turner), to try to develop some Sage-like installation package
>>>>>>> that
>>>>>>> would make it easy to install all the basic tools for most
>>>>>>> astronomers. We had hoped to have a beta version out, but one
>>>>>>> of the
>>>>>>> people working on this left at the end of last year, and we've
>>>>>>> not
>>>>>>> been able to replace that person. We are going to continue this
>>>>>>> effort
>>>>>>> with existing staff though. Hopefully in a few months we'll have
>>>>>>> something to try out.
>>>>>>> 2) There is a recognition that a more serious effort needs to be
>>>>>>> made
>>>>>>> to replace IRAF functionality. Perhaps one of the benefits of a
>>>>>>> JWST
>>>>>>> delay is that it will allow us to do some of that work more
>>>>>>> explicitly. But we would not do it by replacing IRAF tasks one-
>>>>>>> for-
>>>>>>> one
>>>>>>> but coming up with an entirely different approach which has to
>>>>>>> start
>>>>>>> from the bottom up (the end result could have applications that
>>>>>>> mostly
>>>>>>> emulate IRAF tasks, but also provide much more modular tools).
>>>>>>> 3) More specifically, we are currently focussing on how to handle
>>>>>>> WCS
>>>>>>> issues in a more general way than they are handled in FITS. If
>>>>>>> there
>>>>>>> is interest, perhaps we should say more about the intended
>>>>>>> approach.
>>>>>>> This is particularly important for replacing spectrographic
>>>>>>> tools in
>>>>>>> IRAF, and this is where we are starting our effort.
>>>>>>> 4) We need a way of saving these WCS models, and FITS is not the
>>>>>>> way.
>>>>>>> We are looking at an alternate data format, not just for WCS
>>>>>>> models,
>>>>>>> but for data in general [gasp!]. Work has begun on this too.
>>>>>>> 5) A lot of our recent work has been on pysynphot and ETCs. We
>>>>>>> plan on
>>>>>>> making the computational part of our ETCs a released tool. But
>>>>>>> I'm
>>>>>>> also wondering if we can generalize the pysynphot spectral models
>>>>>>> for
>>>>>>> more general use in spectral tools.
>>>>>>> 6) We have been working on a framework for making pipelines
>>>>>>> easier
>>>>>>> to
>>>>>>> build and configure. That won't be ready for at least a few
>>>>>>> months,
>>>>>>> but could well be of general interest and use.
>>>>>>> But besides these things, I would like to see if we can't begin
>>>>>>> the
>>>>>>> effort of narrowing some of the underlying libraries being used.
>>>>>>> FITS
>>>>>>> WCS is one obvious area that seems ripe for that.
>>>>>>> But the community ought to identify one or two areas that are
>>>>>>> of the
>>>>>>> most interest in consolidating (let's start small). What should
>>>>>>> we
>>>>>>> start with? Focus is important in making any progress in this
>>>>>>> area.
>>>>>>> Perry
>>>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>>> AstroPy mailing list
>>>>>>> AstroPy at scipy.org
>>>>>>> http://mail.scipy.org/mailman/listinfo/astropy
>>>>> --
>>>>> James E.H. Turner
>>>>> Gemini Observatory Southern Operations Centre,
>>>>> Casilla 603,          Tel. (+56) 51 205609
>>>>> La Serena, Chile.     Fax. (+56) 51 205650
>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>> AstroPy mailing list
>>>>> AstroPy at scipy.org
>>>>> http://mail.scipy.org/mailman/listinfo/astropy
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>>> --
>>> Kelle Cruz, PhD — http://kellecruz.com/
>>> 917.725.1334 — Hunter ext: 16486 — AMNH ext: 3404
>>> _______________________________________________
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>>> http://mail.scipy.org/mailman/listinfo/astropy
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