[Chicago] Introduce Yourself

Brian Toby Brian.Toby at ANL.gov
Wed Oct 3 05:07:40 CEST 2012

On Oct 1, 2012, at 3:00 PM, Kevin Harriss wrote:

> an Introduction thread would be a good...

Hi, I have been lurking on this ML for a bit more than a year, but don't venture into Chicago that often, so it might well be a while before I make it to a meeting, but they usually sound pretty tempting. I will rise to Kevin's challenge and de-cloak long enough to introduce myself.  

I am an experimental scientist (a crystallographer) who uses computers for much of my work. Over the years, I have done a lot of programming, which has ranged from hand-assembled code for a 4K PDP-8 to learning and using a lot more languages than I care to think about. About 15 years ago, I discovered the advantages of coding in script languages and started doing most of my coding in Tcl/Tk. About 5 years ago I started using Python to automate a scientific instrument at the Argonne synchrotron. (For geeks only: see a Python-driven robot and diffractometer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86TZpk_Tn1M). 

Writing code is only one of the things that I do, but I am involved in rewriting in Python a very widely used large [Fortran] code for crystallography that also has a freestanding [Tcl/Tk] GUI. What we are finding is that NumPy and SciPy allow computations to run at speeds as fast as Fortran (and where they don't and it matters, we use F2Py to wrap short Fortran routines), but the length of the resulting code is much much more compact and the time needed to write that code is much less. In a year or so we have duplicated and surpassed much of what took originally more than a decade. I do spend a lot of my time prosthelytizing use of Python and helping my coworkers get started with it. 

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