Command Line Science

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A worthy Kickstarter science related project is afoot.

Face it. Most science is done on the command line. When it is not, we call it “science by spreadsheet” or name it by some other epithet.

Much of that is done on Linux or Linux like computers, but that actually includes Macs, and if you must, it can be done on Windows.

Bioinformatics, climate simulations, basic statistics using the r language, fancy math things using the appropriate python library, making graphs with gnuplot, and even producing nice looking results for dissimnation to our geeky peers using LaTex. Science-related engineering uses the command line too, if it involves any programming of controllers or sensor equipment.

This is not to say that all science is done this way. Quite a bit isn’t. But there are many tools used in science that are best handled with the command line or something like the command line.

Brian Hall, a computer science guy, is developing an on line training class to teach the methods of command line science. He is developing the class using Kickstarter, which is fairly unique as far as I know. He isn’t even asking for that much money, and is over half way to his goal. Visit the Kickstarter site to see what you get if you donate. He has a nice video explaining the project.

This video course is designed for scientists with little or no programming experience. It’s okay if you’ve never even touched the command line (or if you did once but it felt icky).

You’ll have fun learning a new, powerful way of communicating with your computer. Along the way, you’ll acquire access to a whole world of amazing open source data and software. Who knows what you’ll do next?

The project home will be at Udemy, here. You can go there and see a draft of the course, which will give you a very good idea of what it entails.

The class will probably cost $199, but Brian is considering discount rates for teachers.

Here’s the press release for Brian’s project:

Crowd­funded Video Course to Boost Scientists’ Computational Skills

“Learn the Command Line … for Science!”

Nearly every field of science has a significant computational component ­­ but few working scientists have been trained as programmers. Universities are adapting, but not nearly as fast as the sciences are exploding with new applications. Simulation, data mining, bioinformatics ­­ these are the fields that are driving innovation in physics, astronomy, biology, and medicine. New tools and techniques are being developed every day, but we need more scientists with the interdisciplinary skills necessary to harness them.

A new video course called “Learn the Command Line … for Science!” is calling for backers on the crowd funding site Kickstarter.com. This class will walk trained scientists through the basics of using the command line interface, an absolute requirement to run scientific applications and take advantage of high performance computing resources. It’s also great preparation for learning to code, and eventually contribute new and novel tools to computational science.

The class is being developed by Brian David Hall, a Computer Science instructor with experience doing bioinformatics for the USDA. The course is upbeat, fast­paced and targeted at the needs of working scientists. It goes into detail where necessary ­­ for example, covering how to install software and download datasets from the command line ­­ but it skips topics which are less relevant to scientists, such as the system administration tasks emphasized by other command line courses.

Kickstarter campaigns operate under an “all­or­nothing” funding model, so if “Learn the Command Line … for Science!” doesn’t reach its funding goal of $1,500 after 30 days then Brian gets no funding, and nobody gets to take the course! Be sure to follow him on Twitter (@_bruab_) to stay up to date on the project’s progress, and help spread the word to your social media networks. Just $5 is enough to become a backer of this project. For Science!


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