Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fathom is my new best friend.

I'm sorry. I've been so remiss about loving and caring for my blog. Please forgive me...It's been a crazy week--classes are officially in full swing, and college apps are right around the corner. On the other hand, because classes have started, I've discovered a whole new world of math and science-y goodness. I also found out for comp sci that we're going to be creating a program for an art character who dances the hokey pokey. Epic.geek.out.ensued. I'm so incredibly sad that I have to wait for November until that happens. Expect a blog post on that in ~2 months.

Anyway, how many of you out there have had to graph something at some point in your life? Ever since precalc, graphing paper and a ruler have always been within an arm's reach. It was good to get the experience graphing functions and data by hand, really. I'm not taking away from that. But there were some days in chemistry when my lab partner and I would stare stupidly at the paper for fifteen minutes trying to figure out an adequate scale for our graphs. It was kind of amazing really. We had just spent 3 hours using I don't even know how many formulas, and hand us a piece of paper and a bunch of data, and we were like a bunch of lost puppies trying to find our way home (literally--we didn't want to leave the lab until we had our graph scale approved by our professor).

But then our professor introduced us to using the computer to record data and create graphs, which we used when we were using things like pH meters, calorimeters, and thermometers. It was awesome, to put it frankly. After spending an entire first semester recording data and graphs by hand, it was pretty neat to see the little dots of data pop up onto the computer screen as the experiment timer counted down. After chemistry ended, any thoughts about using a computer to graph such data disappeared. Actually, I wasn't thinking about it, honestly. My summer was blissfully graph-free.

Enter physics. And stats. And Fathom. My very first physics lab involved graphing two graphs. At the same time, my statistics teacher had just introduced us to the statistical software Fathom, and she taught us how to take data and data tables and transform them into graphs. After spending 30 minutes working on my physics graph by hand, I had an epiphany. Why not try using the computer software to graph it? So I did, and it worked beautifully. I still have to graph a bunch of stuff by hand for statistics, and I'll practice doing some graphs by hand for physics, but I do love the convenience of Fathom when I'm short on time. What's really cool about the program is that there's an option to import data from the Internet. You can literally drag the webpage with the data over the Fathom window, and a little "S" button pops up next to the data website's URL. If you click it, the data is automatically imported into its own little collection in Fathom. It's awesome. My stats teacher had us try it out with data online about hot dogs. For some reason, I found that very amusing. The only downside is Fathom does have a cost. What other stats software have people used? Any cool open-source ones?

Happy start of classes/September!
Hannah

2 comments:

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  2. free + open source: http://www.r-project.org/

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