Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Using the Open Source Graphing Calculator to predict sunspots

With all this talk about solar plasma aurora storms, sunspots, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to show off the Open Source Graphing Calculator's capabilities. Believe me, this is just scratching the surface...

First, I googled around, and read this article at theregister and this one at the examiner. Naturally, there was a big, ominous sun picture :-)

Scary! Here's a video of the class C3 solar flare happening in real time:

Naturally, after reading that article, I thought to myself, "I wonder what the statistical significance of this event is, and what the probability and co-occurrence bi-frequency distribution and temporal periodicity squared coefficient might be?"

I opened up my trusty iPhone... and... NO APP FOR THAT!!! What now, Steve Jobs, what now?!?! Oh no...! a mathematical question that deserves an answer, but didn't raise enough VC funding to make a bloated iPhone app that answers a simple question, but with slide-show effects, really pretty jelly buttons, and 3D shadows underneath it!

Luckily, as any good astro-physicist or geoscientist would tell you, one of the most famous data sets in the world is the Wolfer Sunspot Series, which is practically a rite of passage for starving astro-physics PhD students worldwide, and a great way to get published.

Thanks to Gareth Janacek, and his collection of data series, I was able to find the Wolfer data quickly, and used wget to pull it down to my calculator.

wget http://www.uea.ac.uk/~gj/book/data/wolfer.dat

Quite simple. Then I booted up R using a little script that I have automatically load when my calculator boots It basically runs this command:

export DISPLAY=:0.0
xterm -bg black -fg green -bw 0 -e 'R'

When R was running with the Matrix color theme, I then imported the data into a matrix (which is somehow nicely recursive):

Then I ran a command that launched up a little graphic:


Literally this can be copied and pasted right into the Open Source Graphing Calculator's R command line:

And voila!

My iPhone is speechless. It can only sit there, black screened, wishing there was an app for that. I mean, technically, there is a $36 app call "Helios" that has funky graphics, but it doesn't answer my question: is this a regular thing, or really statistically random?

The answer: it happens all the time, and flares tend to be cyclical on a fairly predictable manner.

Open Source Graphing Calculator: 1
iPhone / Android / Ti-82 / HP-50g: 0



Matt said...

Thanks Make and Wired, and all the emails I've gotten. I have quite a few project ideas for what to do with this calculator now... which I'll blog about in the coming weeks' posts. Thanks again... inthebitz at gmail

Matt said...

Wow, lots of page hits from gizmodo too. Thanks :-)

Juan Vasquez said...

Saw it on Engadget; you did a great job with that gear. I want one!

Matt said...

@juan - thanks :) i just saw it like 5 minutes ago...

Unknown said...

Good job man!

Matt said...

@yaniv - thanks :-)

hello if you're visiting from engadget too...

idcomputer said...

Open Source is the best :D