Tuesday, 3 August 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:

dev.new(width=5,height=2.5);
par(mar=c(0,0,0,0),oma=c(2,2,2,2),bg="black);
plot(c(1:length(x)),x,type="l",col="white");
box("plot",col="white")


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

:-)

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