Archive for Pascal

Dennis Ritchie 1941-2011

Posted in Books, R, University life with tags , , , , , on October 29, 2011 by xi'an

I just got the “news” that Dennis Ritchie died, although this happened on October 12… The announcement was surprisingly missing from my information channels and certainly got little media coverage, compared with Steve Jobs‘ demise. (I did miss the obituaries in the New York Times and in the Guardian. The Economist has the most appropriate heading, printf(“goodbye, Dennis”); !!!) Still, Dennis Ritchie contributed to computer science to extents comparable to Steve Jobs’, if on a lesser commercial plane: he is a founding father of both the C language and the Unix operating system. I remember spending many days perusing over his reference book, The C programming language, co-written with Brian Kernighan. (I kept trying programming in C until Olivier Cappé kindly pointed out to me that I was merely translating my Pascal vision into C code, missing most of the appeal of the language!) And, of course, I also remember discovering Unix when arriving at Purdue as a logical and much more modern operating system: just tfour years after programming principal components on punched card and in SAS, this was a real shock! I took a few evening classes at Purdue run by the Computer Department and I still carry around the Purdue University UNIX Pocket Guide. Although I hardly ever use it, it is there on the first shelf on top of my desk… As is The C programming language even though I have not opened it in years!

So we (geeks, computer users, Linuxians, R users, …) owe a lot to Dennis Ritchie and it is quite sad both that he passed away by himself and that his enormous contribution was not better acknowledged. Thus, indeed,

for (i=0; i<ULONG_LONG_MAX; i++)
    printf("thanks a lot, Dennis")

The great’08 Pascal challenge

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , on October 8, 2008 by xi'an

In order to make advances in the processing of their datasets and experiments, and in the understanding of the fundamental parameters driving the general relativity model, cosmologists are lauching a competition called the great’08 challenge through the Pascal European network. Details about the challenge are available on an arXiv:0802.1214 document, the model being clearly defined from a statistical point of view as a combination of lensing shear (the phenomenon of interest) and of various (=three) convolution noises that make the analysis so challenging, and the date being a collection of images of galaxies. The fundamental problem is to identify a 2d-linear distortion applied to all images within a certain region of the space, up (or down) to a precision of 0.003, the distortion being identified by an isotonic assumption over the un-distrorted images. The solution must be efficient too in that it is to be tested on 27 million galaxies! A standard MCMC mixture analysis on each galaxy is thus unlikely to converge before the challenge is over, next April. I think the challenge is worth considering by statistical teams, even though this represents a considerable involvement over the next six months….

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