.astronomy wrap-up

Wednesday was Hack Day at dot astronomy. I spent the day working on a tool that uses seadragon ajax and a modified Python tilecutter to allow people with large astronomical images (tens to hundreds of megapixels) to easily upload them to App Engine for viewing by users. This is useful because many really attractive astronomical images get released to the public, but often only in two versions: 'desktop wallpaper' and 'too big to view'. Ideally, with this tool (which I'm tentatively calling astrozoom), astronomers could make it easy for users to view and zoom the product of their work.

Further extensions would include integration with astrometry.net to automatically locate and annotate uploaded images, and support for clipping out and downloading certain sections of an image, not to mention community features like sharing with friends, comments, and embedding in other pages.

I got the basic upload-and-display functionality done on hack day, but due to lack of memory on my mac to run the tool on a decently sized image, I'm unable to show it off yet.

Other hack-day projects included a large team working on a project called Buried Data, for making datasets available for research that would ...

.astronomy so far

The first 3 days of .astronomy have been busy. So busy, I haven't had the time or energy to write about them until now! Here's a quick summary of what's happened:

I arrived at the conference a bit before 11AM on Monday, having taken the earliest flight available that day (I didn't fly in the night before, as that would've meant missing Video Games Live). When I came in, Robert Hollow was giving a talk on pulse@parkes, a fascinating program he runs to get students into astronomy by giving them real observing time on the Parkes radio telescope in Australia. He gave an engaging presentation, and made me wish I could give it a go myself.

Next up, Arfon Smith and Chris Lintott gave a talk on Galaxy Zoo, which has come a long way since I last looked at it. They described the architecture (Ruby, running on AWS), some of the project's successes, and some of the new projects they're working on, including Galaxy Zoo Mergers, a project dedicated to determining and documenting the details of galaxy mergers.

After lunch, I gave my Python 101 tutorial. Due to a screw-up on ...

They're almost here!

The App Engine USB drives - in bright primary, Google(tm) colors - are finished! They're currently winging their way to the Dublin office (and a separate batch direct to the .astronomy venue. Can't wait to get my hands on them.

Want to get your hands on one of them too? Post a suggestion for what topic you'd like to see me write about - be it App Engine, Go, Damn Cool Algorithms, or something else - and I'll send a USB drive, loaded with App Engine goodies and a Wave invite, to the authors of the best few suggestions.

I'm going to be at .astronomy all next week, so I'm not going to be putting up new posts on my regular schedule. I will, however, be blogging about the conference, so look out for posts on some of the more interesting talks and breakout sessions/hackathons.

In one final, unrelated item, I'd like to draw your attention to an amazing bit geekery. Last week, I posted this code golf competition to Stack Overflow, for the shortest Fractran interpreter. As an extra challenge, I offered a bonus to anyone who could provide a Fractran interpreter in fractran ...