Software Use in Astronomy
I just saw an interesting paper which hit the arXiv last week and thought I would share it here. It’s called Software Use in Astronomy: An Informal Survey and the abstract is here:
A couple of things are worth remarking upon. One concerns Python. Although I’m not surprised that Python is Top of the Pops amongst astronomers – like many Physics & Astronomy departments we actually teach it to undergraduates here at the University of Sussex – it is notable that its popularity is a relatively recent phenomenon and it’s quite impressive how rapidly it has caught on.
Another interesting thingis the continuing quite heavy use of Fortran. Most computer scientists would consider this to be an obsolete language, and is presumably mainly used because of inertia: some important and well established codes are written in it and presumably it’s too much effort to rewrite them from scratch in something more modern. I would have thought that Fortran would have been used primarily by older academics, i.e. old dogs who can’t learn new programming tricks. However, that doesn’t really seem to be the case based on the last sentence of the abstract.
Finally, it’s quite surprising that over 40% of astronomers claim to have had no training in software development. We do try to embed that particular skill in graduate programmes nowadays, but it seems that doesn’t always work!
Anyway, do read the paper yourself. It’s very interesting. Any further comments through the box below please, but please ensure they compile before submitting them…Follow @telescoper