A disaster, minimised!

I’ve not been blogging this last few months what with all my spare time going into trying to do some proper computer science and then writing my dissertation. Last night, I had a catastrophe – I noticed something in my results that should be impossible and traced it back to a subtle bug that compromised all my results to date! Pretty nasty at this stage in the project…

The effect was subtle and I didn’t think it would alter my conclusions. That said, to ignore it and continue wouldn’t be right. The alternative of explaining about the bug and its effects in my dissertation is not something I wanted to have to do either.

After a few minutes of sitting with my head in my hands I decided to fix it and start again. After all, it’s just compute time and elbow grease, it’s not like I just threw away a month’s time on the LHC or anything! Turns out, my decision to script everything paid off and I could pretty much throw a few tens of hours of compute time in to reproduce all my data and then a couple of hours with the charting software and I’m good to go. The choice of LaTeX also turned out to be even more of a winner as I was able to rebuild my document with the new figures and any layout modifications required almost trivially.

I was right – the conclusions do not change, however they are now more striking and there are no oddities that I can’t really explain. Tips of the day for those doing work like this:

  • script everything you can – just in case you need to redo stuff
  • use LaTeX – because you can swap out every figure for a new version easily

There are plenty of other reasons for applying these two tips, but there’s two reasons I hadn’t thought of before yesterday.

 

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