Plate Tectonics and People

Plotting, Part I

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If you have already taken EARTH 501, you are in luck! This assignment is almost identical to the one you did for Lesson 1 of that course, so this should take you no time at all. Hooray!

Choosing a graphics program

When you have your students make plots of data in your classes, what medium do they use? Do they use a computer program, or a graphing calculator, or pencil and paper? Something else? I actually find pencil and paper to be extremely instructive. When I use pencil and paper, I have to think about how to draw my axes and what the plot will probably look like before I begin. However, I think we all expect our own students to be a little more savvy about computer use than we were at their age. When I make plots for my research I use MATLAB. I expect many of you have access to or regularly use Microsoft Excel. (I find that most plots produced in Excel look ugly or have incomprehensible labels, or both. However, if you can make a good plot with Excel, go for it!)

On the next page of this lesson, you will complete an activity that involves reproducing three plots using the graphing program of your choice. For this course, it does not matter what program you choose. What does matter is that you are able to generate a dataset and make a plot with it that looks adequate for a 500-level college class. So first, you need to figure out which program you would like to use. If you already have a program you like, by all means use it. If you don't, or you want to check out some other possibilities, here are some links to other programs.

Freely available programs

Programs with a free demo available

Tell us about it!

For my benefit and the benefit of future students, if you know of other programs, please post the link to the comment area below. If you check out any of the above programs, please share what you like and dislike about them in the comment area, as well. If any of you have access to MATLAB and would like to learn more about it, let me know.

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