Madagascar in China

'Revolutionary’ open source seismic movement well received in Harbin, China workshop.

Sergey Fomel (U Texas) opened the proceedings at the 10th Madagascar school, held in Harbin, China earlier this year. Fomel is a man on (at least) two missions. First to promote free, open source seismic imaging software in the ‘revolutionary’ tradition of Eric Raymond’s book, ‘The Cathedral and the bazaar’ and second to encourage researchers to publish not just results but also data and algorithms.

Madagascar has three fundamental pillars, a simple ‘RSF’ file format for array data, building block programs that can run on the command line using Unix-style pipes and the ‘SCons’ build system for data processing and reproducibility. Programs are controlled through configuration files in Python.

Madagascar has links to the Brown University’s Icerm unit that promotes reproducibility in computational and experimental mathematics advocating a ‘culture change that integrates reproducibility into research. Moreover, ‘Journals, funding agencies, and employers should support this culture change.’

Yang Liu (Jilin University) using field data processing showed how much can be achieved with Madagascar using Python/SCons, producing gathers, stacking diagrams and 3D cubes and (much) more with just a few lines of code.

One slide in Fomel’s presentation neatly summed-up the revolutionary Madagascar philosophy with a quote from renowned physicist Richard Feynman viz., ‘Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.’ We’re not sure how the ‘revolution’ metaphor was received in China, but Madagascar appears to be very popular. A goodly proportion of Madagascar downloads and website visitors (more than all of the EU) come from China. Check out the Harbin school materials here.

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