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Is R-Programming useful?

  1. Apr 11, 2012 #1
    A class over data analysis using R-programming is being offered over the summer at my school. I'm taking statistics right now and find it interesting because sometimes in physics labs we would find things like standard deviation and I didn't really understand what was going on. So to my question, is R-Programming useful to physicist and do they really use it? Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 11, 2012 #2


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    Although I got a PhD in physics, I am now working as a statistician, so from my point of view it is certainly useful to know a statistics language like SAS or R.

    Physicists often tend to rely more on homebrewn statistics programs, which has two reasons in my oppinion:
    1. The kind of data require for a tailored application (think of particle collider data).
    2. R is relatively little known in the physics community.
    In principle you can program all kinds of data manipulation in R, including complex data analysis. So point 1 may not be an obstacle.
    One big benefit of R is that people have contributed packages for quite specialized purposes which would be difficult to program whithout a strong statistics background.
    On the other hand, it offers easy mechanisms for the analysis of simple data and their graphical representation which might be useful already during your studies.

    So, yes, R may be very interesting to learn for a physicist.
  4. Apr 12, 2012 #3
    From a more pragmatic point of view: Many potentially interesting job offers for a (theoretical) physicist (meaning: offers interesting for a physicist, not job offers that explicitly look for physicists) do explicitly mention familiarity R as requirement or sought-for skill. If you already find statistics interesting then I would recommend you to take the class, even if it only is to learn about some possibilities in statistical data analysis.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2012
  5. Apr 12, 2012 #4


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    Hey tmbrwlf730 and welcome to the forums.

    Absolutely recommend it especially if you have had some programming background in either a standard class or otherwise. If you have done a bit of programming, this will make a lot more sense and you will appreciate how powerful this is than if you didn't.

    The biggest selling point for R is that once you have the routines you need to do the stuff you need to do, if you need to create more routines to do some more specialized stuff or if you need to write functions or scripts that do say automated stuff like generating particular outputs (maybe in custom formats), or doing custom calculations that would be hard in something like SAS but too time consuming with a C++ project in a repository, then R is perfect for this.

    Remember that the point of software in many cases is to speed up things that are related to what your focus is: R is one way to get things done quicker for many applications (but probably not all) and for this reason it's useful to learn it.
  6. Apr 12, 2012 #5
    Wow, these are all great things to hear. It gets me amped up to take the course. Thank you everyone for taking the time to answer my question. If anyone else has anything to add I would still like to hear it. Thank you again.
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