"Into Matlab" - A series of video lectures accompanying "From Zero to Matlab in ..."

Frederik J Simons, Geosciences, Princeton University

A while ago I started dreaming of producing a series of video lectures in the style of the YouTube sensations "MinutePhysics" (often about a minute long) and "MinuteEarth" (often over a minute long). I would discuss "small" things, bring people up to speed in using Matlab, not overdo it, keep it bite-size.

Last Fall I taught "From Zero to Matlab in Six Weeks (with Freshmen)" at Princeton University, and this Summer I condensed the material into "From Zero to Matlab in Four Days", a graduate course at the KU Leuven in Belgium, where I spent 4 days, 4 hours each, in bringing students up to speed in "Data, Models and Uncertainty in the Natural Sciences" - using Matlab.

Every afternoon I sat down to "can" what we covered, suitable for re-viewing, and hopefully suitable for pre-viewing when I next teach one or the other course. Never mind keeping the videos down to a minute. I felt like I had barely covered things when my video lectures ended up being 20, 30, 40 minutes long.

Even though I edited them, I consider these "preliminary" cuts, and some day, I should actually completely script and reshoot them, perhaps making them as short as I can. But as for now, they are a good start - and they are "almost live", in a sense.

Teaching the course over the summer, I needed an angle. After riding on a bus and seeing an ad campaign which asked the question: "Is a zebra white with black stripes, or black with white stripes?", I decided to make THAT the topic for the whole weeks. A basic piece of image analysis as served my audience of geologists, engineers, biologists, and geographers well - or so I thought. Hence the zebra theme to the videos below.

Here they are:

Top five commands (got to start somewhere!)

Variable classes (at least some of them, always handy!)

Log-log plots (this came up as a question):

Fiddling on the command line (really what you should do first):

Writing your first script (I would say, that's definitely next):

Writing your first function (and then, I say, never anything but!):

More videos are in the works. The next few will deal more specifically with statistics, inversion, time series and spectral analysis, as following both from the "Four Days" and the "Six Weeks" courses.

Downloadable version of this essay