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Re: advice for the undergrad (OL)

don ohmes wrote:
Phew! Having dabbled for a few hours in Visual Basic, I am relieved to hear it is not as easy as Keesy indicates. Although Bill could make it MUCH easier to self-teach, imo.

For some people, it might be easy, just as there are those who can pick up human languages more easily than others can. C++ is just so notoriously difficult that I had to reply.

If you have a moment, what one language would you recommend?

For a career in paleontology? I would defer to Mr. Keesey (or anyone with more knowledge than I have of computation in modern paleontology work) on that. My response in general to "which language to learn?" is "what do you want to do with it?"

It does seem just a bit odd to me that a programming language would fill a "language" requirement for an academic career in life sciences. I followed the thread with interest when the discussion centered on the relative utility of Spanish, Chinese, etc. I don't personally understand why knowing PHP or Ruby would be of great help in following the progress of the field, nor why it would no longer be as important to follow the field if one can program a computer as it was before the proliferation of inexpensive computing power.



--- On Sat, 7/5/08, dinosaur@gilvary.net <dinosaur@gilvary.net> wrote:

From: dinosaur@gilvary.net <dinosaur@gilvary.net>
Subject: Re: advice for the undergrad
To: "DML List" <dinosaur@usc.edu>
Date: Saturday, July 5, 2008, 4:13 PM
T. Michael Keesey wrote:
From: "Sarah Werning"
Many programs also accept computer programming
languages as second
Really?? That's kind of odd, since programming
languages are much
easier to gain fluency in. Well ... you have to learn
one first, and
then the rest are pretty easy. If you know
ActionScript, for example,
then you basically know JavaScript (they are derived
from the same
standard), can fairly easily learn Java, C, C++, C#,
PHP, etc. and

After doing software development these past twenty years,
I'd like to meet someone who can fairly easily learn C++. :)

Learning the rudiments of any language, human or machine,
might take only a few months. Acquiring fluency (or in machine
languages, proficiency) is completely another matter. I can say
"spacibo" or ask for "dva piva" after listening to a CD, but
I'm not going to appreciate Pushkin for some time yet. The hypothetical Java programmer
might understand a looping construct, but that's a long way
from being able to design and implement a non-trivial application.

it's not too much of a stretch to learn Perl,
Python, Ruby, BASIC,
etc. Some elements appear in almost every programming
language, like
"if" blocks, "for" and
"while" loops, mathematical operators,
functions, etc.

Anyway, it takes at most a year or so to learn a
computer language
(and usually just a month or two), while human
languages can take
anywhere from a couple of years to a decade. Seems odd
to equate them.