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It's the height of summer in the Northern America, and mid-Winter in the South. Most migratory birds have settled in for the season, but soon they'll begin their trek to warmer climates, sometimes traversing both continents in the process. Watch the migration process in this animation (created using the maps library in R) from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Each dot represents a species of bird, and shows the typical timing and route of their annual migration.

Microsoft has a brand-new conference, exclusively for data scientists, big data engineers, and machine learning practitioners. The Microsoft Data Science Summit, to be held in Atlanta GA, September 26-27, will feature talks and lab sessions from Microsoft engineers and thought leaders on using data science techniques and Microsoft technology, applied to real-world problems.

As anyone who has tried Pokémon Go recently is probably aware, Pokémon come in different types. A Pokémon's type affects where and when it appears, and the types of attacks it is vulnerable to. Some types, like Normal, Water and Grass are common; others, like Fairy and Dragon are rare. Many Pokémon have two or more types.

by Mike Wise, Data Scientist / Solution Architect – MCS Incubation Services

Here's a little puzzle that might shed some light on some apparently confusing behaviour by missing values (NAs) in R:

What is NA^0 in R?

You can get the answer easily by typing at the R command line:

> NA^0
[1] 1

But the interesting question that arises is: why is it 1? Most people might expect that the answer would be NA, like most expressions that include NA. But here's the trick to understanding this outcome: think of NA not as a number, but as a placeholder for a number that exists, but whose value we don't know. 

I love planes, and one of my favourite things about flying is checking out all the aircraft at the airport. The biggest planes, like the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 747 are easy to spot, and always a thrill to see. If they happen to be standing next to a little Boeing 737 or Airbus A320, you can easily see how enormous they are. But I've always had trouble telling the smaller planes apart, and in particular spotting the difference between the B737 and A320.

At the useR! conference last month, I was pleased to be able to give a couple of talks about the ways that Microsoft is using and integrating R. In my first talk, Hear, See, Move, I shared how data scientists at Microsoft are working to help the disabled:


by Joseph Rickert

New R packages keep rolling into CRAN at a prodigious rate: 184 in May, 195 in June and July looks like it will continue the trend. I spent some time sorting through them and have picked out a few that that are interesting from a data science point of view.

If you've heard about Data Science but don't really understand what it's all about, you might want to check out the 5-part video series Data Science for Beginners presented by my colleague Brandon Rohrer, senior data scientist at Microsoft.  Each video is short (5-10 minutes) and explains an aspect of data science without any assumed knowledge or technical jargon.