Monday, November 06, 2006

When I did not invent monochromatic spectra

Another example of how Varian software influenced me is the number of colors I have used to draw the contour levels of a 2D spectrum. Not just the Varian software, but all the programs that I have met, use a different color for each level. (20 levels = 20 colors). I limited myself to only 6 colors, but I wasn't satisfied. My spectra were difficult to read. Other users also complained for the paucity of colors. In my adolescence I had been extremely fond of maps and topography. I really studied it a lot, so I was used to contour levels well before the introduction of color printers and color monitors (CGA, EGA, VGA...). I remembered that old maps were black & white, and newer maps had color, and the latter were more readable BUT they didn't mix colors. Green was employed for vegetation, blue for water, brownish for the contour levels, black for names, etc... I tried to use a single color for positive levels and another one for negative levels. Suddenly, all became beautiful, evident, mind-relaxing. Three subjective reactions, I agree, but there was a good reason for a generalization. Don't you think that topography is a science? That they have arrived at the same conclusion after studying? They had already found the answer long ago.
At the same time I began overlapping my spectra. Either on screen or on paper, I always displayed the COSY (red), NOESY (blue/cyan) and TOCSY (black) together (not stacked: _overlapped_ ), obviously with 1D projections and assignment of each cross-peak. The total was more readable that the single parts alone! This was obviously impossible conserving the popular habit of changing the color at each level. I knew I was right. As it happens, people were not yet convinced. After being conditioned by miseducative software, they wanted to remain harlequins forever.
It all changed when I began drawing contour maps with anti-aliasing and double-buffering. As soon as I saw the effect on a 20" LCD monitor, with me playing the computer keyboard and the display responsive in real time, I murmured: "Questo e' l'NMR come nessuno l'ha mai provato" which means: "This is the ultimate NMR experience". A few months later I uploaded iNMR and it has been downloaded many thousands of times. People have asked for every sort of extension but nobody has ever asked for more colors.


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