How the play the TASS game

Tom Droege
Feb 15, 1998

I get a lot of mail asking "What can I do to help tass?" It must seem to many of you that there are tass "insiders" who have been indoctrinated into a secret society and "outsiders" who have no clue.

I can assure you that this is not the intention. You are all welcome to join in the work. Those of you that have worked in research know what to do. You just pick out a problem and work on it. In doing this, you work with whoever is appropriate. Do not fear that you are bothering them. For example, Michael has asked for help in doing matrix manipulations. Chris has shown the way. Anyone so inclined can read the references provided by Chris and then contact Michael for how he wants to interface with your work. Of course you have to have a clue as to what a matrix is. It is much like playing "Adventure" or "Zork". No one tells you the rules. You are given some vague information like "You are in a well house for a spring. There are rumored to be caves with treasure around here". As I recall you are not even told how to move. You have to figure that out for yourself. If you ask someone how to play Adventure they will be hard pressed to give you a clue. But if you ask something specific, like how to I get out of the twisty passages, they might suggest something like "enter carying a lot of stuff". Then you can figure out that you can drop it off and thus make a map. Everyone here will give you help if you ask for something specific. "What is a matrix", won't get you much help, but "I am using the Goldstein-Farb inversion technique and I find that arrays with a singularity don't flag the error routine for odd matrices - anyone know why?" might get real help from an expert. Sophisticated problems attract interest.

Today's posts have contained a wealth of possible projects. While some like the matrix library require specific knowledge, and some like the software design require a lot of experience, there are others that don't require much. Glenn has made available a fantastic list of candidate variable stars. Anyone can plot these and will be the first to have seen some of them. You just need a tablet, a pencil, and to download the lists. That is where I would start. But then I would start working with existing programs (again Chris has provided a clue), and then start using advanced techniques. When I became knowledgable in the problems I would contact Michael or Chris , and start a discussion about how to make a graph plotting routine fit into the over all package.

Many of you have spent hundreds of hours playing Zork or Adventure. I did, and on an ASR-33. With a similar effort you can play "tass". The result may be much more satisfying than finding the paper gold or diamonds. You will discover a real scientific result, and see your name on it in a journal. Better, I think, than getting a comet named after you. In the process you will learn how to do research. Many pay good money and spend many years of their lives to get a PhD. You will learn much of what a PhD program teaches by participation in tass. No fees on this web site. I have often called this "college" tass. That is what it is, we will give you everything but a paper degree.

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