Tag Archives: MATLAB

The International Language of Screaming

A couple of recent projects have meant that I had to get to grips more seriously with R and with MATLAB. Regular readers will know that I am a die-hard IgorPro user. Trying to tackle a new IDE is a frustrating experience, as anyone who has tried to speak a foreign language will know. The speed with which you can do stuff (or get your point across) is very slow. Not only that, but… if you could just revert to your mother tongue it would be so much easier…

What I needed was something like a Babel Fish. As I’m sure you’ll know, this fish is the creation of Douglas Adams. It allows instant translation of any language. The only downside is that you have to insert the fish into your ear.

The closest thing to the Babel Fish in computing is the cheat sheet. These sheets are typically a huge list of basic commands that you’ll need as you get going. I found a nice page which had cheat sheets which allowed easy interchange between R, MATLAB and python. There was no Igor version. Luckily, a user on IgorExchange had taken the R and MATLAB page and added some Igor commands. This was good, but it was a bit rough and incomplete. I took this version, formatted it for GitHub flavored markdown, and made some edits.

The repo is here. I hope it’s useful for others. I learned a lot putting it together. If you are an experienced user of R, MATLAB or IGOR (or better still can speak one or more of these languages), please fork and make edits or suggest changes via GitHub issues, or by leaving a comment on this page if you are not into GitHub. Thanks!


Here is a little snapshot to whet your appetite. Bon appetit!



The post title is taken from “The International Language of Screaming” by Super Furry Animals from their Radiator LP. Released as a single, the flip-side had a version called NoK which featured the backing tracking to the single. Gruff sings the welsh alphabet with no letter K.

Adventures in code

An occasional series in esoteric programming issues.

As part of a larger analysis project I needed to implement a short program to determine the closest distance of two line segments in 3D space. This will be used to sort out which segments to compare… like I say, part of a bigger project. The best method to do this is to find the closest distance one segment is to the other when the other one is represented as an infinite line. You can then check if that point is beyond the segment if it is you use the limits of the segment to calculate the distance. There’s a discussion on stackoverflow here. The solutions point to one in C++ and one in MATLAB. The C++ version is easiest to port to Igor due to the similarity of languages, but the explanation of the MATLAB code was more approachable. So I ported that to Igor to figure out how it works.

The MATLAB version is:

>> P = [-0.43256      -1.6656      0.12533]
P =
   -0.4326   -1.6656    0.1253
>> Q = [0.28768      -1.1465       1.1909]
Q =
    0.2877   -1.1465    1.1909
>> R = [1.1892    -0.037633      0.32729]
R =
    1.1892   -0.0376    0.3273
>> S = [0.17464     -0.18671      0.72579]
S =
    0.1746   -0.1867    0.7258
>> N = null(P-Q)
N =
   -0.3743   -0.7683
    0.9078   -0.1893
   -0.1893    0.6115
>> r = (R-P)*N
r =
    0.8327   -1.4306
>> s = (S-P)*N
s =
    1.0016   -0.3792
>> n = (s - r)*[0 -1;1 0];
>> n = n/norm(n);
>> n
n =
    0.9873   -0.1587
>> d = dot(n,r)
d =
>> d = dot(n,s)
d =
>> v = dot(s-r,d*n-r)/dot(s-r,s-r)
v =
>> u = (Q-P)'\((S - (S*N)*N') - P)'
u =
>> P + u*(Q-P)
ans =
    0.2582   -1.1678    1.1473
>> norm(P + u*(Q-P) - S)
ans =

and in IgorPro:

Function MakeVectors()
	Make/O/D/N=(1,3) matP={{-0.43256},{-1.6656},{0.12533}}
	Make/O/D/N=(1,3) matQ={{0.28768},{-1.1465},{1.1909}}
	Make/O/D/N=(1,3) matR={{1.1892},{-0.037633},{0.32729}}
	Make/O/D/N=(1,3) matS={{0.17464},{-0.18671},{0.72579}}

Function DoCalcs()
	WAVE matP,matQ,matR,matS
	MatrixOp/O tempMat = matP - matQ
	MatrixSVD tempMat
	Make/O/D/N=(3,2) matN
	Wave M_VT
	matN = M_VT[p][q+1]
	MatrixOp/O tempMat2 = (matR - matP)
	MatrixMultiply tempMat2, matN
	Wave M_product
	Duplicate/O M_product, mat_r
	MatrixOp/O tempMat2 = (matS - matP)
	MatrixMultiply tempMat2, matN
	Duplicate/O M_product, mat_s
	Make/O/D/N=(2,2) MatUnit
	matUnit = {{0,1},{-1,0}}
	MatrixOp/O tempMat2 = (mat_s - mat_r)
	MatrixMultiply tempMat2,MatUnit
	Duplicate/O M_Product, Mat_n
	Variable nn
	nn = norm(mat_n)
	MatrixOP/O new_n = mat_n / nn
	//new_n is now a vector with unit length
	Variable dd
	dd = MatrixDot(new_n,mat_r)
	//print dd
	//dd = MatrixDot(new_n,mat_s)
	//print dd
	dd = abs(dd)
	// now find v
	// v = dot(s-r,d*n-r)/dot(s-r,s-r)
	variable vv
	MatrixOp/O mat_s_r = mat_s - mat_r
	MatrixOp/O tempmat2 = dd * mat_n - mat_r
	vv = MatrixDot(mat_s_r,tempmat2) / MatrixDot(mat_s_r,mat_s_r)
	//print vv
	//because vv > 1 then closest post is s (because rs(1) = s) and therefore closest point on RS to infinite line PQ is S
	//what about the point on PQ is this also outside the segment?
	// u = (Q-P)'\((S - (S*N)*N') - P)'
	variable uu
	MatrixOp/O matQ_P = matQ - matP
	MatrixTranspose matQ_P
	//MatrixOP/O tempMat2 = ((matS - (matS * matN) * MatrixTranspose(MatN)) - MatrixTranspose(matP))
	Duplicate/O MatN, matNprime
	MatrixTranspose matNprime
	MatrixMultiply matS, matN
	Duplicate/O M_Product, matSN
	MatrixMultiply M_Product, matNprime
	MatrixOP/O tempMat2 = ((matS - M_product) - matP)
	MatrixTranspose tempMat2
	MatrixLLS matQ_P tempMat2
	Wave M_B
	uu = M_B[0]
	// find point on PQ that is closest to RS
	// P + u*(Q-P)
	MatrixOp/O matQ_P = matQ - matP
	MatrixOp/O matPoint = MatP + (uu * MatQ_P)
	MatrixOP/O distpoint = matPoint - matS
	Variable dist
	dist = norm(distpoint)
	Print dist

The sticking points were finding the Igor equivalents of

  • null()
  • norm()
  • dot()
  • \ otherwise known as mldivide

Which are:

  • MatrixSVD (answer is in the final two columns of wave M_VT)
  • norm()
  • MatrixDot()
  • MatrixLLS

MatrixLLS wouldn’t accept a mix of single-precision and double-precision waves, so this needed to be factored into the code.

As you can see, the Igor code is much longer. Overall, I think MATLAB handles Matrix Math better than Igor. It is certainly easier to write. I suspect that there are a series of Igor operations that can do what I am trying to do here, but this was an exercise in direct porting.

More work is needed to condense this down and also deal with every possible case. Then it needs to be incorporated into the bigger program. SIMPLE! Anyway, hope this helps somebody.

The post title is taken from the band Adventures In Stereo.