How to make Professional Looking Plots for Journal Publication using Matlab R2014b

Matlab R2014b R2014a Graph Plot

Out of the box, Matlab is a powerful tool with many great built-in features. Suffice to say, however, their default 2D plots leave a lot to be desired. While meat-and-potatoes graphs are fine on most days, when it comes time to publish that data however, something must be done. The good news is, contrary to popular belief, there’s no need to export your data into some other graphing software; in fact, I have serious doubts that any so-called professional graphing program can provide the features built into native Matlab. The best part is, once you code your plotting script/function, you can use it again-and-again making minimal changes to the script. The plot above was generated in matlab; I’ve pasted my code for this graph below. Some day when I have a few spare minutes, I’ll cull and format the code for universal use (and post on matlab file-exchange. For now though, WYSIWYG. I’ll be happy to address your questions though – leave them as a comment below. (P.S. You will also need the boundedline.m function, which can be acquired here on file exchange)


Here’s one last example, using the above code and subplotting on four different axes in the same figure instance.


Are we alone?

Every so often, after too many cocktails, someone asks the question – “Do you think there are aliens out there in the cosmos?” My answer is always the same… “Probably not. At least not the kind of lifeform we could ever fathom in our wildest dreams.” The standard reply is, “But the universe is so big! You don’t think there’s a planet out there like Earth?” So then I clarify… to me it’s not about whether there’s a planet out there like Earth; I presume there are many planets in the universe capable of supporting life. The issue is, the random events required to turn ‘non-life’ into ‘life’ seem incredibly improbable. However, if a planet does somehow beat those odds and a tiny microbe springs forth from its muddy waters, evolution appears to proceed steadily towards entities with greater and greater complexity and intelligence. Eventually the planet will produce a being with human-like cognitive faculties, and once it does, it won’t take them very long to become extremely advanced. On a cosmological time-scale, it was merely a blink of an eye between the time humans crawled out of caves and into spaceships. There’s no telling what earth will be like when the eye finally opens in the next blink, but humans will be long-gone. Not because they went extinct per se, but because they transformed themselves into something we couldn’t comprehend… not in our wildest dreams.

I made a short animation to give you a better idea of what I mean when I say…

“a blink of an eye”

Tabula Rasa

If ever you think to yourself “I’m not a smart person”, consider this…
Homo erectus lived from 1.9mil – 200k years ago. Modern Homo sapiens-sapiens first appeared in East Africa some 200k years ago BP (BP=before present). The human brain has not noticeably changed since the first Homo sapiens-sapiens, and the oldest fossil remains of these anatomically modern humans are dated 200k BP (it’s worth noting that the homo population size was less than 26k at 1.2mil BP, and modern humans may have descended from a population of 10k-20k individuals 70k BP). The first evidence of farming and agriculture (marking the Neolithic Period) began 12k BP, and is an era when humans started making a variety of stone farming tools, crude huts, and domesticating animals. The earliest evidence of written symbols emerged just 7k BP. This means that humans who had the same brain as you (as far as we can tell) existed between 200k – 15k BP (~185,000 years) and made practically zero technological progress, didn’t develop a written language, and formulated only an prelude to culture. If you were to go back in time 70k years and found a way to introduce written/spoken English and basic arithmetic… it’s quite plausible that the most cutting-edge technology of today’s society would’ve been invented more than 20-thousand years ago! For more than 150 thousand years, people walked the earth with the same brain as you and I, and they lived in stick huts and never developed a written language. But some time around 7000 years ago, a written language was developed allowing history and culture to be communicated amongst many more humans. It also improved humans ability to scaffold their thoughts on a more advanced symbolic language (think about not being able to do this). In the first 150 thousand years we developed stone tools, in last 7000 years we sent a man to walk on the moon.