Plotting the Data

There are several possibilities to plot data. Most important is to include error bars for measured data. The plotting used here is based on matplotlib. In you analysis you typically plot raw data, or calculated values and error bars together with the result of a fit. If you analyze an experiment that involves counting of radom events, histogramming is frequently used together with its plotting capabilities. Some of the most frequently used functions included in LT/LT_Fit are described in the following.

Plot Columns of a Data File (pdfile)

Very often you would like to just quickly have a look at the data in your file. For this the function dplot_exp() is very useful. You can plot the values of the various columns in your datafile versus each other. As an example I plot the time versus position of the data in mf ( including the errors. Remember time was called time, position was called dist and its error was called d_err. You can always get the names of all the variables in you pdfile object by doing :

In [21]: mf.show_keys()

In order or get a quick look at the data in data file you can use the following plotting command:

In [22]: B.dplot_exp(mf, 'time', 'dist','d_err')

You can even combine the loading of the file and the plotting into a single line (this is useful if you would like to have a quick look at data while you are taking them:

In [22]: B.dplot_exp(B.get_file(''), 'time', 'dist','d_err')

In this case we replace the mf by the call B.get_file('').

If you do not have errors or do not want to plot them just leave them off. If you cannot see a plot enter the command:

In [22]: show() # or
In [22]:

This assures that the plot is shown and updated. It is especially important to issue this command in a script (see Python Scripts)

Example: clear a previous figure and plot some values in a data file with a one-line command:

In [22]: clf(); B.dplot_exp( B.get_file(''), 'time', 'dist','d_err'); show()

This is a simple way to take a quick look at data stored in a datafile.

Plotting Arrays of Data

Since you often have the data as a numpy.array() you need be able to plot them. For experimental data with error bars you should use the function plot_exp(). This will be your most frequently used function to plot data. As an example we use the arrays from the previous example namely t, dexp and derr. To plot those you do:

In [25]:                              # clear the figure
In [26]: B.plot_exp(t, dexp, derr);  # show the new plot wit error bars

If you have additional errors in the independent variable (x) you can add them with the statement xerr = sigma_x where sigma_x stands for the array containing your x errors.

To make a plot where you join the data points with a line you use the function plot_line(). This function is generally used when you plot a function representing a theoretical result or a fit result. A simple example is show below:

In [26]: B.plot_line(t, dexp);  # join the data points with a line

Normally one does not join experimental data with lines, unless you really want to highlight a trend and/or has very many data points.

Note that this time the title and the labels are None. You can add the labels as shown later. The plot looks the same as before. You can leave off the errors if you leave off derr in the arguments to B.plot_exp. There are many so-called keyword arguments to further control the appearance. You can get more information on plot_exp() or plot_line() and even more on matplotlib.pyplot.plot() since this is the function that the LT.plotting functions are based upon. You should also familiarize yourself with how keywords are used.

Using a log-scale

If you need a log scale enter:

In [22]:'log'); show() # show() on the same line

This is also an example where two commands are given on one line. One can enter several commands on one line if they are separated by a ;.

To switch back to a linear scale enter:

In [23]:'linear'); show()

Labeling the Plot

Every plot needs to be properly labeled in order that the viewer knows what is shown. At the least the x-axis and y-axis need labels but it is often good practice to add a title to the plot. You might also want to change the range of the x- or y-axis in order to show the viewer the important part of the plot with greater detail. This can be achieved by changing the axis limits. The commands for these tasks are shown below (make a not of these as you will use them often):

to change

do this

x-axis label ’ a new x axis label’ )

y-axis label ’ a new y axis label’ )

plot title’A new Plot title’)

x-axis limits ( (xmin, xmax ) )

y-axis limits (ymin, ymax) )

Note that the two parenthesis are needed since the limits are entered as so-called tuples. These are basically as sequence of objects (numbers, strings etc.) which cannot be changed. If you enter the command you will get back the current limits. If you want to know more about tuples have a look at the Python documentation.

Finally, below is the final plot including all the commands necessary:

(Source code)

Final plot of D as a function of t with errorbars

Save the plot

You can save the plot as a pdf file by giving the command:

In [24]:'my_plod.pdf')

Note that all the commands that adjust the plot start with The reason is that the module itself imports the matplotlib plotting module and gives it the name Frequently (especially if you are using Spyder) matplotlib.pyplot and numpy have already been imported. However when you run a script (Python Scripts) you need to import them explicitly and it is therefore a better practice to use in front of the commands (assuming you did import as B) to get used to it.


Histograms are typically used in counting experiments, especially in nuclear physics experiments. One experiment you do very early on is to count the number of decays from a radioactive source during a certain amount of time. This measurement is then repeated many times. I have simulated the result of such and experiment and the data are stored in the file ’’. To work with these data I first load them in the same way as I did before:

In [27]: mcf = B.get_file('') # get the file

To see what columns have been defined you do (as before)

In [28]: mcf.show_keys()

And the output should be something like

In [28]: mcf.show_keys()
['n', 'counts', 'indx']

Here n is the number of the measurement (the first one would be 0) and counts is the number of counts you obtained in this experiment. The additional variable indx is used internally and is not interesting to you (DO NOT TOUCH IT!). To get an idea what the data look like, I could just plot counts as a function of n. Since I want to plot the data that are part of a pdfile object I will used the dplot_exp() function.

In [29]: B.dplot_exp(mcf, 'n', 'counts')

You will notice that the data scatter around a value of 150. To do analyze them further we need to convert them to numpy arrays:

In [30]: ne = mcf['n']
In [31]: counts = mcf['counts']

Now let’s calculate the average. To do this you need a for loop

In [32]: N = 0              # set the counter to 0
In [33]: sum = 0.           # set the sum to 0
In [34]: for cc in counts:  # loop over all counts
   ....:    N += 1          # increment the counter
   ....:    sum += cc       # add the current value to the total sum

Close the loop with two returns. Now you you can get the average by doing

In [35]: N_av = sum/N       # evaluate the average

This was a little programming. First I created a variable called N to count the number of terms in the sum and, in the first statement (N = 0), I set it to 0. Then I did the same for another variable, called sum. sum should contain the running sum of the values which is carried out in a for loop (for cc in counts:). In the loop, cc contains the current value of counts. There are two strange looking lines. The first, N += 1 means: add 1 to the current value of N or increment N by 1. The second does the same for the variable sum but instead of adding 1 we add the current value of the counts stored in cc. As a consequence at the end of the loop N contains the number of measurements and sum the total sum of the values. To calculate the average all I have to do is take the ratio of the two numbers and store them in the variable N_av. This was done in the last line (N_av = sum/N). To look at its value:

In [35]: N_av
Out[35]: 150.41499999999999

This was a small programming example. Since the average is such an important quantity this procedure has been built into numpy.

In [36]: np.average( counts )

Will give you the same result. There are many useful function defined for numpy.array() ‘s. Here are just a few useful ones using counts as an example:




the sum of all elements


the mean (average) of all elements


the variance of all elements


the smallest value of the array


the larges value of the array

Try them out !

When you create a histogram you want to count how often a certain value occurs within certain limits. To do this there is a special histogram object in called histo. The simplest way to use it is as follows:

In [37]: hh = B.histo(counts)

It looks as if nothing has happened. But if all the work as already been completed. You can now make a plot of the histogram by doing

In [38]: hh.plot()

And you will get a (blue) graph that represents the frequency with which certain counts values occur. There are other useful plotting commands, such as hh.plot_exp() which will plot error bars associated with the bin contents. Check the histogram documentation for more details.

(Source code)

Plotted histogram, vertical filled bars. x-axis label "x-bin", y-axis label "content" and title "my histogram"

What you see is a relatively coarse representation of this distribution since in its simples form histo automatically determines the range of values that you provided. This range is divided into 10 equally spaced regions, called bins centered around a central value (bin_center) with a width called the bin_width. It then goes through all the data in the array counts and checks in which region (bin) each value falls. To each bin belongs a counter that is incremented each time a values falls within the associated region. The value of each counter is called the bin content. The graph now shows the value of the bin content as a function of the bin-center value. The width of each step corresponds to the width of a bin. You have much more control on how your histogram is setup. Lets re-define it and this time we give it a range and also the number of bins. From the first graph we see that most bin-content values of counts lie between 120 and 180. If we want to get a count of how often a specific value occurs we need to make the bin width equal to one as follows

In [39]: hh = B.histo(counts, range = (120., 180.), bins = 60)

This is another example of using keywords to control what an object/function is doing. the range = (120., 180.) determines the range of values accepted, where range is the keyword. The other statement bins = 60, sets the number of bins to 60. In that way the width of a bin is 1. Now plot the new histogram again.

In [40]: clf(); show()
In [41]: hh.plot(); show()

(Remember the first line clf() clears the figure). Now you have a much better representation of the histogram:

(Source code)

Plot of histogram with bin width 1, x-axis label "x-bin", y-axis label "content", title "my histogram"

The central values (bin-center), the bin-content (number of occurrences) and the associated errors (bin-error) of each bin are can be accesses as follows:

In [42]: hh.bin_center (return)

Produces the the output:

In [43]: hh.bin_center

array([ 120.5,  121.5,  122.5,  123.5,  124.5,  125.5,  126.5,  127.5,
        128.5,  129.5,  130.5,  131.5,  132.5,  133.5,  134.5,  135.5,
        136.5,  137.5,  138.5,  139.5,  140.5,  141.5,  142.5,  143.5,
        144.5,  145.5,  146.5,  147.5,  148.5,  149.5,  150.5,  151.5,
        152.5,  153.5,  154.5,  155.5,  156.5,  157.5,  158.5,  159.5,
        160.5,  161.5,  162.5,  163.5,  164.5,  165.5,  166.5,  167.5,
        168.5,  169.5,  170.5,  171.5,  172.5,  173.5,  174.5,  175.5,
        176.5,  177.5,  178.5,  179.5])

Below is a summary of the most important information stored in histo. I use hh as the name for the histogram here by you can use any other variable name when you create it:




Central value of each bin.


Content of each bin (the value of the counter)


Error of the content of each bin


Width of each bin


Histogram title. You can store the short description of the data (used in plotting).


Description of the bin_center values (used in plotting).


Description of the bin_content (used in plotting).

And here the most important (member) functions:


Arguments and Results


Create a histogram. There are several ways to create one depending on the arguments in histo here are the main possibilities:

  • h = histo( data_array, bins = 20, range = (10., 30.) ), data_array is a numpy array containing the data to be histogrammed, bins the number of bins, in this case 20 and range the range of values to be sorted into bins bins , in this example between 10 and 30.

  • h = histo(file = ’’), read the histogram data from file ’’ and create a new histogram. The ’’ file should have been created previously by a’’) command (see below)


(ymin = 0., filled = True, color = ’b’)

Plot the histogram. There are several keywords that can be set to control the plot. You can assign a minimal value ymin for the smallest content to be drawn (default is 0) . filled = False the area below the curve is not filled. color = ’b’ draw the line in blue. Other colors are: red(r), green(g) , magenta(m), yellow(y) or any other matplotlib color.


(xmin=10., xmax=20)

Add the content of the histogram for the values ranging between (and including) xmin = 10 and xmax = 20. Returns a tuple with the value and the error. If no arguments are given it returns the total of all bins.


(filename = ’’)

Save the histogram to the file

For more information see


If one is interested in analyzing correlations of data 2-dimensional histograms are frequently used. In this case one counts the number of occurrences of pairs of data. The 2D-histogram is setup as follows:

In [37]: hh2 = B.histo2d(x_vals, y_vals, bins = [15,25]) # create a 2D-histogram for the values x_vals, y_vals
                                                         # use 15 bins in the x-direction
                                                         # use 25 bins in the y-direction

Once the histogram is created you can plot it with the command:

In [38]: hh2.plot()  # plot the 2d histogram

For more detailed information on 2D-histograms see