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# Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, Azimuthers!

David Tanzer suggested that we chat more on the Forum about what we might want to write... tossing ideas around without worrying too much about them.

I'm curious about what you folks think about the future of Azimuth. I feel I've been rather bad about leading Azimuth in a clear direction that gets people to join in and do things. I've been pushing to develop "green mathematics", and this is working fairly well among my grad students, but it's not clear how much Azimuth is helping this effort — nor is it clear that this work lives up to the original rather grandiose vision of Azimuth. (It could be better to have a humble framework that really accomplishes something, than a grandiose vision that doesn't get anywhere.)

I've been trying to "lead by example", simply doing things and hoping others join, or do their own thing... and while this works to some extent, I can't help but wonder if it's an incomprehensible or uninspiring strategy to most people. Maybe my career as a mathematicians makes me unsuited for "management": in math, the strategy is usually "if you think you can do something, do it!"

Maybe what people really want are "answers" — a clear (if perhaps wrong) strategy for combating climate change, for example. I think I have ideas about that; they're not very novel but I could perhaps explain them more systematically than some have done. If I start doing that, will good things happen? Will people want to join in and flesh out various ideas? Will people correct my mistakes in some way that converges to an even better strategy, or will the discussion just devolve into a typical stagnant argument that doesn't really get anywhere?

For example, I'm in favor of nuclear power. This will start arguments. Will the arguments be useful? Can we make them be useful?

Questions like this have made me reluctant to launch Plan C, even though I feel someone should do it...

What do you think?

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1.
edited December 2013

Three cheers for green mathematics. No it's not everything, but it has vast implications. Network theory, when viewed narrowly is "just" mathematics, but in the fuller sense it is network science, which includes also the study of empirical networks such as ecosystems.

I see Azimuth as a kind of connecting link for sciences like Environment, Climate, and Evolution -- it functions at the interface of professional science and the broader society that supports the scientific effort.

(These sciences are "cosmopolitan" in that they have direct applications to contemporary human problems, and they also have nature and society in their subject matter.)

Now this role is a more general idea than Azimuth, but it is a niche (and a big niche!) that I see Azimuth fitting into -- this is an "opportunity space" for Azimuth.

When this connecting link gets deepened and expanded, I anticipate a reaction that leads to progress both in science and social awareness. But of course there are race conditions with the ongoing destruction of our habitat -- so the outcome looks non-deterministic.

I think that our blog is a powerful tool for fostering this link. Okay, so John is really prolific there, which is a hard act to follow. But never mind that -- we each do have experiences working in science, or around it, or in technology, and have thoughts about science, all of which gives us stories that are worth telling. In fact, everyone who has contributed to the forum has already shown that they are capable of using words to express valuable ideas.

John once mentioned a vision of an ecosystem of people teaching science to each other. This is a very important idea to keep in mind, even if we have only achieved a very small fraction of that potential so far, given our small numbers, busy schedules, etc. The vision still counts.

Also, if we ever had an editorial staff, there is lots of material on the forum which is raw material for blog articles. This would be a good use of funds, if we ever got them. (Research assistants could also be helpful :)

But for now, we are the research assistants, and the editorial staff. I know we're stretched thin, by our jobs, families, etc. So it's slow going, but let's keep going!

I see myself as a kind of informal recruiter and publicist for the Azimuth project. So far, I've recruited...nobody...but I am not deterred! I have tried with some friends and colleagues, but no bites yet. The bait needs to be improved :)

See my unfinished blog article for further thoughts on the meaning of the Azimuth project:

It's a kind of recruitment pamphlet / personal vision statement. I believe that this brief essay explains the spirit of the Azimuth project, and gives a couple of hints the technical work at Azimuth, to a completely non-technical reader. I will try it out on some non-mathematical colleagues. Then I will roll their feedback, along with yours, into another revision of the article. I'm hoping that the end-product will be re-publishable in a more mainstream venue.

Maybe I will be able to recruit some editors (down the road) for the Azimuth blog, by asking these colleagues for editorial suggestions on this particular blog article. I'm going to ask some people that I know from our neighborhood about it, two at the U.N., and one who is an editor for the NY Times.

As for Plan C, it may be a rational thing to pursue, but personally I'd rather "keep up the positive energy" and work on projects along our current lines. When catastrophes hit, they will have to be dealt with, and by working on e.g. green mathematics now, we will be contributing to the tools that will be needed then. On the other hand, you could argue that scenario modeling is a basic part of contemporary science, so there's not a hard-and-fast distinction between the positive development of contemporary science and the Plan C reasoning. Still, there is the question of emphasis and spirit.

Well, Merry Christmas!

Comment Source:Three cheers for green mathematics. No it's not everything, but it has vast implications. Network theory, when viewed narrowly is "just" mathematics, but in the fuller sense it is _network science_, which includes also the study of empirical networks such as ecosystems. I see Azimuth as a kind of connecting link for sciences like Environment, Climate, and Evolution -- it functions at the interface of professional science and the broader society that supports the scientific effort. (These sciences are "cosmopolitan" in that they have direct applications to contemporary human problems, and they also have nature and society in their subject matter.) Now this role is a more general idea than Azimuth, but it is a niche (and a big niche!) that I see Azimuth fitting into -- this is an "opportunity space" for Azimuth. When this connecting link gets deepened and expanded, I anticipate a reaction that leads to progress both in science and social awareness. But of course there are race conditions with the ongoing destruction of our habitat -- so the outcome looks non-deterministic. I think that our blog is a powerful tool for fostering this link. Okay, so John is really prolific there, which is a hard act to follow. But never mind that -- we each do have experiences working in science, or around it, or in technology, and have thoughts about science, all of which gives us stories that are worth telling. In fact, everyone who has contributed to the forum has already shown that they are capable of using words to express valuable ideas. John once mentioned a vision of an ecosystem of people teaching science to each other. This is a very important idea to keep in mind, even if we have only achieved a very small fraction of that potential so far, given our small numbers, busy schedules, etc. The vision still counts. Also, if we ever had an editorial staff, there is lots of material on the forum which is raw material for blog articles. This would be a good use of funds, if we ever got them. (Research assistants could also be helpful :) But for now, we are the research assistants, and the editorial staff. I know we're stretched thin, by our jobs, families, etc. So it's slow going, but let's keep going! I see myself as a kind of informal recruiter and publicist for the Azimuth project. So far, I've recruited...nobody...but I am not deterred! I have tried with some friends and colleagues, but no bites yet. The bait needs to be improved :) See my unfinished blog article for further thoughts on the meaning of the Azimuth project: * [[Blog - Azimuth explained (part 1)]] It's a kind of recruitment pamphlet / personal vision statement. I believe that this brief essay explains the spirit of the Azimuth project, and gives a couple of hints the technical work at Azimuth, to a completely non-technical reader. I will try it out on some non-mathematical colleagues. Then I will roll their feedback, along with yours, into another revision of the article. I'm hoping that the end-product will be re-publishable in a more mainstream venue. Maybe I will be able to recruit some editors (down the road) for the Azimuth blog, by asking these colleagues for editorial suggestions on this particular blog article. I'm going to ask some people that I know from our neighborhood about it, two at the U.N., and one who is an editor for the NY Times. As for Plan C, it may be a rational thing to pursue, but personally I'd rather "keep up the positive energy" and work on projects along our current lines. When catastrophes hit, they will have to be dealt with, and by working on e.g. green mathematics now, we will be contributing to the tools that will be needed then. On the other hand, you could argue that scenario modeling is a basic part of contemporary science, so there's not a hard-and-fast distinction between the positive development of contemporary science and the Plan C reasoning. Still, there is the question of emphasis and spirit. Well, Merry Christmas!
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2.

A point of clarification.

The above is my estimation of what the real "opportunity space" is for Azimuth, as an energizing connector at the bridge between professional science and the larger body of latent scientific energy within society.

This does of course differ from the standard formulation of Azimuth as being a focal point for scientists and engineers working on environmental problems -- which itself is very important, and I don't mean to diminish it, or to redefine Azimuth away from its current workings. You could think of what I'm describing as another tier, consisting of principally educational activity. Which would be conducted with the aim of ultimately feeding back into the sciences that we are learning from. One way to put it is as Azimuth versus "Azimuth Explained." But I'd like to think that these will coalesce into the parts of a coherent whole.

Comment Source:A point of clarification. The above is my estimation of what the real "opportunity space" is for Azimuth, as an energizing connector at the bridge between professional science and the larger body of latent scientific energy within society. This does of course differ from the standard formulation of Azimuth as being a focal point for scientists and engineers working on environmental problems -- which itself is very important, and I don't mean to diminish it, or to redefine Azimuth away from its current workings. You could think of what I'm describing as another tier, consisting of principally educational activity. Which would be conducted with the aim of ultimately feeding back into the sciences that we are learning from. One way to put it is as Azimuth versus "Azimuth Explained." But I'd like to think that these will coalesce into the parts of a coherent whole.
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edited December 2013

Thanks for all the comments, David! I agree with almost all of them.

This does of course differ from the standard formulation of Azimuth as being a focal point for scientists and engineers working on environmental problems – which itself is very important, and I don’t mean to diminish it, or to redefine Azimuth away from its current workings.

I think we should be open to redefining Azimuth so that its definition more closely matches what we're actually doing.

For one thing, this may help people who are considering joining. Don't you think potential members will be disappointed if they see rather grand goals on the main page of the Azimuth website and then discover that we are doing something rather different? Don't you think we might be missing some of the people we should be getting, if we don't emphasize what we're actually doing now?

All I know for sure is that I'm disappointed by how the stated goals differ from what we're actually doing. This issue has been torturing me.

Also, if we ever had an editorial staff, there is lots of material on the forum which is raw material for blog articles. This would be a good use of funds, if we ever got them. (Research assistants could also be helpful :)

Pretty soon I'm going to talk to the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, who had asked me:

If you could do anything to change the world what would you do? Many people haven’t had the opportunity to ponder that question because they have been busy studying what could be possible within a particular set of resource constraints. However, what if we push the limits? If all the barriers were removed, then what would you do?

What do you think I should say?

This is a very important decision, and I haven't gotten much feedback from anyone here yet.

Comment Source:Thanks for all the comments, David! I agree with almost all of them. > This does of course differ from the standard formulation of Azimuth as being a focal point for scientists and engineers working on environmental problems – which itself is very important, and I don’t mean to diminish it, or to redefine Azimuth away from its current workings. I think we should be open to redefining Azimuth so that its definition more closely matches what we're actually doing. For one thing, this may help people who are considering joining. Don't you think potential members will be disappointed if they see rather grand goals on the main page of the Azimuth website and then discover that we are doing something rather different? Don't you think we might be missing some of the people we _should_ be getting, if we don't emphasize what we're actually doing now? All I know for sure is that _I'm_ disappointed by how the stated goals differ from what we're actually doing. This issue has been torturing me. > Also, if we ever had an editorial staff, there is lots of material on the forum which is raw material for blog articles. This would be a good use of funds, if we ever got them. (Research assistants could also be helpful :) Pretty soon I'm going to talk to the [Laura and John Arnold Foundation](http://forum.azimuthproject.org/discussion/1248/if-you-could-do-anything-to-change-the-world-what-would-you-do/?Focus=9452#Comment_9452), who had asked me: > If you could do anything to change the world what would you do? Many people haven’t had the opportunity to ponder that question because they have been busy studying what could be possible within a particular set of resource constraints. However, what if we push the limits? If all the barriers were removed, then what would you do? **What do you think I should say?** This is a very important decision, and I haven't gotten much feedback from anyone here yet.
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4.
edited December 2013

Many people haven’t had the opportunity to ponder that question because they have been busy studying what could be possible within a particular set of resource constraints. However, what if we push the limits? If all the barriers were removed, then what would you do?

I think not the existence of ressource constraints is problematic per se, but rather what that "particular set" is composed of. In particular the problems to be faced are to a great deal connected to questions of how to deal with limited resources.

Comment Source:>Many people haven’t had the opportunity to ponder that question because they have been busy studying what could be possible within a particular set of resource constraints. However, what if we push the limits? If all the barriers were removed, then what would you do? I think not the existence of ressource constraints is problematic per se, but rather what that "particular set" is composed of. In particular the problems to be faced are to a great deal connected to questions of how to deal with limited resources.
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5.
edited December 2013

John wrote:

I think we should be open to redefining Azimuth so that its definition more closely matches what we're actually doing.

Don't you think potential members will be disappointed if they see rather grand goals on the main page of the Azimuth website and then discover that we are doing something rather different? Don't you think we might be missing some of the people we should be getting, if we don't emphasize what we're actually doing now?

Yes, these are good points.

I just wrote a draft of what I perceive to be a true and actual statement of the Azimuth project. See this wiki page:

It is meant to encompass all of our main areas of activity, so if anyone's work has been implicitly left out -- please speak up!

This is a point of departure for us to discuss our current definition. Let's review it, discuss it, and edit it, until we converge on a consensus statement of our purpose together here. Then we can make the real "Azimuth charter" page, link to it from the main page, and include an abstract of it right on the main page.

Comment Source:John wrote: > I think we should be open to redefining Azimuth so that its definition more closely matches what we're actually doing. > Don't you think potential members will be disappointed if they see rather grand goals on the main page of the Azimuth website and then discover that we are doing something rather different? Don't you think we might be missing some of the people we _should_ be getting, if we don't emphasize what we're actually doing now? Yes, these are good points. I just wrote a draft of what I perceive to be a true and actual statement of the Azimuth project. See this wiki page: * [[Azimuth charter (draft statement)]] It is meant to encompass all of our main areas of activity, so if anyone's work has been implicitly left out -- please speak up! This is a point of departure for us to discuss our current definition. Let's review it, discuss it, and edit it, until we converge on a consensus statement of our purpose together here. Then we can make the real "Azimuth charter" page, link to it from the main page, and include an abstract of it right on the main page.
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edited December 2013

Thanks. It looks good, but I'll have to mull it over for a while!

I only want to be mentioned by name in this statement if it actually helps. Maybe it does, since I've got an academic affiliation. But I keep wishing this project weren't quite so "me-centric". (The only real solution is to get more people involved who have lots of time and energy.)

Comment Source:Thanks. It looks good, but I'll have to mull it over for a while! I only want to be mentioned by name in this statement if it actually helps. Maybe it does, since I've got an academic affiliation. But I keep wishing this project weren't quite so "me-centric". (The only real solution is to get more people involved who have lots of time and energy.)
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edited March 2014

John wrote:

I think we should be open to redefining Azimuth so that its definition more closely matches what we're actually doing.

Definitely agree.

Don't you think potential members will be disappointed if they see rather grand goals on the main page of the Azimuth website and then discover that we are doing something rather different? Don't you think we might be missing some of the people we should be getting, if we don't emphasize what we're actually doing now?

Yes, this is a real concern, that we should address. In particular, we need to alter the home page statements about saving the world. The draft charter that I posted above may have some material that can be used to change the tone of the home page. In particular, note the following sentence form, which may be of use:

Although we can’t claim to be “saving the planet” today, we are working to ...

But, words aside, let's talk about the substance of matter. I fully agree that our statement of purpose should be grounded in our actual activities. The most substantial activities here that I see are:

• The Azimuth Blog -- aiming to create an "ecosystem" of people teaching science to each other.

• Research and education into network theory (partly outside of Azimuth, at U.C.R., and partly in Azimuth, through the blog).

• Azimuth code project, involving group study of climate models, programming them, and blogging about them.

Now the last mentioned one was part of our activities, but has gone through a period of dormancy. Let's wake it up, so that we can have a well-rounded Azimuth for Rick to Explain about! Now we've got the technology platform worked out, we have texts to study from, and scientists to whom we can pose questions about the models!

The Code project can fit together very well with the blogging project. For example, the models are all about stochastic processes, which is something on my agenda for blogging.

I will post on the Azimuth Code project threads some of my thoughts on how we can get this engine started again.

Comment Source:John wrote: > I think we should be open to redefining Azimuth so that its definition more closely matches what we're actually doing. Definitely agree. > Don't you think potential members will be disappointed if they see rather grand goals on the main page of the Azimuth website and then discover that we are doing something rather different? Don't you think we might be missing some of the people we _should_ be getting, if we don't emphasize what we're actually doing now? Yes, this is a real concern, that we should address. In particular, we need to alter the home page statements about saving the world. The draft charter that I posted above may have some material that can be used to change the tone of the home page. In particular, note the following sentence form, which may be of use: > Although we can’t claim to be “saving the planet” today, we are working to ... But, words aside, let's talk about the substance of matter. I fully agree that our statement of purpose should be grounded in our actual activities. The most substantial activities here that I see are: * The Azimuth Blog -- aiming to create an "ecosystem" of people teaching science to each other. * Research and education into network theory (partly outside of Azimuth, at U.C.R., and partly in Azimuth, through the blog). * Azimuth code project, involving group study of climate models, programming them, and blogging about them. Now the last mentioned one _was_ part of our activities, but has gone through a period of dormancy. Let's wake it up, so that we can have a well-rounded Azimuth for Rick to Explain about! Now we've got the technology platform worked out, we have texts to study from, and scientists to whom we can pose questions about the models! The Code project can fit together very well with the blogging project. For example, the models are all about stochastic processes, which is something on my agenda for blogging. I will post on the Azimuth Code project threads some of my thoughts on how we can get this engine started again.
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8.

Where you say:

The pursuit of green mathematics is central to the idea of the Azimuth project, since it could become a forefront of science that will be needed to cope with the environmental crisis. But there is an organizational separation here, because this research is being conducted in university lab setting, whereas the general Azimuth work takes place on the public forums of the wiki, the discussion board, and the blog. Later, we hope to connect them through the publication on the Azimuth blog of articles on green mathematics.

This problem is something I'm having trouble with. For example, I've tried getting grad students involved in blogging and programming, but my success so far is very spotty. Not nonexistent: Blake Pollard blogged about a windowed Fourier transform of climate data, and Michael Knap did some good work on our simple online climate model. But it seems hard to get them involved in this, mainly because it's hard enough for them to master the art of cranking out academic publications. It seems to work best when I blog about their work!

Comment Source:Where you say: > The pursuit of green mathematics is central to the idea of the Azimuth project, since it could become a forefront of science that will be needed to cope with the environmental crisis. But there is an organizational separation here, because this research is being conducted in university lab setting, whereas the general Azimuth work takes place on the public forums of the wiki, the discussion board, and the blog. Later, we hope to connect them through the publication on the Azimuth blog of articles on green mathematics. This problem is something I'm having trouble with. For example, I've tried getting grad students involved in blogging and programming, but my success so far is very spotty. Not nonexistent: Blake Pollard blogged about a windowed Fourier transform of climate data, and Michael Knap did some good work on our simple online climate model. But it seems hard to get them involved in this, mainly because it's hard enough for them to master the art of cranking out academic publications. It seems to work best when I blog about their work!
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edited April 2014

John, as you pointed out above, we really need to adjust the tone of the home page, in order not to create enormous expectations on the part of new visitors, which will quickly turn to disappointment, when people see our actual level of activity. This could also easily be used to mock us.

In quick succession, the home page uses the phrase "saving the planet" three times, and one of these occurrences is the first section heading.

Suggestion: Just remove the first section heading, called "Saving the planet." That in itself will significantly reduce the volume level, and the text will flow quite well without any heading at that spot.

If you still want to have some heading there, then there is an infinite range of options to choose from: Project goals, Creating a bird's eye view of planet-critical information, ... I don't really like either of these two that I just gave, but they illustrate how many things are possible. Still, I think that no header is needed there, because it is implicit that the first three paragraphs of a home page will be defining the group's objectives.

This suggestion is a stopgap measure, because we need to think more deeply about whether this is now the accurate charter of the Azimuth Project:

The Azimuth Project is an international collaboration to create focal point for scientists and engineers interested in saving the planet.

I would almost agree that this is a correct statement, in that we are indeed "interested" in saving the planet, but there is a further connotation here that we will be showing the way. It would be nice if we could do that, be we are not there!!

It is indeed an international collaboration, but isn't this almost implied, in this day and age of internet projects? Not that we should remove it, necessarily, but is it really a most choice word, out of a sixteen phrase defining sentence. For the time being, the rhythm of the sentence would be thrown off by removing the word, but in the long term we need to think about what's important to emphasize.

The next sentence is a good start:

Our goal is to make clearly presented, accurate information on the relevant issues easy to find, and to help people work together on our common problems.

Besides scientists and engineers, there is a role for programmers, and also other "interested folks" in the Azimuth project -- especially with regard to our educational projects. For example, we really could use the help of editors, professional writers and science educators, in shaping the ideas from the forum and the wiki into blog articles, and ultimately into an Azimuth curriculum package.

Since we want to recruit more programmers to help with the code project, it would be more welcoming to mention them in the list of participants in the first sentence, as in:

... create a focal point for scientists, engineers, and programmers interested in ...

Or is the issue here that this first sentence is biased towards the wiki, which may be more of a reference for scientists and engineers, not programmers? Yet we do have wiki articles on environment-related programming topics.

What I believe is the real kernel behind the Azimuth project is the idea of Science that Really Matters, which our modern context, is bound up with the need to save the planet. We have no monopoly on this, but we are committed to it, and are practicing it as best we can.

The second sentence is good, but I don't think that it fully captures the idea of an extended science community, that might include, for example, school teachers who want to introduce Science that Really Matters into their curriculum. Or, as you put it elsewhere John, the ecosystem of people teaching science to each other.

At the moment I don't have more concrete suggestions for sentence rewrites, sorry, but let's work this thorough over time.

Comment Source:John, as you pointed out above, we really need to adjust the tone of the home page, in order not to create enormous expectations on the part of new visitors, which will quickly turn to disappointment, when people see our actual level of activity. This could also easily be used to mock us. In quick succession, the home page uses the phrase "saving the planet" three times, and one of these occurrences is the first section heading. Suggestion: Just remove the first section heading, called "Saving the planet." That in itself will significantly reduce the volume level, and the text will flow quite well without any heading at that spot. If you still want to have some heading there, then there is an infinite range of options to choose from: Project goals, Creating a bird's eye view of planet-critical information, ... I don't really like either of these two that I just gave, but they illustrate how many things are possible. Still, I think that no header is needed there, because it is implicit that the first three paragraphs of a home page will be defining the group's objectives. This suggestion is a stopgap measure, because we need to think more deeply about whether this is now the accurate charter of the Azimuth Project: > The Azimuth Project is an international collaboration to create focal point for scientists and engineers interested in saving the planet. I would almost agree that this is a correct statement, in that we are indeed "interested" in saving the planet, but there is a further connotation here that we will be showing the way. It would be nice if we could do that, be we are not there!! It is indeed an international collaboration, but isn't this almost implied, in this day and age of internet projects? Not that we should remove it, necessarily, but is it really a most choice word, out of a sixteen phrase defining sentence. For the time being, the rhythm of the sentence would be thrown off by removing the word, but in the long term we need to think about what's important to emphasize. The next sentence is a good start: > Our goal is to make clearly presented, accurate information on the relevant issues easy to find, and to help people work together on our common problems. Besides scientists and engineers, there is a role for programmers, and also other "interested folks" in the Azimuth project -- especially with regard to our educational projects. For example, we really could use the help of editors, professional writers and science educators, in shaping the ideas from the forum and the wiki into blog articles, and ultimately into an Azimuth curriculum package. Since we want to recruit more programmers to help with the code project, it would be more welcoming to mention them in the list of participants in the first sentence, as in: > ... create a focal point for scientists, engineers, and programmers interested in ... Or is the issue here that this first sentence is biased towards the wiki, which may be more of a reference for scientists and engineers, not programmers? Yet we do have wiki articles on environment-related programming topics. What I believe is the real kernel behind the Azimuth project is the idea of Science that Really Matters, which our modern context, is bound up with the need to save the planet. We have no monopoly on this, but we are committed to it, and are practicing it as best we can. The second sentence is good, but I don't think that it fully captures the idea of an extended science community, that might include, for example, school teachers who want to introduce Science that Really Matters into their curriculum. Or, as you put it elsewhere John, the ecosystem of people teaching science to each other. At the moment I don't have more concrete suggestions for sentence rewrites, sorry, but let's work this thorough over time.
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10.

Suggestion: Just remove the first section heading, called “Saving the planet.” That in itself will significantly reduce the volume level, and the text will flow quite well without any heading at that spot.

we have to make sure though that John can keep his superman logo on google plus.

Comment Source:>Suggestion: Just remove the first section heading, called “Saving the planet.” That in itself will significantly reduce the volume level, and the text will flow quite well without any heading at that spot. we have to make sure though that John can keep his superman logo on google plus.