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# Azimuth strategy

John wrote on google+:

It's been an interesting and stressful year for me. I'm struggling to do some more practical things for the health of our planet. I believe global warming is a serious problem and we're facing a mass extinction event. I can't just sit around. But my love for the beauty of pure math and theoretical physics keeps pulling me back to the things I used to think about. I feel torn and frustrated.

and

I'd need to get better at working with folks in the Azimuth Project, and pull more experts into it. And most of all: I'd need to think harder about climate science and the art of prediction, and come up with some new ideas.

I feel also very alerted about the state of this earth and I had seen Azimuth as a place for getting an oversight about the state of climate science and also to get better equipped for discussions about climate science. Unfortunately it turned out that upon looking into the matter a little bit more in depth things got rather less clear than clearer. In particular it is not that I now feel better about the state of the earth after seeing how people deal with a lot of issues, but rather that the contrary is true. My view of climate /environmental science had turned quite a bit and not necessarily to the better. And it currently doesn't look to me that coming up with a couple of "new ideas" is sufficient.

Like John I feel equally torn about the typical Azimuth topics, that is those climate science and other environmental topics are rather something I would prefer not to need to deal too much with and given the partially rather depressing insights one gets here at Azimuth I feel not only torn but also more pessimistic. It is also that unlike John I do these things in my ("extended") "free time". I have now spend quite some time with the project and I currently don't think that I can afford much more engagement. That is I currently plan to rather reduce my activity here than to enlarge it. I just wanted to let you know about that in case you counted on more intricate contributions from my side.

## Comments

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1.

Sorry to read these words.

I, on the contrary, would like to spend much more time supporting John's projects in particular the climate related best I could (unless he fires me).

I find working with him a unique & rare opportunity in my life.

Depression is a part of the creative processes, and I find everyone here outstanding thinkers even if I had pow-wow with them in occasions, I appreciate each member of the group here. Perhaps again I might tangle with some of the views but as Paul said "where else we have the opportunity to discuss these matters".

Thank you John for providing a free-thinking environment free of prejudice and bias, I cannot tell you how much that is valued.

Dara

Comment Source:Sorry to read these words. I, on the contrary, would like to spend much more time supporting John's projects in particular the climate related best I could (unless he fires me). I find working with him a unique & rare opportunity in my life. Depression is a part of the creative processes, and I find everyone here outstanding thinkers even if I had pow-wow with them in occasions, I appreciate each member of the group here. Perhaps again I might tangle with some of the views but as Paul said "where else we have the opportunity to discuss these matters". Thank you John for providing a free-thinking environment free of prejudice and bias, I cannot tell you how much that is valued. Dara
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2.

My biggest problem with Azimuth is that I don't have enough time to spend working to serve it.

My suggestion is to focus on the process and let go of some of our expectations about what the results will be.

What we have here is the kernel of a rather remarkable, interdisciplinary scientific community. The goal of understanding climate change is a North Star. But there are many stars in the sky; the celestial sphere is one whole, painted with constellations.

The many sciences, and mathematics, support each other, and are part of one Science. So, sure, there's always the question about where to focus one's energy, but let's not get carried away with dichotomies.

Let's keep on building this community, through the means of projects such as the El Nino investigation. By increasing the number and diversity of our participants, we will be increasing the fertility of our discussions and adding to the potential energy of a movement for science that really matters. We can't know what the participants of the future will do or say, but we can work on building a forum for them today.

There are a lot of dots to be connected in order to achieve a greater level of planetary scientific awareness.

We can each pick our spots and work from there. I have no expectation for myself to tackle any significant problems in climate science. My spots are (1) the foundations of applied mathematics, with emphasis on stochastic processes, and (2) the data and knowledge infrastructure for scientific understanding. These areas are relevant and connected to the enterprise of climate science, and that is enough for me to feel a sense of place at Azimuth. One day I hope that we can expand to the point where we are directly and actively collaborating with environmental researchers, on the forum and elsewhere.

I also believe that with the expertise and talent that we have already concentrated here, we have the capability and the opportunity to make a real contribution to science education; if, for example, we ever decided to work on a textbook or an organized series or book of blog articles. I'm pretty sure that we could give the material a lot of color and life. This would be another way of doing service for the community; it could widen our recognition in the public sphere, and perhaps lead to further recruitments of researchers and other folks. To my mind, this deserves to be an ongoing and permanent project of the Azimuth group, which today is primarily spearheaded by John on the Azimuth Blog.

Comment Source:My biggest problem with Azimuth is that I don't have enough time to spend working to serve it. My suggestion is to focus on the process and let go of some of our expectations about what the results will be. What we have here is the kernel of a rather remarkable, interdisciplinary scientific community. The goal of understanding climate change is a North Star. But there are many stars in the sky; the celestial sphere is one whole, painted with constellations. The many sciences, and mathematics, support each other, and are part of one Science. So, sure, there's always the question about where to focus one's energy, but let's not get carried away with dichotomies. Let's keep on building this community, through the means of projects such as the El Nino investigation. By increasing the number and diversity of our participants, we will be increasing the fertility of our discussions and adding to the potential energy of a movement for science that really matters. We can't know what the participants of the future will do or say, but we can work on building a forum for them today. There are a lot of dots to be connected in order to achieve a greater level of planetary scientific awareness. We can each pick our spots and work from there. I have no expectation for myself to tackle any significant problems in climate science. My spots are (1) the foundations of applied mathematics, with emphasis on stochastic processes, and (2) the data and knowledge infrastructure for scientific understanding. These areas are relevant and connected to the enterprise of climate science, and that is enough for me to feel a sense of place at Azimuth. One day I hope that we can expand to the point where we are directly and actively collaborating with environmental researchers, on the forum and elsewhere. I also believe that with the expertise and talent that we have already concentrated here, we have the capability and the opportunity to make a real contribution to science education; if, for example, we ever decided to work on a textbook or an organized series or book of blog articles. I'm pretty sure that we could give the material a lot of color and life. This would be another way of doing service for the community; it could widen our recognition in the public sphere, and perhaps lead to further recruitments of researchers and other folks. To my mind, this deserves to be an ongoing and permanent project of the Azimuth group, which today is primarily spearheaded by John on the Azimuth Blog.
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3.

This site is a rare gold-mine for discussion. Let me relate a story over the last couple of days. Someone alerted me to a discussion of El Nino and ENSO at the ScienceOfDoom site. But once there, I noticed that the anti-science crowd had taken root, and when I commented on the ENSO modeling that we are doing here, the predictable naysayer decided to misrepresent and obfuscate the math once again.

I find it very curious that the anti-science mindset these days amounts to stating that topics are too complicated and that no one can unravel chaos. And they sprinkle in all sorts of dog-whistle code words to alert like-minded types.

They do not want to see scientific progress made, whereas here, at least attempts at progress are welcomed. That is why Azimuth is such a gold-mine.

Comment Source:This site is a rare gold-mine for discussion. Let me relate a story over the last couple of days. Someone alerted me to a discussion of El Nino and ENSO at the ScienceOfDoom site. But once there, I noticed that the anti-science crowd had taken root, and when I commented on the ENSO modeling that we are doing here, the predictable naysayer decided to misrepresent and obfuscate the math once again. I find it very curious that the anti-science mindset these days amounts to stating that topics are too complicated and that no one can unravel chaos. And they sprinkle in all sorts of dog-whistle code words to alert like-minded types. They do not want to see scientific progress made, whereas here, at least <i>attempts</i> at progress are welcomed. That is why Azimuth is such a gold-mine.
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4.
edited January 2015

That is why Azimuth is such a gold-mine.

I second what Paul said.

All we have to do is what we did supporting John for his NIPS talk, that has to be modus operandi, not just discussions. Everyday like that, like the open source guys do.

Comment Source:>That is why Azimuth is such a gold-mine. I second what Paul said. All we have to do is what we did supporting John for his NIPS talk, that has to be modus operandi, not just discussions. Everyday like that, like the open source guys do.
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5.
edited January 2015

John wrote (as quoted by Nad):

But my love for the beauty of pure math and theoretical physics keeps pulling me back to the things I used to think about.

At another point I remember you saying that you felt that the foundations of "green mathematics" (network category theory) were also of deep interest and beauty as mathematics, and had the advantage of significance on a more present timescale than e.g. quantum gravity. Has your perspective on this changed?

As I see it, we have to follow our thoughts where they take us, yet at the same time we can strive to shepherd and lead them in directions that we believe to be important.

Comment Source:John wrote (as quoted by Nad): > But my love for the beauty of pure math and theoretical physics keeps pulling me back to the things I used to think about. At another point I remember you saying that you felt that the foundations of "green mathematics" (network category theory) were also of deep interest and beauty as mathematics, and had the advantage of significance on a more present timescale than e.g. quantum gravity. Has your perspective on this changed? As I see it, we have to follow our thoughts where they take us, yet at the same time we can strive to shepherd and lead them in directions that we believe to be important.
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6.
edited January 2015

David wrote:

At another point I remember you saying that you felt that the foundations of "green mathematics" (network category theory) were also of deep interest and beauty as mathematics, and had the advantage of significance on a more present timescale than e.g. quantum gravity. Has your perspective on this changed?

This is one of the things I think about most of all.. but I don't bother people with it very much, since it seems very personal.

Personal? Yes, because it turns out that I need to certain things to stay happy, which aren't necessarily the things I should be doing. And I'm not talking about drinking beer, watching TV and playing go: it seems fairly uncontroversial that most people need to goof off a certain amount to stay happy. I'm talking about doing traditional mathematics, with its crystalline beauty, versus "green mathematics", which is supposed to be as beautiful as a tree... but right now can be a frustrating mess.

I believe green mathematics can become as deep as traditional mathematics inspired by problems of geometry and symmetry. But it's not there yet. And having spent a lot of time mastering traditional mathematics, I discover I can't quite abandon it.

I'm not very tempted to work on quantum gravity or $n$-categories, despite my love for these topics, because these are hard, and when I'm working on them I feel I'm competing with very smart people - my former colleagues. This turns out to be very frustrating and upsetting when I feel I'm not able to put in enough time to do top-notch work anymore.

It seems I can satisfy most of my urges for traditional mathematics by working with Greg Egan on projects that are less hard but have a high payoff in beauty, like this.

On the other hand, I seem to have acquired two new grad students, for a total of seven... and this is making me more ambitious about developing network theory into a really nice subject! I've got different student working on different categories of networks, and functors between them. I mainly need someone who can pose questions that are right on the cusp between "practical" and "mathematically elegant" - this is very hard, most people are crappy at it, and even I'm not as good as I'd like to be.

Comment Source:David wrote: > At another point I remember you saying that you felt that the foundations of "green mathematics" (network category theory) were also of deep interest and beauty as mathematics, and had the advantage of significance on a more present timescale than e.g. quantum gravity. Has your perspective on this changed? This is one of the things I think about most of all.. but I don't bother people with it very much, since it seems very personal. Personal? Yes, because it turns out that I need to certain things to stay happy, which aren't necessarily the things I _should_ be doing. And I'm not talking about drinking beer, watching TV and playing go: it seems fairly uncontroversial that most people need to goof off a certain amount to stay happy. I'm talking about doing traditional mathematics, with its crystalline beauty, versus "green mathematics", which is supposed to be as beautiful as a tree... but right now can be a frustrating mess. I believe green mathematics can become as deep as traditional mathematics inspired by problems of geometry and symmetry. But it's not there yet. And having spent a lot of time mastering traditional mathematics, I discover I can't quite abandon it. I'm not very tempted to work on quantum gravity or $n$-categories, despite my love for these topics, because these are hard, and when I'm working on them I feel I'm competing with very smart people - my former colleagues. This turns out to be very frustrating and upsetting when I feel I'm not able to put in enough time to do top-notch work anymore. It seems I can satisfy most of my urges for traditional mathematics by working with Greg Egan on projects that are less hard but have a high payoff in beauty, like [this](http://blogs.ams.org/visualinsight/2015/01/01/icosidodecahedron-from-projected-d6-root-polytope/). On the other hand, I seem to have acquired two new grad students, for a total of seven... and this is making me more ambitious about developing network theory into a really nice subject! I've got different student working on different categories of networks, and functors between them. I mainly need someone who can pose questions that are right on the cusp between "practical" and "mathematically elegant" - this is very hard, most people are crappy at it, and even I'm not as good as I'd like to be. 
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