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# On changing the world

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?

It's such a daunting question. On a personal note, what makes it even harder to think about is having grown in a wildly idealistic left wing milieu. This was followed by a long series of painful encounters with the reality principle. But the extreme reaction to this, of abandoning all vision, and yielding to cynicism, is also flawed. How to "dream" in a sober way?

I'm starting this thread as a place to attach any thoughts that any of us might have about the question.

Rather than coming up with a structured response, I will be adding notes in a "journal" style.

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1.

Here are some initial thoughts. They are unoriginal, and biased, but I have to start somewhere.

• Increase revenue through reduction of military expenditures

• Increase revenue through increased taxes on the higher incomes

• Increase spending on R & D for sustainable development

Comment Source:Here are some initial thoughts. They are unoriginal, and biased, but I have to start somewhere. * Increase revenue through reduction of military expenditures * Increase revenue through increased taxes on the higher incomes * Increase spending on R & D for sustainable development
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2.
edited December 2013

Moving along:

• R & D for sustainable development should be recognized as a basic part of what is now called infrastructural development
Comment Source:Moving along: * R & D for sustainable development should be recognized as a basic part of what is now called infrastructural development
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3.
• The problem of fundamentally understanding the biosphere, and our role within it, is now the de facto top item on the agenda for science, when it is considered in human terms
Comment Source:* The problem of fundamentally understanding the biosphere, and our role within it, is now the _de facto_ top item on the agenda for science, when it is considered in human terms
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4.
edited December 2013
Comment Source:* Work to create an Azimuth-style "ecosystem" for the promotion of _science that matters_, along the lines that I suggested in [[Azimuth charter (draft statement)]]
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5.
edited December 2013
• Create a non-profit Azimuth foundation, to support these activities.

• Then, of course, raise money for the Azimuth foundation

On a separate thread, I will take up the question of what this foundation could do.

Comment Source:* Create a non-profit Azimuth foundation, to support these activities. * Then, of course, raise money for the Azimuth foundation On a separate thread, I will take up the question of what this foundation could do.
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6.
edited December 2013
• Needed: scientific sociology.

Looking for a coherent theory that is well connected to the empirical data. In its full application, it should yield insight into modern society and politics.

Not wanted: philosophical treatises on society

Not wanted: books that look more like weapons than honest scientific inquiry

If such materials exist, I would love to hear about and read them.

In the absence of such, scientists may have to start again, in this subject area, from the beginning (making use of whatever insights have been gained so far).

Natural scientists, mathematicians and computer scientists may be able to help here.

Comment Source:* Needed: scientific sociology. Looking for a coherent theory that is well connected to the empirical data. In its full application, it should yield insight into modern society and politics. Not wanted: philosophical treatises on society Not wanted: books that look more like weapons than honest scientific inquiry If such materials exist, I would love to hear about and read them. In the absence of such, scientists may have to start again, in this subject area, from the beginning (making use of whatever insights have been gained so far). Natural scientists, mathematicians and computer scientists may be able to help here.
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7.

Just in reply to your last point David, I'll just say that that's one way of approaching the general question of "we need to know what large numbers of will respond to some circumstance" and is the "scientific" approach of understanding things. This does potentially run up against the issue that theres too many different factors for complicated human beings. An alternative would be to focus on the question of what engineering and science is needed to be able to reliably infer the behaviour of very large scale populations of people from practically doable experiments (in terms of population size, duration, etc) involving people. In such an approach there's less need for understanding (even though understanding would be nice).

Comment Source:Just in reply to your last point David, I'll just say that that's one way of approaching the general question of "we need to know what large numbers of will respond to some circumstance" and is the "scientific" approach of understanding things. This does potentially run up against the issue that theres too many different factors for complicated human beings. An alternative would be to focus on the question of what engineering and science is needed to be able to reliably infer the behaviour of very large scale populations of people from practically doable experiments (in terms of population size, duration, etc) involving people. In such an approach there's less need for understanding (even though understanding would be nice).
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8.
• Create a major public works program for R & D in biospherics and sustainable development.

People will need to be trained for this work, so it implies a major commitment of resources to science education.

Happy New Year!

Comment Source:* Create a major public works program for R & D in biospherics and sustainable development. People will need to be trained for this work, so it implies a major commitment of resources to science education. Happy New Year!
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9.
edited February 2014

Thanks for the list of suggestions, David Tanzer. I'm sorry to take so long to reply to them.

(Sorry for the full name, but even "David T." is ambiguous!)

I've been taking a long time to reply because I'm rather intimidated by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation's email; I really am used to working within lots of constraints, and doing research that I and a few colleagues and grad students can do. When you say things like

Create a major public works program for R & D in biospherics and sustainable development.

I think "that's way beyond my competence level!" But maybe I should relax and just contact them and see what if anything comes of it.

Comment Source:Thanks for the list of suggestions, David Tanzer. I'm sorry to take so long to reply to them. (Sorry for the full name, but even "David T." is ambiguous!) I've been taking a long time to reply because I'm rather intimidated by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation's email; I really am used to working within lots of constraints, and doing research that I and a few colleagues and grad students can do. When you say things like > Create a major public works program for R & D in biospherics and sustainable development. I think "that's way beyond my competence level!" But maybe I should relax and just contact them and see what if anything comes of it.
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10.
edited February 2014

No problema. Organizing public works projects is way beyond my competence level too! But that's the scale of effort that the question seems to call for -- since it stipulates no constraints on what is feasible. That's why I said that the question was daunting to me. Maybe we should have asked Pete Seeger's advice before he left us... Too bad the communities of scientists and artists are generally disjointed from each other. Multidimensional problems would call for multidimensional solutions. In the olden days a song like Roll On, Columbia, Roll On, could contribute to the spirit of a public works project. But now we live in a time of Tweets. On a related theme, I wonder if the last "authentic" jazz ballads have been written in the 1950s (generally speaking), or if the form is just going through a period of dormancy. Speaking of artists, John do you ever converse with your cousin Joan about the state of the world today?

Comment Source:No problema. Organizing public works projects is way beyond my competence level too! But that's the scale of effort that the question seems to call for -- since it stipulates no constraints on what is feasible. That's why I said that the question was daunting to me. Maybe we should have asked Pete Seeger's advice before he left us... Too bad the communities of scientists and artists are generally disjointed from each other. Multidimensional problems would call for multidimensional solutions. In the olden days a song like Roll On, Columbia, Roll On, could contribute to the spirit of a public works project. But now we live in a time of Tweets. On a related theme, I wonder if the last "authentic" jazz ballads have been written in the 1950s (generally speaking), or if the form is just going through a period of dormancy. Speaking of artists, John do you ever converse with your cousin Joan about the state of the world today?
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11.
edited March 2014
I’ll just say that that’s one way of approaching the general question of “we need to know what large numbers of will respond to some circumstance” and is the “scientific” approach of understanding things. This does potentially run up against the issue that theres too many different factors for complicated human beings. An alternative would be to focus on the question of what engineering and science is needed to be able to reliably infer the behaviour of very large scale populations of people from practically doable experiments "

Just a question- (I know the original question stated no constraints etc), but to what degree does the above get us into dangerous territory? If such a scientific theory/tool/methodology existed/does exist, what would you rate as the probability of its use vs the probability of its misuse?
If creating such a tool would have a high probability of leading to the wielder having vast power (vast GENERAL power, not merely for the sake of protecting an biosphere) is this problematic, or necessary?

Also... "Needed: scientific sociology." ... seems to imply that there does no exist any science of sociology... which I'm sure people will debate over (Is economics really a "scientific" subject? What about anthropology?)
But... doing so seems dangerous to me. In the end its just a subjective debate of the meaning of the word "subjective"
There is the term "physics envy", where other subjects attempt to find statements as precise as the laws of thermodynamics or gravity. But be honest- do you EXPECT to see such laws when exploring an ecology? Or the workings of a cell?
Or a civilisation?
So... so perhaps there IS a large amount of scientific sociology. Its just less elegant than what mathematicians and social scientists are used to...

shrug I dunno, probably useless comment- a response to something old, and I'm sure you knew what you meant at the time... you even said "if such materials exist"...
Hmmm.. I feel that this may be other peoples conversation, but such like this interests me, so oh well.

... I wonder what Google are up to...

Oh, and while I'm here, perhaps I should answer original question
"However, what if we push the limits? If all the barriers were removed, then what would you do?"
Space program, colonise Mars. - yes the biosphere is problem, but the question stated to assume no constraints... so that's what I'd do.
Assuming ecological constraints...

Strongly encourage "buy once" style products. Make manufactures responsible for both their product and its packaging indefinitly (to encourage reusable or biodegradable products).
Investigate the academic publishing system and its alternatives- which systems actually HELP people.
Investigate all current governmental systems, and rate them on their performance- in particular investigate which ones lead to smoothest transitions after revolutions (EG, so the newly elected _____ does not then become a military dictator, nor face massive resistance).
Investigate closed system biology- are we yet at the stage where we could build a dome and have it sustain itself indefinitely? If not why not? If so, how can we scale up these technologies?
Investigate the Patenting and Trademarking system- how do these systems encourage/discourage innovation? How do they effect the USE of such innovations? To what extent do these systems help/hinder medical/agricultural/sociological change? What are possible/probably effects of changing these systems?
Invest heavily in antibiotics research.
Enforce a rule that requires all economics papers with at least one equation are reviewed by at least one mathematician (I currently have a 70% hit rate for ones that actually make sense mathematically)

Investigate the manufacture of sturdy, environmentally friendly, solar powered E-readers. Install as much agricultural/scientific/ cultural knowledge on them as possible, and make them freely available- perhaps starting off with one or two per village.
Scratch that- reading is a problem. Damn.... hmmm... okay, I'll have to think about that one more carefully.

Start an "international cooperation" political party in as many countries as possible. I wouldn't expect them to get a majority of votes anywhere, but I think there may be several countries where they could gain a useful minority. Even having them as a recognized political force could be of use. (NOTE: I do not consider each of these units to be part of a collective, merely a number of parties in different countries with a similar mandate). I know that many political parties already act in a cooperative manner, but I think placing it as the mandate for one of them could be worth while.

Okay... that's all I've got for now.....

This is a fun question.
Comment Source:I’ll just say that that’s one way of approaching the general question of “we need to know what large numbers of will respond to some circumstance” and is the “scientific” approach of understanding things. This does potentially run up against the issue that theres too many different factors for complicated human beings. An alternative would be to focus on the question of what engineering and science is needed to be able to reliably infer the behaviour of very large scale populations of people from practically doable experiments " Just a question- (I know the original question stated no constraints etc), but to what degree does the above get us into dangerous territory? If such a scientific theory/tool/methodology existed/does exist, what would you rate as the probability of its use vs the probability of its misuse? If creating such a tool would have a high probability of leading to the wielder having vast power (vast GENERAL power, not merely for the sake of protecting an biosphere) is this problematic, or necessary? Also... "Needed: scientific sociology." ... seems to imply that there does no exist any science of sociology... which I'm sure people will debate over (Is economics really a "scientific" subject? What about anthropology?) But... doing so seems dangerous to me. In the end its just a subjective debate of the meaning of the word "subjective" There is the term "physics envy", where other subjects attempt to find statements as precise as the laws of thermodynamics or gravity. But be honest- do you EXPECT to see such laws when exploring an ecology? Or the workings of a cell? Or a civilisation? So... so perhaps there IS a large amount of scientific sociology. Its just less elegant than what mathematicians and social scientists are used to... *shrug* I dunno, probably useless comment- a response to something old, and I'm sure you knew what you meant at the time... you even said "if such materials exist"... Hmmm.. I feel that this may be other peoples conversation, but such like this interests me, so oh well. ... I wonder what Google are up to... Oh, and while I'm here, perhaps I should answer original question "However, what if we push the limits? If all the barriers were removed, then what would you do?" Space program, colonise Mars. - yes the biosphere is problem, but the question stated to assume no constraints... so that's what I'd do. Assuming ecological constraints... Strongly encourage "buy once" style products. Make manufactures responsible for both their product and its packaging indefinitly (to encourage reusable or biodegradable products). Investigate the academic publishing system and its alternatives- which systems actually HELP people. Investigate all current governmental systems, and rate them on their performance- in particular investigate which ones lead to smoothest transitions after revolutions (EG, so the newly elected _____ does not then become a military dictator, nor face massive resistance). Investigate closed system biology- are we yet at the stage where we could build a dome and have it sustain itself indefinitely? If not why not? If so, how can we scale up these technologies? Investigate the Patenting and Trademarking system- how do these systems encourage/discourage innovation? How do they effect the USE of such innovations? To what extent do these systems help/hinder medical/agricultural/sociological change? What are possible/probably effects of changing these systems? Invest heavily in antibiotics research. Enforce a rule that requires all economics papers with at least one equation are reviewed by at least one mathematician (I currently have a 70% hit rate for ones that actually make sense mathematically) Investigate the manufacture of sturdy, environmentally friendly, solar powered E-readers. Install as much agricultural/scientific/ cultural knowledge on them as possible, and make them freely available- perhaps starting off with one or two per village. Scratch that- reading is a problem. Damn.... hmmm... okay, I'll have to think about that one more carefully. Start an "international cooperation" political party in as many countries as possible. I wouldn't expect them to get a majority of votes anywhere, but I think there may be several countries where they could gain a useful minority. Even having them as a recognized political force could be of use. (NOTE: I do not consider each of these units to be part of a collective, merely a number of parties in different countries with a similar mandate). I know that many political parties already act in a cooperative manner, but I think placing it as the mandate for one of them could be worth while. Okay... that's all I've got for now..... This is a fun question.
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12.
edited March 2014

David Tanzer wrote:

Speaking of artists, John do you ever converse with your cousin Joan about the state of the world today?

No, I've hardly ever talked with her at all!

By the way, what's up with you? After a period of energetic activity on Azimuth you seem to have disappeared? I'm wondering how much of this is due to my own poor management skills (I should have been encouraging you more and responding to all your suggestions), how much of it is due to you getting sick of Azimuth (which could be due to my poor management skills or the general quixoticness of trying to "save the planet"), how much of it is due to you getting busy after Christmas break ended, etc.

Comment Source:David Tanzer wrote: > Speaking of artists, John do you ever converse with your cousin Joan about the state of the world today? No, I've hardly ever talked with her at all! By the way, what's up with you? After a period of energetic activity on Azimuth you seem to have disappeared? I'm wondering how much of this is due to my own poor management skills (I should have been encouraging you more and responding to all your suggestions), how much of it is due to you getting sick of Azimuth (which could be due to my poor management skills or the general quixoticness of trying to "save the planet"), how much of it is due to you getting busy after Christmas break ended, etc.
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13.

News: I am supposed to talk to people at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation sometime this week. They haven't said which day.

I have decided to lay out two projects for their consideration:

• The Azimuth Project
• The Selected Papers Network

Why two? They may be disinclined to get involved in environmental issues, but they seem quite interested in improving the practice of science, and the Selected Papers Network is relevant to that.

Instead of laying out a detailed proposal, I think I'll simply tell them what these two projects are aiming to achieve, what they're like so far, and how they could use help. Either one would be vastly helped by a single full-time employee!

Comment Source:*News:* I am supposed to talk to people at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation sometime this week. They haven't said which day. I have decided to lay out two projects for their consideration: * The Azimuth Project * The Selected Papers Network Why two? They may be disinclined to get involved in environmental issues, but they seem quite interested in improving the practice of science, and the Selected Papers Network is relevant to that. Instead of laying out a detailed proposal, I think I'll simply tell them what these two projects are aiming to achieve, what they're like so far, and how they could use help. Either one would be vastly helped by a single full-time employee!
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14.

Hi John, I'm here! Not to worry, my lull was totally in the category of other, life-related distractions. Funny you should ask at this time, because in the last couple of days I've returned to the blogging -- continuing on the ones that I have already started. I'll post a progress note in the next week or so.

Comment Source:Hi John, I'm here! Not to worry, my lull was totally in the category of other, life-related distractions. Funny you should ask at this time, because in the last couple of days I've returned to the blogging -- continuing on the ones that I have already started. I'll post a progress note in the next week or so.
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15.

Yay, great!

Comment Source:Yay, great!
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16.

I'm supposed to talk to people at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation on Tuesday March 25th, 10 am Central Time, which is six hours later - 4 pm - here in Germany.

Comment Source:I'm supposed to talk to people at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation on Tuesday March 25th, 10 am Central Time, which is six hours later - 4 pm - here in Germany.
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17.

Good luck with the talk.

This is a restatement of a suggestion I made above: the work at Azimuth is important enough that it deserves to be funded. So a non-profit Azimuth Foundation would be a good thing. I believe that a talented fund-raiser could raise a substantial sum for the Azimuth group and its cause.

Since I'm not the right guy to start a foundation, or to raise funds, a first step in this direction could be to do some networking in search of such a person. But I'm not this kind of social networking guy either :)

Also, I'm not saying that this would pertain to your talk at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation -- but its a thought that pertains to the long term future and energy level of the Azimuth project.

Comment Source:Good luck with the talk. This is a restatement of a suggestion I made above: the work at Azimuth is important enough that it deserves to be funded. So a non-profit Azimuth Foundation would be a good thing. I believe that a talented fund-raiser could raise a substantial sum for the Azimuth group and its cause. Since I'm not the right guy to start a foundation, or to raise funds, a first step in this direction could be to do some networking in search of such a person. But I'm not this kind of social networking guy either :) Also, I'm not saying that this would pertain to your talk at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation -- but its a thought that pertains to the long term future and energy level of the Azimuth project.
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18.

The idea of a foundation of course raises the question of what we would do if we had some funding. What do people think?

Here are some starter ideas.

The full-time employee(s), who could work on:

• Data administration: updating the blog index, performing polishing edits to keep the wiki more consistent, set up and monitor global data replication for disaster recovery

• Publicity and outreach efforts. Put together talks on Azimuth. Go to college campus to give the talk. Talk to administrators in university departments of environmental science. Go to conferences on scientific programming, and try to drum up some interest in scientific programming for the planetary cause.

• Research assistant. In-depth investigation of related activities at climate-concerned research institutes. What's NASA up to today, in terms of climate change research? Granted that Azimuth only has a small number of climate scientists (Nathan, anyone else?), is there any way that we as a group can be helpful to the overall enterprise of climate science? If so, that could help us to get "our foot in the door" of the research effort. There may not be a quick answer to this question, but it's worth pondering.

Another use of funding: organize a programming contest for interactive climate models, to be contributed to the Azimuth project (as free software), using our javascript platform, and developed by means of discussions on our forum (hidden agenda: get more people involved in learning about the models). Programs should be accompanied by educational "documentation" that summarizes the models involved and how the code accomplishes its goals.

Comment Source:The idea of a foundation of course raises the question of what we would do if we had some funding. What do people think? Here are some starter ideas. The full-time employee(s), who could work on: * Data administration: updating the blog index, performing polishing edits to keep the wiki more consistent, set up and monitor global data replication for disaster recovery * Publicity and outreach efforts. Put together talks on Azimuth. Go to college campus to give the talk. Talk to administrators in university departments of environmental science. Go to conferences on scientific programming, and try to drum up some interest in scientific programming for the planetary cause. * Research assistant. In-depth investigation of related activities at climate-concerned research institutes. What's NASA up to today, in terms of climate change research? Granted that Azimuth only has a small number of climate scientists (Nathan, anyone else?), is there any way that we as a group can be _helpful_ to the overall enterprise of climate science? If so, that could help us to get "our foot in the door" of the research effort. There may not be a quick answer to this question, but it's worth pondering. Another use of funding: organize a programming contest for interactive climate models, to be contributed to the Azimuth project (as free software), using our javascript platform, and developed by means of discussions on our forum (hidden agenda: get more people involved in learning about the models). Programs should be accompanied by educational "documentation" that summarizes the models involved and how the code accomplishes its goals.
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19.
edited March 2014

By the way, I think that the "seminar" that you guys had where you studied the climate models and coded them up as interactive browser software, for educational purposes, was great! I realize that we're having a lull in programming activity at this point, so de facto it is de-emphasized in today's Azimuth strategy, but I'm still holding on the hopes that, with some fresh blood, we may eventually be able to start another round of that seminar.

What I found when writing Petri Net Programming was that I could, without too much trouble, write a simulator for stochastic Petri nets, which uses the exponential distribution, etc., to figure out the next firing time, and I could "expain" how the code works, but there would be something fundamentally arbitrary about it, because it wouldn't have real meaning without the theory that is presupposed by such a simulator. That's why I think that to really get programmers interested in these projects, it will help to have an organized "educational package" for them, which I have started on, in a small way, in the blog articles that I have been writing.

If we had money, I would also recommend hiring an educational specialist to organize curriculum for specific audiences. John's vision of an ecosystem of people teaching science to each other holds a lot of sway for me, and we already have that, to some extent. But we're now only tapping into a small portion of the potential there. It would be nice if it just happened spontaneously, but some enzymes (staff) could really help it along!

Comment Source:By the way, I think that the "seminar" that you guys had where you studied the climate models and coded them up as interactive browser software, for educational purposes, was great! I realize that we're having a lull in programming activity at this point, so de facto it is de-emphasized in today's Azimuth strategy, but I'm still holding on the hopes that, with some fresh blood, we may eventually be able to start another round of that seminar. What I found when writing Petri Net Programming was that I _could_, without too much trouble, write a simulator for stochastic Petri nets, which uses the exponential distribution, etc., to figure out the next firing time, and I could "expain" how the code works, but there would be something fundamentally arbitrary about it, because it wouldn't have real meaning without the theory that is presupposed by such a simulator. That's why I think that to really get programmers interested in these projects, it will help to have an organized "educational package" for them, which I have started on, in a small way, in the blog articles that I have been writing. If we had money, I would also recommend hiring an educational specialist to organize curriculum for specific audiences. John's vision of an ecosystem of people teaching science to each other holds a lot of sway for me, and we already have that, to some extent. But we're now only tapping into a small portion of the potential there. It would be nice if it just happened spontaneously, but some enzymes (staff) could really help it along!
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20.
edited March 2014

Thanks for posting that Dave. I pretty much agree with all those suggestions. I can only add that nearly all practical plans will involve mathematical modelling; and as both US and UK academies have repeated, there is a chronic shortage of scientific programmers. For me, that means mathematically-structured programming is a vital area of research and needed investment.

Comment Source:Thanks for posting that Dave. I pretty much agree with all those suggestions. I can only add that nearly all practical plans will involve mathematical modelling; and as both US and UK academies have repeated, there is a chronic shortage of scientific programmers. For me, that means mathematically-structured programming is a vital area of research and needed investment.
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21.

I’m supposed to talk to people at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation on Tuesday March 25th, 10 am Central Time, which is six hours later - 4 pm - here in Germany.

You are supposed to talk... Are you really going to talk to this people? or is this an advanced Aprils fools joke?

Comment Source:>I’m supposed to talk to people at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation on Tuesday March 25th, 10 am Central Time, which is six hours later - 4 pm - here in Germany. You are <em>supposed</em> to talk... Are you really going to talk to this people? or is this an advanced Aprils fools joke?
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22.

Jim, that's an interesting point about a shortage of scientific programmers.

Let's consider putting together a training program for scientific programmers, with a residency that involves green applications. This would be a useful service to the science community, a way for Azimuth to get recognized, and a way for programmers to give back to the Earth. For this, we need Curriculum, Applications, and then Outreach.

Comment Source:Jim, that's an interesting point about a shortage of scientific programmers. Let's consider putting together a training program for scientific programmers, with a residency that involves green applications. This would be a useful service to the science community, a way for Azimuth to get recognized, and a way for programmers to give back to the Earth. For this, we need Curriculum, Applications, and then Outreach.
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23.
edited March 2014

Notes on curriculum.

Assumption is that we are starting with competent, professional programmers. There could be "remedial" and tutorial materials to bring others up to speed, but the typical professional would be taken as point of reference. Let's not make assumptions about particular languages or orientations -- we'll start with people who know how to program useful applications.

Curriculum to include:

Stochastics:

• Basic probability theory: probability spaces, random variables, ...

• Random processes. Discrete and continuous. Markov chains, ...

• Case studies in random process simulation. Random walks, Brownian motion, ...

• Monte Carlo simulations

Computer science, software engineering, and programming:

• Scientific programming in different language frameworks. Standard industrial languages (object oriented), scripting languages, functional programming languages, array-based languages, ...

• Platforms for scientific computing. Matlab, Octave, Scipy, ...

• Storage of masses of scientific data. Relational databases, HDF5, ...

• Application frameworks for developing interactive software models. The Azimuth javascript library.

Straight math:

• Linear algebra

• Differential equations

• Numerical methods

Applications:

• Stochastic processes in genetics. Wright-Fischer, ... Evolutionary simulations.

• Modelling of biological development processes, e.g. Xia's model of a growing plant leaf.

• Reaction network theory (Petri nets)

• Premises of basic climate models: atmospheric chemistry, ...

• Introduction to basic climate models

• Software engineering for climate models

Final projects:

• ...
Comment Source:Notes on curriculum. Assumption is that we are starting with competent, professional programmers. There could be "remedial" and tutorial materials to bring others up to speed, but the typical professional would be taken as point of reference. Let's not make assumptions about particular languages or orientations -- we'll start with people who know how to program useful applications. Curriculum to include: Stochastics: * Basic probability theory: probability spaces, random variables, ... * Random processes. Discrete and continuous. Markov chains, ... * Case studies in random process simulation. Random walks, Brownian motion, ... * Monte Carlo simulations Computer science, software engineering, and programming: * Scientific programming in different language frameworks. Standard industrial languages (object oriented), scripting languages, functional programming languages, array-based languages, ... * Platforms for scientific computing. Matlab, Octave, Scipy, ... * Storage of masses of scientific data. Relational databases, HDF5, ... * Application frameworks for developing interactive software models. The Azimuth javascript library. Straight math: * Linear algebra * Differential equations * Numerical methods Applications: * Stochastic processes in genetics. Wright-Fischer, ... Evolutionary simulations. * Modelling of biological development processes, e.g. Xia's model of a growing plant leaf. * Reaction network theory (Petri nets) * Premises of basic climate models: atmospheric chemistry, ... * Introduction to basic climate models * Software engineering for climate models Final projects: * ...
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24.

Let's pave the way with blog articles.

Comment Source:Let's pave the way with blog articles.
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25.
edited March 2014

Jim, would you have any time to help this out by writing up some notes with content that could be put into blog articles on the software engineering of scientific programming?

Can you or anyone here offer some content notes for blog articles on numerical methods?

I'm going to be busy blogging on the stochastic side of things for quite some time. But having notes would be helpful to anyone else who might want to pick up those articles. I would also say that if anyone X contributes substantial notes that are used as the basis of a blog article that another person Y writes to completion, then X naturally gets put as a co-author of the article.

Thanks!

Comment Source:Jim, would you have any time to help this out by writing up some notes with content that could be put into blog articles on the software engineering of scientific programming? Can you or anyone here offer some content notes for blog articles on numerical methods? I'm going to be busy blogging on the stochastic side of things for quite some time. But having notes would be helpful to anyone else who might want to pick up those articles. I would also say that if anyone X contributes substantial notes that are used as the basis of a blog article that another person Y writes to completion, then X naturally gets put as a co-author of the article. Thanks!
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26.
edited March 2014

An issue I think is important wrt. software engineering of scientific programming was highlighted by Tim van Beek when he suggested that Fortran climate models, hopefully not traducing his comment, must have bugs.

I have no experience of producing usable software in Fortran but reading Isaac Held's code, it looks as elegantly functionally decomposed and as professionally documented as any industrial applications programmer could want.

I had a go with some version of Sun's Fortress, which tried to introduce some kind of type safety somewhat in line with formal methods. Oracle who bought Sun then dumped it as the task of refactoring a weakly-typed imperative language was too much work and not the way to go. . As I think most complex future technology will almost certainly be designed and built on terrascale multicore processors then parallel programming will have to be taught to the Rasberry Pi virtuoso 7 year olds asap but not in Python.

One of the best bridges I've come across between category theory, CS and correct by construction practical code construction can be found in the proceedings of the Mathematically-Structured Functional Programming (MDFP) workshops at the International Conference on Functional Programming (ICFP).

I keep posting references to Jerzy Karczmarczyk's's scientific functional programming papers on automatic differentiation. Haskell code is available in Ed Kmett's category-extras, vector-space and ad packages among others.

If people want "press the solve button" model interfaces then that something I think Azimuth should definitely support. Stephan Liljegren commented that he thought making an Azimuth server was an off-track idea as we can use some cloud Sage server without any of the hassle. I agree.

But there a group at Yale who argue that real experiments can be carried out on the browser in Javascript and the performance statistics seem to bear this out. I see no reason in principle why students can't produce new knowledge in lots of complex areas. The search space is so large that high school students and citizen scientists should be able to run new monte-carlo and other simulations without too much difficulty, but perhaps I'm being over-optimistic as usual.

Comment Source:An issue I think is important wrt. software engineering of scientific programming was highlighted by Tim van Beek when he suggested that Fortran climate models, hopefully not traducing his comment, must have bugs. I have no experience of producing usable software in Fortran but reading Isaac Held's code, it looks as elegantly functionally decomposed and as professionally documented as any industrial applications programmer could want. I had a go with some version of Sun's Fortress, which tried to introduce some kind of type safety somewhat in line with formal methods. Oracle who bought Sun then dumped it as the task of refactoring a weakly-typed imperative language was too much work and not the way to go. . As I think most complex future technology will almost certainly be designed and built on terrascale multicore processors then parallel programming will have to be taught to the Rasberry Pi virtuoso 7 year olds asap but not in Python. One of the best bridges I've come across between category theory, CS and correct by construction practical code construction can be found in the proceedings of the [Mathematically-Structured Functional Programming (MDFP) workshops](http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/~pbl/msfp2014/) at the International Conference on Functional Programming (ICFP). I keep posting references to Jerzy Karczmarczyk's's [scientific functional programming papers](https://karczmarczuk.users.greyc.fr/arpap/) on automatic differentiation. Haskell code is available in Ed Kmett's [category-extras](hackage.haskell.org/package/category-extras), [vector-space](hackage.haskell.org/package/vector-space) and [ad](hackage.haskell.org/package/ad) packages among others. If people want "press the solve button" model interfaces then that something I think Azimuth should definitely support. [[Stephan Liljegren]] commented that he thought making an Azimuth server was an off-track idea as we can use some cloud Sage server without any of the hassle. I agree. But there a group at Yale who argue that real experiments can be carried out on the browser in Javascript and the performance statistics seem to bear this out. I see no reason in principle why students can't produce new knowledge in lots of complex areas. The search space is so large that high school students and citizen scientists should be able to run new monte-carlo and other simulations without too much difficulty, but perhaps I'm being over-optimistic as usual.
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27.
edited March 2014

a training program for scientific programmers, with a residency that involves green applications.

Yep. I had the idea that there might be overlap between an Azimuth curriculum and John B.'s work on a liberal arts college general science course.

curriculum, applications and outreach.

I've been asking myself, "if somebody joined the Azimuth project what would be the preconditions for them to understand most of the material in the blog posts and the wiki". After a couple of years there is still plenty of stuff I don't understand.

TWF set standards of scientific rigour, literacy and graphics at a certain level of knowledge. I don't know what that level of maths and science knowledge that might be: high school, undergrad, graduate or other?

As for numerical methods I've only used Euler, RK4 and Crank-Nicholson for simulations, and wrote an industrial linear programming system in Java in the 90's so don't think I know enough to be of much use.

I'm looking forward to your next stochastics blog. For further articles it seems to me that filling the wiki with material in your curriculum and then pasting them into blog articles might be a good bottom-up way to go?

Comment Source:> a training program for scientific programmers, with a residency that involves green applications. Yep. I had the idea that there might be overlap between an Azimuth curriculum and John B.'s work on a liberal arts college general science course. I like your triple of: > curriculum, applications and outreach. I've been asking myself, "if somebody joined the Azimuth project what would be the preconditions for them to understand most of the material in the blog posts and the wiki". After a couple of years there is still plenty of stuff I don't understand. TWF set standards of scientific rigour, literacy and graphics at a certain level of knowledge. I don't know what that level of maths and science knowledge that might be: high school, undergrad, graduate or other? As for numerical methods I've only used Euler, RK4 and Crank-Nicholson for simulations, and wrote an industrial linear programming system in Java in the 90's so don't think I know enough to be of much use. I'm looking forward to your next stochastics blog. For further articles it seems to me that filling the wiki with material in your curriculum and then pasting them into blog articles might be a good bottom-up way to go?
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28.
edited March 2014

Thanks for this burst of suggestions. I agree with a lot of them! I especially like the idea of hiring some full-time employees, just one or two at first, who do these two things David mentioned:

• Data administration: updating the blog index, performing polishing edits to keep the wiki more consistent, set up and monitor global data replication for disaster recovery

• Research assistant. In-depth investigation of related activities at climate-concerned research institutes. What’s NASA up to today, in terms of climate change research? Granted that Azimuth only has a small number of climate scientists (Nathan, anyone else?), is there any way that we as a group can be helpful to the overall enterprise of climate science? If so, that could help us to get “our foot in the door” of the research effort. There may not be a quick answer to this question, but it’s worth pondering.

I think these are things we could get people to do a decent job of, fairly easily, which would vastly speed up our progress. This is a bit harder to delegate:

• Publicity and outreach efforts. Put together talks on Azimuth. Go to college campus to give the talk. Talk to administrators in university departments of environmental science. Go to conferences on scientific programming, and try to drum up some interest in scientific programming for the planetary cause.

I'm doing a lot of this myself, fairly energetically - for example, I gave 8 talks in England last month! The main thing I can't do well is stuff related to scientific programming. We'd need someone who is a bit more of expert on that, and had the free time to do this. Instead of hiring someone, it might be good to attract a young academic research who would benefit professionally from doing this.

More generally, I think we need more academics who are willing to put energy into Azimuth, if we want it to succeed. This is more likely to happen when I become enough of a bigshot that I can get grants and also attract people by virtue of having good ideas related to "saving the planet". (I may already have good ideas in this area, but academia is not yet convinced. ) Young academics are usually attracted to projects that already seem academically successful.

Since I'm scheduled to talk to them in less than two hours, I won't write a bunch more feedback now. I'll let you know how the talk went.

Comment Source:Thanks for this burst of suggestions. I agree with a lot of them! I especially like the idea of hiring some full-time employees, just one or two at first, who do these two things David mentioned: * Data administration: updating the blog index, performing polishing edits to keep the wiki more consistent, set up and monitor global data replication for disaster recovery * Research assistant. In-depth investigation of related activities at climate-concerned research institutes. What’s NASA up to today, in terms of climate change research? Granted that Azimuth only has a small number of climate scientists (Nathan, anyone else?), is there any way that we as a group can be helpful to the overall enterprise of climate science? If so, that could help us to get “our foot in the door” of the research effort. There may not be a quick answer to this question, but it’s worth pondering. I think these are things we could get people to do a decent job of, fairly easily, which would vastly speed up our progress. This is a bit harder to delegate: * Publicity and outreach efforts. Put together talks on Azimuth. Go to college campus to give the talk. Talk to administrators in university departments of environmental science. Go to conferences on scientific programming, and try to drum up some interest in scientific programming for the planetary cause. I'm doing a lot of this myself, fairly energetically - for example, I gave 8 talks in England last month! The main thing I can't do well is stuff related to scientific programming. We'd need someone who is a bit more of expert on that, and had the free time to do this. Instead of hiring someone, it might be good to attract a young academic research who would benefit professionally from doing this. More generally, I think we need _more academics who are willing to put energy into Azimuth_, if we want it to succeed. This is more likely to happen when I become enough of a bigshot that I can get grants and also attract people by virtue of having good ideas related to "saving the planet". (I may already have good ideas in this area, but academia is not yet convinced. <img src = "http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/emoticons/tongue2.gif" alt = ""/>) Young academics are usually attracted to projects that _already_ seem academically successful. Since I'm scheduled to talk to them in less than two hours, I won't write a bunch more feedback now. I'll let you know how the talk went.
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29.

David Tanzer wrote:

Let’s pave the way with blog articles.

Yes! Start cranking them out!

Comment Source:David Tanzer wrote: > Let’s pave the way with blog articles. Yes! Start cranking them out!
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30.
edited March 2014

Cool, thanks guys.

It would also be nice to have staff that could help with writing and editing. Here's one thing they could do. Go through the forum, which has lots of ideas! Pick some interesting themes that look blog worthy, and then follow up on them to make blog articles. Following up could take different forms: asking further questions on the forum, asking the original posters questions by email or phone, engaging the original posters in a joint authorship venture, or just giving them enough editorial direction to do it on their own.

This sounds like a fun job, which could have appeal to many different kinds of people: literary types, science educators, aspiring academics.

Comment Source:Cool, thanks guys. It would also be nice to have staff that could help with writing and editing. Here's one thing they could do. Go through the forum, which has lots of ideas! Pick some interesting themes that look blog worthy, and then follow up on them to make blog articles. Following up could take different forms: asking further questions on the forum, asking the original posters questions by email or phone, engaging the original posters in a joint authorship venture, or just giving them enough editorial direction to do it on their own. This sounds like a fun job, which could have appeal to many different kinds of people: literary types, science educators, aspiring academics.
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31.

Well, I talked to 3 people at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation: Karla Sainz, someone named Stewart who works on research integrity in science, and someone named Kelly who wasn't visible from the Skype camera.

I explained the Azimuth and Selected Papers Networks projects to them, and they seemed interested, and they said to keep in touch, but they didn't say anything about giving us money, or further steps that might lead to such a decision. So, I'm not very optimistic.

Stewart told me about METRICS, the Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford led by Ionnides, the guy who wrote the paper Why most published research findings are false. The foundation is helping fund this center.

He also mentioned the Center for Open Science, another project they're funding.

Comment Source:Well, I talked to 3 people at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation: Karla Sainz, someone named Stewart who works on research integrity in science, and someone named Kelly who wasn't visible from the Skype camera. I explained the Azimuth and Selected Papers Networks projects to them, and they seemed interested, and they said to keep in touch, but they didn't say anything about giving us money, or further steps that might lead to such a decision. So, I'm not very optimistic. Stewart told me about [METRICS](http://med.stanford.edu/metrics/), the Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford led by Ionnides, the guy who wrote the paper [Why most published research findings are false](http://johncarlosbaez.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/why-most-published-research-findings-are-false/). The foundation is helping fund this center. He also mentioned the [Center for Open Science](http://centerforopenscience.org/), another project they're funding.
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32.
edited April 2014

So they even didn't invite you to their innovation labs ? Well I guess there is so much too do. Do you know whether their innovation lab is the same as the peace innovation lab at Stanford, which displays mind boggling projects, like e.g. this Coca Cola project". From the website:

So nice to see Coca Cola’s Peace Innovation Intervention bringing Pakistan and India together. It has all the ingredients we like: BJ Fogg’s Behavior Model where behavior = motivation + ability + trigger; fun; baby steps approach to behavior design; Minimum Acceptable Peace Interactions (MAPIs); it’s technology mediated; interactive; and it elicits pro-social behaviors across conflict boundaries. We’ve been supporting Romancing the Border, a project initiated by Rehman Ilyas to increase social interactions across the India/Pakistan border. We’re happy to see Coca Cola get in the game.

or the Incubator project http://www.israelovesiran.com/

Comment Source:So they even didn't invite you to their <a href="http://forum.azimuthproject.org/discussion/1248/if-you-could-do-anything-to-change-the-world-what-would-you-do/?Focus=9465#Comment_9465">innovation labs</a> ? Well I guess there is so much too do. Do you know whether their innovation lab is the same as the peace innovation lab at Stanford, which displays mind boggling projects, like e.g. this <a href="http://peaceinnovation.stanford.edu/coca-cola-small-world-machines-bringing-india-pakistan-together/">Coca Cola project"</a>. From the website: >So nice to see Coca Cola’s Peace Innovation Intervention bringing Pakistan and India together. It has all the ingredients we like: BJ Fogg’s Behavior Model where behavior = motivation + ability + trigger; fun; baby steps approach to behavior design; Minimum Acceptable Peace Interactions (MAPIs); it’s technology mediated; interactive; and it elicits pro-social behaviors across conflict boundaries. We’ve been supporting Romancing the Border, a project initiated by Rehman Ilyas to increase social interactions across the India/Pakistan border. We’re happy to see Coca Cola get in the game. or the Incubator project <a href="http://www.israelovesiran.com/">http://www.israelovesiran.com/</a>
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33.

Do you know whether their innovation lab is the same as the peace innovation lab at Stanford [?]

I really doubt it!

Comment Source:> Do you know whether their innovation lab is the same as the peace innovation lab at Stanford [?] I really doubt it!