Recent Content

Basic Traffic Analysis with Unix

posted on 2019-04-15

So you want to know how many people visit your website, but don't want to set up Google Analytics or anything like that? That at least was the situation I found myself in when I started this blog. Turns out, if you just want a daily number of visitors, standard Unix tools are perfectly sufficient.

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Project Ecologia

posted on 2019-04-08

Six years ago, I was looking for a new programming project. My dream was to create a self-sustaining “virtual world”, a little ecosystem inside my computer. This was long before I knew there actually was a field called “ecological modelling” (which I now happen to work in), but the idea intrigued me. So I set about the task with all the confidence of one year's programming experience. I failed. But a year later, I picked up the pieces and started over, eventually producing a graphical ecosystem simulator – Ecologia.

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The Genius of Terry Pratchett

posted on 2019-04-01

So I've just finished reading another Discworld book, and once again I am struck by the amazing versatility of its author, Terry Pratchett. With rare skill, he manages to make you laugh and think and cry, all at the same time. It's as if he simultaneously touches your heart, your mind, and your vocal chords. I don't read many novels these days, but I happily make exceptions for his. How does he manage that?

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Communicating Science

posted on 2019-03-25

“What can we do to communicate our research to the public?” This was the question for a discussion session with some of my colleagues last week. Many scientists see the need for this kind of communication, but few know how to go about it, and even fewer actively do it. After all, how do you explain your work on, say, a channel protein of the Venus Flytrap to your neighbour, and why should he bother listening? It is a challenge. But believing that it's worth the effort to try, here are some general principles we found.

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The Monday Challenge

posted on 2019-03-19

Yesterday, a friend of mine impressed upon me the importance of “showing up regularly”. We were just discussing another friend's plan to launch a podcast and were talking about how to become visible on the web. “You have to show up”, he said, “no matter how rubbish you may feel that day – your audience has to know you will be there. It's not important whether your schedule is daily, weekly, or monthly, but you have to stick to it.” Pretty challenging words, I thought, but perhaps just the advice I needed to hear. So here is the Monday Challenge.

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Die Freuden der Vogelbeobachtung

posted on 2019-03-16

In meinem Bachelorstudium habe ich einen Freund kennengelernt, der begeisterter Ornithologe ist. Nach Vorlesungen brach er oft mit seinem Fernglas und einem Notizbuch zu Vogelspaziergängen auf und war bald im ganzen Lehrstuhl als unser Vogelexperte bekannt. Ich fand das immer ziemlich cool, konnte es aber nie so ganz verstehen – was fand er nur an den Vögeln? Nun, vor ein paar Monaten hat mich der “Orni-Virus” auch infiziert. Und mittlerweile verstehe ich etwas besser, warum Vögel zu beobachten so viel Spaß macht.

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Review: Becoming Michelle Obama

posted on 2019-03-04

Becoming is Michelle Obama's autobiography, begun soon after she and her family left the White House and proving an instant international bestseller after being published last year. The popularity is deserved: although her story is long, it is told with a warmth and openness that makes it an engaging and thought-provoking read. And that is before she even reaches the White House.

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The National Park Game

posted on 2019-02-20

Last year the school I was teaching at organised a field trip to the Kafue National Park for our grade 9 students. It was a fantastic opportunity to have fun camping, enjoy time together as a class, and of course to marvel at the astounding nature and wildlife we have in Zambia. Accompanying the trip as the class' biology teacher, I thought about how to bring across the importance and challenges of conservation work in a park like this. In the end, I hit on the idea of a role-playing game: let the students step into the shoes of a (fictional) park's stake holders, and argue it out for themselves. Fourteen students in charge of developing a national park – what would they do?

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Discworld MUD

posted on 2019-02-05

Imagine a game that lets you earn your way by writing poetry. A game in which you can go on hunting expeditions against fearsome monsters or campaign to be elected magistrate. A game where players run shops and newspapers, and organise tea parties and capture-the-flag tournaments. A game that has been online and in continuous development for almost three decades. Welcome to Discworld MUD.

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Review: God's Philosophers

posted on 2019-01-28

For the past two years, I've been on the lookout for a good book on medieval scholarship. For one, I find the Middle Ages a strange and intriguing period; for another, I always enjoy reading about the history of science. “Standing on the shoulders of giants” is what we do as scientists – but who were these giants? And who were their giants? How did they think, argue, communicate? Well, I finally found what I was looking for. The book in question is James Hannam's “God's Philosophers – How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science”. Here is a summary of the volume, with a few of my own thoughts attached.

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Unless otherwise credited all material Creative Commons License by Daniel Vedder.
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