Content tagged favourites

A poisoned democracy

posted on 2019-11-05

It's time to talk. I've been thinking about this for months, and it's time to – well, not stop thinking, but start talking. What's bugging me? That Americans have stopped talking. Or at least, that they no longer seem to talk with each other, but only about each other – that the concept of political debate has been given up in favour of self-reinforcing bubble building and the creation of an all-pervading enemy mentality.

Why does this bother me, sitting safely on the other side of the Big Pond? Because I can see it affecting my friends, and because the same societal patterns are beginning to manifest themselves here in Germany, too. America was the first modern democracy and we have learnt much from its experience and example. But right now, I find myself praying: “God, don't let us become like the United States.” The Land of the Free and the Brave has become a poisoned democracy.


Mechanistic Modelling in Ecology

posted on 2019-04-22

Few words in science are as imprecise as the term “modelling”. It is a term applied to a whole range of techniques, which often have nothing at all in common. Small wonder, then, that many of my ecologist colleagues don't know what I mean when I say that I am doing “mechanistic modelling”. This is an attempt to clear up that misunderstanding, and to explain where ecological modellers like myself fit into the wider landscape of ecological research.


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.


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.


Silicon Valley Syndrome

posted on 2019-01-14

“Silicon Valley Syndrome” is the name I give to a wide-spread myth that is frequently found in affluent, tech-savvy circles. It is the belief that “Every social problem can be solved if you just throw enough technology at it”. This belief lies at the heart of many, many attempts to make the world a better place. Their proponents will say things like: “We can save democracy by combating fake news with algorithms”, or “We can solve Third World hunger using satellite imagery”, or “We can improve education in poor areas by giving every kid an iPad”. These are all laudable attempts, and yet their fundamental assumption is all too often sadly misguided. Why is that?


An Impression of Common Lisp

posted on 2018-12-04

Common Lisp is a lovely language to work with. Although it has faded into an unfortunate semi-obscurity on the modern computing landscape, it is still a powerful and elegant language that is a joy to use. I've had a lot of fun playing around with it and discovering more about it in the past two months, and wanted to record and share some of that in this post.


My Journey to the Ants

posted on 2018-11-26

Ants have always been some of my favourite animals. As a child, I spent hours watching their work and their wars - watching and wondering. In fact, I know few biologists who are not fascinated by ants. I simply had the good fortune of growing up in a place where I had plenty of ant life to see. Having been back in Zambia for a few months, I was able to continue my observations. Here is a “best-of” reel: a small glimpse into the world of African ants.


Unless otherwise credited all material Creative Commons License by Daniel Vedder.
Subscribe with RSS or Atom. Powered by c()λeslaw.