Happy New Year!
I’ve been rethinking my approach to life. Nothing major, just some small course corrections.
First, I’ve decided to stop posting so much on Google+, and post more here on Azimuth. I explain why here:
I want a vibrant, lively online environment where people talk about things in serious, almost obsessive ways. At times this blog has been like that. So was the n-Category Café, back when a core group of people were all focused on roughly the same thing.
Lately I’ve been posting very little here on Azimuth. Instead, I’ve been working hard with a team of grad students to figure out how network theory can organize our understanding of circuits, control theory and nonequilibrium thermodynamics. My more general posts on ecological issues and science in general have been going to Google+. I now suspect it’s bad to split up my blogging that way. If I write more stuff in the same place, I hope more people will come here to talk.
Second, I have slowly come to realize that my talents lie in highly theoretical work—for example, network theory—rather than data-driven work like climate science, or the practical task of figuring out what to do about global warming. I still think that adapting to the Anthropocene and developing an ‘ecotechnic civilization’ is the challenge of the century for
civilization as a whole and scientists in particular. But I think the more urgent aspects of this—the ones that need to be done really soon—are not the ones I’m good at. The stuff I’m good at will help later, if at all. And yet, it doesn’t pay for me to do things that other people are already doing better.
There’s been a big change since I started this blog in 2010! Back then, it seemed only a few people knew quite how serious global warming would be, so I felt the need to shout an alarm. This December, thousands of politicians from around the world met in Paris to do something about it—and while they haven’t done enough yet, they all know the basic facts that had me so worried: for example, that we need to leave most of the world’s fossil fuels unburnt in the ground, in part because if we don’t, the effects will last for thousands of years:
More generally, there’s been a huge shift towards recognizing that we have to change our habits, quickly. In 2013, Copenhagen announced it will try to go carbon-neutral by 2025. In October of this year, California passed a law requiring the state to obtain 50% of its electricity from renewables by 2035. In December, San Diego became the largest city in the USA to require that all of the city’s power to come from renewables—again, by 2035.
And so on. The battle has not been won, but it has been joined. Countries, localities, cities and individuals around the world are volunteering to tackle this problem.
I can serve as a cheerleader for this trend, but I’m not really a politician, an engineer or even an experimentalist. Mathematicians, too, have their part to play. So, this year I’ll keep talking about network theory, and push it toward the ‘green mathematics’ I’ve been dreaming about, by getting serious about its applications to biology and ecology.
More on that soon!