Santa Fe Emergent Engineering 2021: Niall Ferguson

This year the Santa Fe Institute held its Annual ACtioN & Board of Trustees Symposium: Emergent Engineering during which Niall Ferguson spoke about Emergently Engineering the Past. Some highlights from his presentation: Most of what we call #history is the close study of tail events that really are interesting because of the scale of mortality, the spectacular nature of the failure, the nature that disasters are not evenly distributed....

November 5, 2021 · 1 min · 186 words

Jotting — WHO

Lightbulb Moment ON FRIDAY, APRIL 30, the WHO quietly updated a page on its website. In a section on how the coronavirus gets transmitted, the text now states that the virus can spread via aerosols as well as larger droplets. As Zeynep Tufekci noted in The New York Times, perhaps the biggest news of the pandemic passed with no news conference, no big declaration. If you weren’t paying attention, it was easy to miss....

May 16, 2021 · 1 min · 200 words

Virus From Below

The history of the world, for a long time, was the history of great people. Mostly great men. It focused on singular individuals and seldom mentioned common people. Preferring to recount historical events from the perspective of leaders. Arguably, the First World War was the catalyst for change. Monuments sprung up to memorialise the dead, be they the lowliest soldier or greatest general. In other words, common people became more than just a statistic....

August 7, 2020 · 2 min read · 331 words

The Case of the Dangling Toad

I learn today a manuscript of Isaac Newton’s is being offered by Bonhams. The two page manuscript is based on Tumulus Pestis [The Tomb of the Plague] by Jan Baptist van Helmont, a Flemish physician who treated victims during the Antwerp plague of 1605. Van Helmont’s writing on chemistry was not only influential on Newton and Robert Boyle, but he invented the word ‘gas’ and demonstrated that other gases exist which are distinct from atmospheric air....

June 4, 2020 · 2 min read · 292 words

God is Dead

I know I know… you don’t need to shout it I am not so superannuated that I am deaf to your cries. Months I can hear you say, without so much as a drunken ramble or intellectual fart on this blog and then in my first two words I have blasphemed, thereby offending the bulk of the worlds population and sending that little man at the end of my road into an apoplectic spin as he lurches between picketing my drive with signs predicting hell fire will rain down on Sydney and taking matters into his own hands and immolating me on the spot, in an attempt to save mankind....

October 2, 2010 · 5 min read · 909 words

Climate Change, Political Stagnation

The satirical ‘Yes Prime Minister’ quipped about international organisations: Hacker: But surely we’re all committed to the European ideal? Sir Humphrey: [chuckles] Really, Minister. Hacker: If not, why are we pushing for an increase in the membership? Sir Humphrey: Well, for the same reason. It’s just like the United Nations, in fact; the more members it has, the more arguments it can stir up, the more futile and impotent it becomes....

December 20, 2009 · 5 min read · 900 words