Emergence: Profoundly trivial

This post is an echo of voices from the distant past, prompted by a tweet by Fernando Rosas. (It’s also not entirely fact-checked and somewhat tongue-in-cheek.) Emergence is trivial! Emergence is what makes it possible to have different levels of description. Biologists can discuss cells; medical scientists can talk about tissues made of millions of […]

50 years of limits to growth

In my closest scientific surrounding, The Limits to Growth is surprisingly unknown, so at its 50th anniversary, this blog post is an intro + my reflections. For short, it’s a fascinating story of what happens when computational social science makes a splash. If we interpret computational social science literally—not just meaning social media data mining—its […]

That ole Illustrator magic

After making a figure with your favorite software—matplotlib, R, Matlab, gnuplot, etc.—there are usually many details that could need a touch-up. In collaborations, somehow that’s usually my job. Maybe partly because I’ve been using Illustrator since I-forgot-when, so I acquired some speed. I also love graphic design and am teaching scientific visualization (two areas with […]

For the love of hens

In the first few years of the last century, during his summer breaks at a farm, Norwegian schoolboy Thorleif Schjelderup-Ebbe spent time observing chicken. He noticed that when hens peck on each other—as they do when they fight, typically about food—they follow specific patterns. If hen A pecked on hen B, B would not peck […]

The network scientist’s survival kit

Throughout the scientific disciplines, core values, methodologies, and worldviews vary to a frustrating degree. Network scientists are interdisciplinary. Through years of catching up with our disciplinary colleagues, we have learned to understand other disciplines better than many scientists of those disciplines understand us. Such a fundamental thing as who a scientific result should benefit, and […]

Beauty contest or masonry

A lighthearted post about whether or not it is right to market your scientific output—a topic I am neutral about because there are great arguments on both sides, canceling each other. So, my inner dialogue could go like: Hey! Did you see César Hidalgo tweeting that storytelling is an American thing? Isn’t it anthropology 101 […]

Using networks to design an Indian village

Notes on the Synthesis of Form by maverick architect/mathematician Christopher Alexander belongs to the canon of design theory. In 150 pages of youthful enthusiasm, Alexander brings together D’Arcy Thompson, cosmology, modernist architecture, anthropology, and his own algorithm to hierarchically decompose a graph. In 1962, two years before the publication of Notes on the Synthesis of Form, […]