The Azimuth Project
delete 27 (Rev #49)

This page is a blog article in progress, written by David Tanzer. To see discussions of this article while it was being written, visit the Azimuth Forum. Please remember that blog articles need HTML, not Markdown.

guest post by David Tanzer</i>

Rick the Explainer

Hi my name is Rick, and though some people think that I am a fiction, I don’t agree with them. You can actually find me in my home town, which is close to the border of the North and South poles. But never mind that, because I’m here to talk about something else.

Some friends told me about the Azimuth project, which is a group of scientists, engineers and programmers working together to understand environmental problems. I looked around and found the Azimuth Blog, which cover topics that range from the cycles of the ice ages, to super symmetry in 31.5 dimensions, to a kind of Pachinko machine they call a Petri net. They also have a discussion forum, where they talk about complex networks, and a new, more ecologically friendly brand of mathematics.

This is great, I said, it could be the start of some entirely new highways of thinking! Let’s just roll up our sleeves, sharpen the pencils, brew the coffee and start digging into it! The music played: Roll on, roll on.

But when I took a closer look towards Mount Azimuth, I saw some steep hills to climb! Even the trail signs had math symbols. A professor named John Baez was giving a vibrant talk about math categories, networks of connections, and troubles in the environment. I wanted to get it, but the words were cryptic. As far as I could tell, his main point was that ideas from quantum micro-bits can help us to understand ecology problems such as how frogs and rabbits get along in a community forum. That sounded like a far fetch, yet he had good credentials as a Professor of gravity and other subjects.

At that point, I had a lot to chew on. Though my view of the Azimuth was foggy, I could make out enough of an outline that I was ready to commit to learning more about it, and the environmental subjects they were talking about. It struck me that this group was a very loosely organized collection of diverse individuals, with a point of shared enthusiasm for working on science projects that really mattered to humanity at large. A prime example here is the relationships between climate changes and human activities. This study belongs both to social science and to natural science. This is cosmopolitan science.

And, as mentioned, for example, in the Azimuth article Prospects…, this science is faced with new historic challenges. Once upon a time, at the beginning of Agriculture, the basic challenge facing human understanding – early science – was how to grow things, and this development led, for example, to the birth of counting systems (for counting sheeps, etc.) Then in a later epoch, the challenge was the unleashing of Industrial production, which lead, for example, to the birth of mechanics and calculus. Now we face the new “post-industrial” challenge of sustainable development. We can’t continue to grow like a — machine, that thinks only about how to exploit the Earth more and more – simply because the Earth’s resources are not unlimited, despite how it may have appeared in former times. This is the next major application area for science, and is bound to transform it, – —. According to this pattern, we may wonder what new forms in science this new challenge will lead to.

The authors of the “Green Mathematics” article suggest an answer to this question, based on the observation that, especially in biology, including the biosphere, is a massive network. The historic challenge on the table for science, therefore, is to understand the biospheric network, and our role inside it, well enough to find a sustainable model of living for us. This application will urge on the science of networks, which we can expect to be developed in the process, and —-, to help along the application. The authors of the article put it in terms of an aspect of the science of networks, which is the mathematics of networks – the science includes other aspects of networks, as as the empirical behavior of specific ecosystems. Using the examples of a network model of growing plants, and of mathematics from advanced physics being applied to — of reaction networks, they hint at a new, swirling level of mathematics, which could be at the heart of a more evolved science of networks. This science, which would itself be a network of knowledge and information, could function as a layer of the “brain” of a more developed human-natural biosphere. Note that this brain would not be obsessed with how to eat as many fruits and candies as possible, but instead would be thinking about how to fit in with them, as part of a cooperative ecosystem.

We also need a whole new research agenda, to match the cosmopolitan form of science. So far we’ve been growing like a machine that thinks only about how to exploit the Earth more and more. But that model is bound to break. That’s because the Earth’s resources are not really unlimited, despite how it may have looked to ancient people such as Archimedes. These points are touched upon in an Azimuth article called Prospects for a Green Mathematics, by John Baez and David Tanzer. To them, networks are the main key to life. Using this idea as a backdrop, they hint at a new swirling level of mathematics, which could flourish in the brain of a smart biosphere. This brain wouldn’t be obsessed about how to eat as many fruits as possible, but would be considerate of how to fit in with them, as part of a cooperative ecosystem.

Now I am headed back to Azimuth Mountain to acquaint myself with the regional dialects. When I return, I will invite you to tour of some of the more colorful trails. I can’t promise you that it will be a completely effortless journey, but we will prudently avoid the most jagged peaks. Also, rest assured that I won’t be quizzing you on every pine cone that we meet along the way. Through our travels, we may also garner some information about the local village communities.

Finally, in case you have any concerns about my qualifications, I have just received my permit as an Azimuth tour guide. Note my green and white badge, which says: Rick the Explainer.

category: blog