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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 between 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 found the Azimuth Blog, which has topics ranging from the cycles of the ice ages, to the geometry of information, to some kind of mathematical “Pachinko machine” they call a Petri net. On their forum, they discuss things such as 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 foggy. 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.

Despite the haze on the mountain, I could make see out some of the outlines of the group. group, There which are consists of professors, students, programmers, researchers, enthusiasts and other interested folks. What They brings share them a together is the desire to work on science topics, such as environment and climate, that directly matter to the human race. Their main activities are involve building a research wiki on the environment, experimenting with climate models in software, and publishing educational blog articles articles. on The these tone topics. To give you a sense of how the things group are is organized, illustrated by their web main site page, which invites people to: write articles, contribute information, pose questions, fill in details, write software, help with research, help with writing, and more. As So I see it, this is science outside is of not confined to the Ivory Towers.

But it is sobering that these “cosmopolitan sciences” are now warning of environmental disaster, on multiple fronts. This brings sustainable development to the top of the list of challenges for modern science. This calls for a deeper science of the biosphere and our role within it.

Some of the potential impacts of this challenge for modern mathematics are explored in the Azimuth blog article Prospects for a Green Mathematics, by John Baez and David Tanzer. After commenting on how the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions each transformed the field of mathematics, they go on to argue that, since the biosphere is a massive network of relationships, the challenge of sustainable development will urge on the theory of networks. Note that this theory includes both the mathematics of networks, and the study of the behavior of empirical networks such as ecosystems. Then, they use the example of a network model of a growing plant to hint a new and swirling level of mathematics, which could become a core part of the thinking of a biospherically adapted society.

Now I am headed back to Azimuth Mountain to acquaint myself with the regional dialects. When I return, I invite you to tour of some of the more colorful trails. Now I can’t promise you that it will be a completely effortless journey, but I won’t be quizzing you on every pine cone that we come across, and, prudently, we shall avoid the most jagged peaks. We may also pick up some knowledge of the cultures of the 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