When I was a sophomore in college, math had got me down pretty bad. You see, it’s never math’s fault if you don’t get an answer. My friends and I used to joke that math was that really hot cheerleader in high school. And who did she date? Well, the star quarterback of the football team of course. She wouldn’t even look at any of us; I wasn’t good enough to be the waterboy, let alone make it onto the team of professional mathematicians. At least that’s how I felt.
Looking to crawl out of my math-induced low, I did what I thought you’re supposed to do in such a situation: I went to one of my professor’s office hours for advice and consolation. And he responded, I suppose, in the way that he thought you were supposed to respond in a such situation: he told me that I’d probably do well as a science writer, like for the New York Times. It was as if the cheerleader had spit in my face. A science writer—really? But I wanted to study quasi-Fuchsian groups or sympletic geometry or something exciting and esoteric like that. I left those office hours feeling less supported than I had when I entered.
Well, it looks like that professor knew me better than I did myself. That’s right, I’m going to start posting (hopefully regularly) for Complex Systems and Society. The idea as hatched (not by me) while I was hanging around the Santa Fe Institute, essentially the Mecca of complex systems, earlier this summer. Look there for accessible commentary from researchers on current research. I’ll probably write about evolutionary game theory, sociobiology, and other stuff I don’t have the background to write about with much authority (not that that has stopped me before, mind you). Now that doesn’t mean I won’t write here anymore—I’ve been remiss in my duties, I know—because I will. I have three entries drafted already.
My first set of posts over at Complex Systems will detail what goes on in my head as I read Foundations of Social Evolution. So far it’s been a treatise on the Price equation, which describes natural selection with a hierarchy of effects. The concept is something I’ve run into a handful of times. Each encounter left me running away without a proper understanding. Forty-four pages into this book and I still don’t have a firm purchase on it. The fledgling computer scientist in me likes that it’s recursive, though. With some persistence and a little luck, I’m sure I’ll have something useful to say before my first deadline rolls around.
Anyway, this is a note to you, faithful reader, to wish me good luck on my foray into science writing. Look for something over there by August 2.