Planning for Life's Crises: Media and Writing

How Science Can Help Us to Predict and Control Our Personal and Global Futures


Politicians could learn from Superbowl LI how to be more flexible

Op-ed submitted to Boston Globe after Patriots' Superbowl LI win. Pity they didn't take it, but here it is anyway. The message that it contains is rather important; like footballers, politicians need to adapt quickly to circumstances! When wide receiver Julian Edelman stuck out a hand and took that catch inches from the ground in Superbowl LI, he tipped the balance of the game dramatically. The Patriots had been flexible. They had changed ...

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127. How can we cooperate? A new lesson from the bees.

The world is rapidly going down the road of competition rather than cooperation. In doing so, as I have shown in previous posts and in my book Rock, Paper, Scissors: Game Theory in Everyday Life, its citizens face the deadly dilemmas exposed by game theory – in particular, the ongoing circular dilemma that: cooperation brings rewards but if our minds are set on competition, it appears in many situations that we can do better for ...

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126. The ethics of game theory: Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby & Mrs Bedonebyasyoudid

I avoid political commentary on this website , but in the current climate (31st January, 2017) I believe that it is very important for as many of us as possible to look dispassionately at what is happening and  try to understand what is going on below the surface rhetoric. The tool for this is game theory, about which I have written a book Rock, Paper, Scissors: Game Theory in Everyday Life.In it, I emphasize the paradoxes that scientists have ...

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119. Science in the real world: predicting society

If you think that science, and scientific thinking, have little to do with the rough-and-tumble of the real world, think again – and take a look at this wonderful paper by a group of psychologists and mathematicians from the Cornell-Princeton-Yale triangle (http://arxiv.org/pdf/1507.01561.pdf) that I recently had occasion to revisit. As with many scientific papers, it will probably put you off at first glance. Like the plain front door of a ...

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What Nepal really needs to do about landslip disasters

July, 2016 After hearing a well-informed talk by the experienced Nepal road engineer Bleddyn Griffiths about his experience of the Nepal earthquake disaster, I suggested that we write a joint letter about both the science and the realities, which are linked in a more complex way than seismologists sometimes recognize. It was duly published in Geoscientist, the magazine for Fellows of the Royal Geological Society. Rather proud of this, really, ...

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The Great Barrier Reef is in great danger

Posted on May 30, 2016

Here is the self-explanatory text of a letter sent to the Sydney Morning Herald, but not accepted for publication. Perhaps I should have been rougher, because the original draft referred to the exposed backside as being in need of a thorough kicking. "The Government has had Australia’s name removed from a UNESCO report on the effects of climate change on World Heritage areas, including the Barrier Reef (Herald Environment May 27) in the ...

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117. Global Governance of Slowly Developing Catastrophic Risks

Early in 2015 I was invited, together with co-authors from the International Risk Governance Council, to write a review on the above topic for a special issue of the journal Ecological Economics. The referees liked the writing, but wanted us to add more economics before they would recommend it for publication. This we could not readily do, since we are not economists and would have had to add an economist to the author list and rewrite the whole ...

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114. Mastering complexity – I’m going to give it a try

Posted on February 23, 2016

In story fourteen I argued that science, like sex, thrives on diversity. I quoted from Peter Medawar, and the quote is worth repeating: There is no such thing as a Scientific Mind. Scientists are people of very dissimilar temperaments doing different things in very different ways. Among scientists are collectors, classifiers and compulsive tidiers-up; many are detectives by temperament and many are explorers; some are artists and others ...

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Why we should make refugees welcome

Posted on November 4, 2015

November 4, 2015 My World View article “Avoid major disasters by welcoming minor change” has now been published in Nature (Vol.527, p.9). Here is the link: http://www.nature.com/news/avoid-major-disasters-by-welcoming-minor-change-1.18718 Here is a summary of the main points: The article focuses on the growing refugee crisis in Europe and elsewhere. A recent editorial in Nature (Vol.525, p.157) suggests that developed nations should ...

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What scientists need to know about talking to politicians

Posted on August 3, 2015

My article in Physics World (August 2015) with John Tesh, formerly of the UK Cabinet Office, giving 12 tips for scientists to have effective dialogue with politicians PWAug15Fisher  

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