Influences: John Holland

Sometimes I wait a too long before doing what I really want to do. I’ve postponed writing this article more than once. And this mirrors the fact that I postponed going to visit John H. Holland until I missed my chance.

Very few academics have influenced my thinking as much as John Holland did. We never met, although I did half my graduate studies in Chicago, only 6 hours away from his home in Michigan. He was actually the person I had most wanted to do a PhD with before I figured that the American system wasn’t for me. When he died, in 2015, I missed my final chance.

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Influences: Nate Silver

Nate Silver is most famous in the political world for having correctly predicted the results, on a state-by-state level, of the US presidential election in 2008. That’s back when Obama was first elected president. It’s hard to imagine now, but the idea that Obama would win was only given an outside chance by most commentators at the time.

I find it hard to refer to Nate as anything other than Nate since I’ve been listening to the FiveThirtyEight podcast for so long. We don’t know one another, but he’s become a colleague and mentor who lives inside of my head. The reason he is so important to me is because he has become one of my strongest contemporary influences. His success has given me a roadmap for how to lead my life as a mathematical modeller.

I have been developing a series of articles on Mathematics and Biology (article 1article 2, more to follow). A common theme in these articles is how a mathematically trained individual finds their place in the modern work environment. We want to pursue our art, we also have professional standards and a lot to contribute, but somehow the connection between our skills and the needs of others are missing. By following Nate’s work, I have at least one strong role model who I can attempt to model. Continue reading “Influences: Nate Silver”

Influences: Steve Grand

One of my favourite games from my childhood was Creatures. I still remember buying it in a large cardboard box and finding the small 3.5″ floppy disk which nestled inside. This was my first experience of two new technologies: virtual worlds and alife.

The game featured little furry creatures (they reminded me of Ewoks, from Star Wars) called Norns. These creatures hatch from eggs. The installation disk, as far as I recall, hosts the simulation environment and the encoding for your first Norn egg. The basic idea was that your Norn would hatch and was supposed to have certain behavioural traits which would make it unique compared to those of your friends. The baby Norn would then wander around the virtual world (a side-on platform type world, with very rich background graphics) and try to interact with a number of the items littering the environment. Continue reading “Influences: Steve Grand”