Monday, November 30, 2009

Good blog-post about the problem of large-scale software simulations in science.

I'm obviously a fan of science-through-simulation so I think that the problems raised don't kill it. Or rather, I think that these issues are not a sign that something has "gone wrong" with science. They are an inevitable part of the maturing of simulation as a tool.

But clearly there's a unarguable need for the code to be available for reviewers. And ideally, to a wider community (hey! OPTIMAES) In fact, this is what I called "the dialogue of models", where competing models are presented and criticised as a way of refining everyone's understanding of the issues.

But what else can be done? Because, frankly, even when the code is out there, the number of people with sufficient understanding and time to analyse it, is going to be vanishingly small. And code is big and complex and time consuming. So the chance of it being "properly" peer-reviewed is low.

Higher-level languages make it easier to express more, more concisely. But they require abstractions are commensurately hard to unpack.

Another option is to use common toolkits like Repast where the task of debugging and verifying the underlying infrastructure is shared among many peers. Similarly, the data-sets need to be accepted and shared within the peer community. (There seems to be a list of climate data repositories here.)

But what else could be done?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Talented Friend Watch #16 : Aharon Amir won the prize in the "shadow search" competition : a search-engine algorithm as art-form.

(Note that I helped out with some of the pseudo-code, but it's basically Aharon's idea and work.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I've finally got around to reading Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine. And though I kind of assumed I knew what it was about from reading other articles from her, and I'm obviously a leftist, I have to say that even I am stunned. Both by how bad things really are. And how well she organizes her arguments, puts the pieces together and finds perfect rhetorical weapons to express the horror and enormity of it.

It's an amazing book, that you should just go and read. In fact, I'm so convinced of the importance of that, that I'm going to make an offer to friends of this blog who want to read it but aren't 100% sure or can't afford it. I'll buy you a copy (up to 5 for different readers). Just put the ordinary, cheap paperback, on an Amazon wishlist (either or and point me at it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Through the Hub mailing list today. Smells important :

Hello lovely Hub people

I would be very grateful for 2 minutes of your time to read this email and, if you can, any assistance you can provide.

My Dad has worked all his life, has paid all of his taxes, his National insurance and for all of his adult life been physically strong and able after working in a number of physically demanding manual jobs. Unfortunately now he is having to deal with an undiagnosed broken shoulder, deafness and an inner ear condition, permanent ligament damage in both of his knees as well as progressive athritis. My reason for listing his conditions is not to elicit your sympathy but rather to state the facts because as of early September this year he has been denied the level of support available to him through the Employment and Support Allowance. In fact its been a bit of a farce since at first he was approved by a doctor in April and then for some unknown reason (on which DWP cannot shed any light) the decision to approve benefit support was overturned by a nurse practitioner. He, along with the support of the local CAB, are appealing the decision and await his tribunal some time in January.

Recently my mum told me that the doctors/nurses who are employed to assess claimants each receive £25 for each person that they certify fit to return to work. She also told me that the disability assessment service was outsourced by the DWP to a private sector company.
Now for any of you who heard about the whole Paul Clarke frenzy on Twitter this week (see #paulclarke for the debate) my intention is not to incite feelings or expressions of outrage rather it is to find out the facts and surrounding evidence regarding the Employment and Support Allowance and the company that may or may not be paid to certify people to return to work. My intuition tells me that something is not right here but in order to provide the best support to my Dad I need to look at the cold, hard facts...

So my appeal to you is that if any of you have any knowledge, experience, or information in this area to contact me. Furthermore, if any of you can use any of your networks to find out any information that would help me that would be appreciated too.

If you need further information on the subject of Employment and Support Allowance please see the following link:

Thank you for your time ...

Anyone with comments etc. I'll pass them back.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Jake looks a very cool P2P directory syncing / file-sharing app.