“Peter Turchin, one of the world’s experts on pine beetles and possibly also on human beings, met me reluctantly this summer on the campus of the University of Connecticut at Storrs, where he teaches. Like many people during the pandemic, he preferred to limit his human contact. He also doubted whether human contact would have much value anyway, when his mathematical models could already tell me everything I needed to know.”
Find the rest here in a story by Graeme Wood at The Atlantic. (They also provide an extremely helpful audio version for free. I rarely even read anymore myself, preferring to use text-to-speech. I spend too much time staring at my computer screen for work.)
Peter Turchin had a visiting appointment at the Complexity Science Hub (CSH) in Vienna when I was there, and I joined his group one day on modelling a Medieval crisis. This PNAS paper was a gauntlet thrown down for quantitative science in history; this one in Nature basically explained why the big monotheistic religions appeared when they did, and all about the same time. He got some press earlier this year because he wrote a paper/book (Historical Dynamics) about 10 years ago that predicted sociopolitical chaos ca. 2020. (His model had the probability distribution centred on 2020 if I recall.)
Image: My dog running on 1000 Steps Beach, Santa Barbara. October 2020.