The Templars: The Rise and Fall of God's Holy Warriors

Dan Jones

2017


A narrative history of the Order of the Poor Knights of the Temple (to give them their full name). In less than a century the Templars went from nothing, to the most powerful military and commercial order in Europe, and then back to nothing, being destroyed for their money.

That they could disappear so completely is, as Jones points out, one of the reasons why they've given rise to so much fanciful speculation in the eight centuries since: how could an order of warrior knights allow themselves to be rounded up and (in some cases) burned? Wouldn't they have fought, or at least gone underground? Jones makes a convincing case for the fact that the Western half of the Order were mainly farmers and administrators rather than knights per se, and may never have expected to be so thoroughly and ruthlessly persecuted as they in fact were. He supports his case by the fact that the Knights Hospitaller, a contemporary and equally powerful Order, were left unmolested largely because they had a secure military base on Rhodes from which they could have resisted attempts to suppress them (and indeed have survived as a sovereign nation recognised by international law ever since).

The truth is a lot more compelling than any pseudo-history, and illuminates the shifting alliances and power politics of thirteenth century Europe very clearly. It also shows how fragile the whole crusader expedition to the Holy Land (Outremer) was in reality, being constantly in need or reinforcement from a distance and at a constant disadvantage to the Muslim armies fighting closer to home, albeit often with the same degree of internal politics and variable levels of support.

Finished on Sun, 25 Mar 2018 08:15:32 -0700.   Rating 4/5.

Research fellow in verifiable sensor systems

The Science of Sensor Systems Software (S4) programme grant (of which I'm a PI) has a vacancy for a research fellow based at the University of Glasgow.

Research Assistant / Associate / Fellow

University of Glasgow - College of Science and Engineering - School of Computing Science

Salary: Grade 6/7/8; £28,098 - £31,604 / £34,520 - £38,833 / £42,418 - £49,149 per annum.

The School of Computing Science at the University of Glasgow invites applications for a Post Doctoral Research Associate or Fellow position in the leading-edge research project Science of Sensor System Software (S4)

Research is focused on delivering new principles and techniques for the development and deployment of verifiable, reliable, autonomous sensor-based systems that operate in uncertain, multiple and multi-scale environments. The S4 programme grant is a collaboration between four universities and you will be expected to work closely with researchers across the four universities.

This position offers an exciting opportunity to gain first-hand insights into the development of sensor-based systems and to develop and apply novel modelling and reasoning techniques that contribute to the goals of verifying reliability, robustness, security, etc. Depending on your experience, the role offers considerable intellectual freedom and opportunities for you to take significant initiative, leadership, and responsibility.

The job requires expert knowledge in one or more of: formal modelling and specification, stochastic and temporal logics, automated reasoning, sensor networks, run-time verification, real-world applications. Experience of bigraphs and model checking would be an advantage. You must have started to build up a strong publication record, have excellent programming and modelling skills, and be able to quickly integrate software, e.g. for model-checking, simulation, and verification. You should be competent to undertake hands-on work related to modelling and verification of chosen, real-life case-studies.

You hold, or expect to hold, a PhD in Computer Science or in a closely related field; alternatively, you have a first degree in one of the above-mentioned subjects and substantial experience in a research role in industry. Fresh PhD graduates are also encouraged to apply.

For appointment at Grade 8 you will need to meet the additional criteria as per the Job Description.

This post is offered as open-ended contract with funding available for up to 30 months.

It is anticipated that interviews will be held in March or April 2018.

For further information and to discuss details please contact the Principal Investigator, Professor Muffy Calder (email: muffy.calder@glasgow.ac.uk).

CfP: SASO 2018

Come and join us in Trento for SASO 2018.

12th IEEE International Conference on Self-Adaptive and Self-Organizing Systems (SASO 2018) 3-7 September 2018, Trento, Italy

Aims and Motivation

The aim of the Self-Adaptive and Self-Organizing Systems conference series (SASO) is to provide a forum for the presentation and discussion of research on the foundations of engineered systems that self-adapt and self-organize. The complexity of current and emerging networks, software, and services can be characterized by issues such as scale, heterogeneity, openness, and dynamics in the environment. This has led the software engineering, distributed systems, and management communities to look for inspiration in diverse fields (e.g., complex systems, control theory, artificial intelligence, chemistry, psychology, sociology, and biology) to find new ways of designing and managing such computing systems in a principled way. In this endeavor, self-organization and self-adaptation have emerged as two promising interrelated approaches. They form the basis of many other so-called self-* properties, such as self-configuration, self-healing, or self-optimization. SASO aims to be an interdisciplinary meeting, where contributions from participants with different backgrounds leads to the fostering of a cross-pollination of ideas, and where innovative theories, frameworks, methodologies, tools, and applications can emerge.

Scope

The twelfth edition of the SASO conference embraces this interdisciplinary nature, and welcomes novel contributions to both the foundational and application-focused dimensions of self-adaptive and self-organizing systems research. We are looking for contributions that present new fundamental understanding of self-adaptive and self-organizing systems and how they can be engineered and used. The topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • Self-* Systems theory: nature-inspired and socially-inspired paradigms and heuristics; inter-operation of self-* mechanisms; theoretical frameworks and models; control theory;
  • Self-* System properties: robustness; resilience; stability; anti-fragility; diversity; self-reference and reflection; emergent behavior; computational awareness and self-awareness;
  • Self-* Systems engineering: reusable mechanisms and algorithms; design patterns; architectures; methodologies; software and middleware development frameworks and methods; platforms and toolkits; multi-agent systems;
  • Theory and practice of self-organization: self-governance, change management, electronic institutions, distributed consensus, commons, knowledge management, and the general use of rules, policies, etc. in self-* systems;
  • Theory and practice of self-adaptation: mechanisms for adaptation, including evolution, logic, learning; adaptability, plasticity, flexibility;
  • Socio-technical self-* systems: human and social factors; visualization; crowdsourcing and collective awareness; humans-in-the-loop; ethics and humanities in self-* systems;
  • Data-driven approaches to self-* systems: data mining; machine learning; data science and other statistical techniques to analyze, understand, and manage the behavior of complex systems;
  • Self-adaptive and self-organizing hardware: self-* materials; self-construction; reconfigurable hardware;
  • Self-* Systems Education: experience reports; curricula; innovative course concepts; methodological aspects of self-* systems education;
  • Applications and experiences with self-* systems: smart grid, smart cities, smart homes, adaptive industrial plants, cyber-physical systems; autonomous vehicles and robotics; traffic management; self-adaptive cyber-security; Internet of Things; fog/edge computing; etc.

Important Dates

Abstract submission April 16, 2018
Paper submission April 23, 2018
Notification June 4, 2018
Camera ready copy due July 2, 2018
Conference September 3-7, 2018

Submission Instructions

Submissions can have up to 10 pages formatted according to the standard IEEE Computer Society Press proceedings style guide (see templates here). Please submit your papers electronically in PDF format using the SASO 2018 conference management system: https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=saso2018.

The proceedings will be published by IEEE Computer Society Press, and made available as a part of the IEEE Digital Library. Note that a separate Call for Poster and Demo Submissions will also be issued. As per the standard IEEE policies, all submissions should be original, i.e., they should not have been previously published in any conference proceedings, book, or journal and should not currently be under review for another archival conference. We would like to also highlight IEEE’s policies regarding plagiarism and self-plagiarism (http://www.ieee.org/publications_standards/publications/rights/ID_Plagiarism.html).

Where relevant and appropriate, accepted papers will also be encouraged to participate in the Demo or Poster Sessions.

Review Criteria

Papers should present novel ideas in the cross-disciplinary research context described in this call, motivated by problems from current practice or applied research. Both theoretical and empirical contributions should be highlighted, substantiated by formal analysis, simulation, experimental evaluations, or comparative studies, etc. Appropriate references must be made to related work. Due to the cross-disciplinary nature of the SASO conference, we encourage papers to be intelligible and relevant to researchers who are not members of the same specialized sub-field.

Authors are also encouraged to submit papers describing applications. Application papers should provide an indication of the real-world relevance of the problem that is solved, including a description of the domain, and an evaluation of performance, usability, or comparison to alternative approaches. Experience papers are also welcome, especially if they highlight insights into any aspect of design, implementation or management of self-* systems that would be of benefit to practitioners and the SASO community. All submissions will be rigorously peer reviewed and evaluated based on the quality of their technical contribution, originality, soundness, significance, presentation, understanding of the state of the art, and overall quality.

Contact Information

Conference General Chairs

Antonio Bucchiarone, Fondazione Bruno Kessler, IT

Alberto Montresor, University of Trento, IT

Programme Chairs

Jake Beal, Raytheon BBN Technologies, USA

Nelly Bencomo, Aston University, UK

Jean Botev, University of Luxembourg, LU

Venice: A Literary Guide for Travellers

Marie-Jose Gransard


A book full of anecdotes and charm, describing how a huge cast of characters have interacted with La Serenissima over the centuries. On the way, Gransard highlights the unique characteristics of Venice: its loose morals and easygoing charm, but also its mystery and romance, its associations with love and lust and death. Best read in conjunction with a visit, I think (as I read it), when one an follow in some character's footsteps to visit places perhaps not highlighted in the modern guidebooks.

Finished on Sat, 03 Mar 2018 12:19:13 -0800.   Rating 4/5.

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House

Michael Wolff

2018


What can one say about a journey to the centre of the most disruptive and controversial White House of modern times? That is happened at all is amazing: that this book gives such a clear and (I would say) generally reasonably balanced view makes it a major contribution to political literature.

Wolff describes an administration at war with itself, a medieval court in which factions form and dissipate while seeking the attention of the monarch – and truly there's no other way to describe Donald Trump, who sits at the centre of the book while remaining curiously absent as an individual. Trump comes across as a bundle of contradictions: an outsider who took on the system and won, but someone pathologically requiring attention and submission from all around him while simultaneously hating those who engage in this behaviour; someone unable to control his attention of impulses at the most basic level; someone who personalises everything, seeing every interaction as a zero-sum game in another's gain must be his loss; and who is managing the presidency through, and for the benefit of, his own family.

It's clear that Wolff thinks Trump is uniquely unsuited to the role of president, and is surrounded by staff who's main task is to offer protection in both directions: protecting Trump from the world, but equally protecting the world from Trump. It's also clear, I think, that Wolff's Trump is suffering from dementia.

The book is marred by its writing style. There are rambling and often too-detailed sub-clauses – usually within hyphens – that often make sentences appalling difficult to read. And there are some jarring word uses ("hortatory"? really?) that add nothing and give the impression of someone trying too hard in places. Still, it's a compelling read, both as history and warning.

Finished on Sat, 03 Mar 2018 12:16:09 -0800.   Rating 4/5.

The Book of Iona: An Anthology

Robert Crawford


An anthology that rally gives a taste of the island. Robert Crawford (my colleague at St Andrews) is . talented poet in his own right, and he provides marvellously accessible translations of many of the poems associated with St Columba. These, coupled with several short stories set wholly or in part on Iona – and even an essay by another of my colleagues, Al Dearle, about the difficulties of providing internet access in wild parts – make this a book to dip into for inspiration and relief from "normal" life.

Finished on Sat, 03 Mar 2018 12:05:30 -0800.   Rating 4/5.

Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy

Maggie Berg

2013


The changing face and style of academia is a constant fascination to academics (like me). Many authors have commented on the increased managerialism they encounter, the excess of rules and the limitation of free inquiry and free teaching. Part of this might be regarded as the professionalisation of academia in the face of increasing demands from numbers of students, and their (very reasonable) expectations in the face of the financial costs they now (often personally) face. And it's undoubtedly true that, while we'd like to think that all academics are able to manage their time and efforts so as to balance equitably the needs of research and teaching, some don't do this and (typically, although it happens the other way round too) neglect teaching in favour of more career-enhancing research and esteem activities.

The core question is really quite simple: what is the right balance between independence and supervision for people who are experts both in their own fields and in passing on the passion, drama, and techniques of those fields to the next generations? It's one the resists simple solution, but that doesn't stop administrators and governments trying to shift the balance towards control. There are huge dangers in this from stifling free expression to impeding the exploration of new ways of educating – but it'd be foolish to ignore the benefits in terms of raising standards and ensuring learning outcomes.

The debate is weakened, in my opinion (as a science academic), by the focus that such works always have on the humanities: indeed, they're often phrased so as to exclude people like me, as though we were mere technicians and not "proper" academics. This book doesn't make that mistake, but still deals almost exclusively with the challenges of the humanities, which often feel devalued and sidelined by the resources thrown at "STEM" subjects.

I have to say that my own institution doesn't – yet, at any rate – exhibit any of the pathologies described by the authors, so part of the book for me is a warning tale of what to avoid in the years to come. It can also be read as a manifesto of what needs to be preserved, or re-acquired, if we're to keep academic healthy and questioning.

Finished on Sat, 24 Feb 2018 07:13:25 -0800.   Rating 4/5.

The Zoomable Universe: A Step-by-Step Tour Through Cosmic Scale, from the Infinite to the Infinitesimal

Caleb Scharf


There's nothing in the least pretentious or precious about this book. It's a straightforward tour through over forty orders of magnitude, from universal-scale gravitating structures to quarks and then on down to the Planck length, the theoretically smallest distance. In many ways this resembles a 1980's popular science book for early teens – and given how much I enjoyed those at that age, it's hardly a surprise that I loved this one too.

Finished on Sat, 24 Feb 2018 07:04:24 -0800.   Rating 5/5.

The Ancient Greeks: Ten Ways They Shaped the Modern World

Edith Hall

2014


The history and effect of Greece told through ten claimed characteristics of the Greek mind and civilisation. It's a strong claim and, while it makes for a reasonable read, doesn't quite pull off the effect that the author intended. It's hard say why, as the writing is clear and as erudite as one would expect from a classics professor at a leading university. Perhaps it's the lack of any clear necessity in choosing these particular traits, which leaves the whole assemblage feeling perhaps a little cherry-picked to make scholarly points.

Finished on Sat, 24 Feb 2018 06:59:19 -0800.   Rating 3/5.

Culloden: Scotland's Last Battle and the Forging of the British Empire

Trevor Royle

2016


It's unusual when the history of an event deals with that event one-third of the way through, spends the rest of the book looking at the personal and global consequences of the event – and still feels completely balanced in its treatment.

Culloden was many things, both the last battle fought on UK soil and the source of a great homogenisation of culture across the country. For such a dramatic event, the actual battle was remarkably simple, being fought on the wrong ground by an exhausted Scottish army who clearly never stood a chance (but who might have won had they fought on another day in another place that would have favoured their tactics).

But it's the subsequent lives of the protagonists that really occupies Royle. The soldiers' careers range across what became the British empire, from the American Revolutionary War, through the winning of India, to the eviction of the French from Canada and the re-ordering of the European political landscape. All of these started at Culloden, not least because they involved Highland and other Scottish regiments who'd fought on both sides, integrating the defeated into the army and economic opportunities of the victors.

Finished on Sat, 24 Feb 2018 06:54:57 -0800.   Rating 4/5.