The Living Mountain

Nan Shepherd (1977)

Here then may be a life of the senses so pure, so untouched by any
mode of apprehension but their own, that the body may be said to
think. Each sense heightened to its most exquisite awareness is in
itself total experience. This is the innocence we have lost, living in
one sense at a time to live all the way through. … The many details
– a stroke here, a stroke there – come for a moment into perfect
focus, and one can read at last the word that has been from the

Jeanette Winterson, in her afterword to this edition, describes the book as a “geo-poetic exploration of the Cairngorms”. That’s a good description, though incomplete: this is a meditation on mountains and mountain-centred living in all its forms, often quite breathtaking in its imagery and always rather meditative and spiritual in its perception of the wholeness of the environment.

The style of writing itself is fascinating, almost Victorian but without the heaviness. The grammar is flawless, which in itself is quite dated and dating, and every now and again there are some passages that jump off the page with their insight and lucidity. It’s a book I want to take into the mountains to read in the situation of its conception.

5/5. Finished Saturday 5 June, 2021.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

Epidemic modelling” added to the executable books gallery

Epidemic modelling: Some notes, maths, and code”, my book about using network science to model epidemics, is now featured in the gallery of the Executable Books project.

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Two-strain co-infection paper accepted

After what feels like a very long time in review, our paper on the dynamics of co-infection on clustered networks has been accepted for publication.

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To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death

Mark O’Connell (2017)

A review of transhumanist ideas by an avowed sceptic.

Transhumanism is a difficult belief system to tackle. At its more extreme end it rests on the idea of the “singularity”, the point at which scientific and technological problem-solving become so advanced that any solvable problem is solvable quickly – which of course includes the “problems” of sickness, death, brain uploading, and a host of other radical ideas. (In recent years the singularity is assumed to involve super-intelligent AI, although that wasn’t originally the conception, and such AI could be regarded as a consequence rather than a cause of the singularity.)

It’s an easy notion to ridicule, which this book sets out to do, and does well. But the long-term notion of accelerating progress isn’t as fragile as it can be made to appear. The ideas deserve a better exploration than this book attempts. It’s good for laughs and for making the participants sound like either idiots or charlatans – and maybe they are, but there’s also some interesting and solid science going on that goes beyond these stereotypes, beyond those seeking publicity rather than knowledge.

3/5. Finished Saturday 15 May, 2021.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

New, faster, release of epydemic

I just made a new release of epydemic.

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