Let’s say I’m somewhere in Colorado, and I want to go up a mountain. A big one, over 14,000 feet. About how long would it take, using the fastest overland travel methods available, for me to get to the top of one of those peaks?

An exciting new set of tools from geospatial modelers at the Malaria Atlas Project (MAP) have made it easy for me to find out. Early this year, the MAP team came out with a global map of travel time to cities — that is, for each 1km square chunk of land on the Earth’s surface…

From an SF MOMA exhibit on computation as art. Photo by the author.

My first encounter with coding was when I was 12 or 13 and my mother tried to teach me how to make a website with HTML. It sounded confusing and boring and I was more interested in reading books, so I gave up.

My second encounter was as a freshman in college, when I volunteered at an ecological modeling lab that used the programming language FORTRAN to simulate natural environments. Coding felt like a terrifying black box full of all the things I didn’t know, and I was too embarrassed by my ignorance to ask for help. …

plants, death, and inequity

A growing family of succulents sits in my office, rudely overtaking what was supposed to be a shared coffee table. They have the most beautiful names. The Senecio rowleyanas, a ‘string of pearls’, looks like someone poured green dye into a bubble bath. The Sedum rubrotinctum lives up to its nickname as ‘the jelly bean plant’. The dainty Echeveria shaviana reminds me of a crumpled lace doily someone threw on the ground. …

How measurement affects health, for better and for worse

This is not an article about the Heisenburg uncertainty principle.

The uncertainty principle makes a statement about the fundamental properties of wavelike systems — namely, that you cannot know both the position and momentum of a particle at the same time. This holds true irrespective of how we measure the systems in question, because at the quantum level (where this principle holds), anything we think of as “measurement” will by definition interfere with some property of the system. …

Amelia Bertozzi-Villa


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