In a classic book called The Haunted-Demon world: science as a candle in the dark, Carl Sagan presents an appealing history of a person who claims to have a dragon in a garage. The problem with that Dragon is that it doesn’t give any material clue about its existence. Regardless of the insistence of Sagan on the many possible ways to test whether the Dragon is there physically, the “owner” always finds excuses to avoid such trials. The tale ends up concluding that there is no difference between a dragon that cannot be tested and not any dragon at all. …
Understanding the use of language in science. Some limitations on abstractions
The common language used in non-scientific environments tends to be largely vague, at times inconsistent, elusive and recursive. What one person is saying or writing can hold almost uncountable different interpretations. Rather than being a defect, such ambiguity and imprecision underpin the success of language as a communication instrument. These features indeed enrich communication, foster imagination and lubricate social interaction. Language is a fundamental component of human life, making us what we are as animals. Science has a fundamental and undeniable dependence on language. However, scientific language is not perse neutral, objective and free of the aforementioned shortcomings. On the …
De la ciencia, las ciudades, los animales y otras cosas. Conversando con Rodrigo Bravo
Esta semana tuve el gran placer de conversar con mi amigo (personal 🙂 ) Rodrigo Bravo, que conduce un entretenido programa de entrevistas a expatriados, gente que comparte la experiencia de haber dejado su pais natal y haber comenzado una vida en el extranjero. Pudimos tocar algunos temas interesantes, conversar de cosas mas personales y tambien algunas reflexiones de la vida cotidiana. Hubo varios temas que me hubiera gustado compartir, como mi fascinacion con la filosofia epicura y porque creo que es fundamental para nuestro futuro, el alto excepticismo y pensamiento critico que guia mi vida o la coherencia que …
My Habilitation in Urban Ecology. The end of a long, long journey
On the 23rd of June 2021, I gave my habilitation lecture putting an end to a very long process of academic qualification. The habilitation in Germany is the academic degree (a sort of doctorate of a doctorate) required to become a professor. Officially the title is Privat Dozent (PD) and is mandatory for those willing to take a seat as a professor in a German, Swiss or Austrian University. The habilitation procedure is long and hard, lasting for several years where high-level postdoctoral training is required, with evidence of peer-reviewed publications, lecturing and conference presentations. The formal requirement is the presentation of a thesis (monograph or cumulative) and a lecture on a particular topic not contained in the thesis, followed by a colloquium where university members ask several questions to test the teaching ability of the candidate. I did a cumulative thesis gathering together 13 articles around a central core idea that is framing my transdisciplinary expertise. Wisely advised by my mentor Prof. Dr. Harald Zepp, I have chosen Urban Ecology (Stadtökologie) as my venia legendi, the subject that I love and now I am allowed to teach.
My thesis was approved by the faculty by unanimity and was informed by two internationally renowned scholars, plus the positive review of my mentor. I am happy and proud of such a thesis, especially because I never thought I will write another one after my PhD. It gave me the opportunity to profoundly reflect upon the last several years of research around a common question and understanding, from which I have formed a new approach to my own research. Here is the resume and index. I am happy to share the full text if somebody is interested to have a look.
Metabolism & Urbanisation? New publication in Cities
I put my bet into scientific integration, conceptual and operational tunning, transdisciplinary integration, rather than compartmentalization of knowledge. I have been for long trying to integrate urban metabolism with urbanisation research, using a materialistic – i.e. technomass based – approach. This last piece, of which we are very happy, is an attempt in that direction. It provides a path to understand not only how urbanisation might arise from the metabolism of the urban ecosystem, but also showcase how this is rather a planetary process, highly hierarchically organised. I am always happy to share a copy, just write me an email.