While dying of abdominal cancer at the untimely age of 48, the great physicist James Clerk Maxwell said:
I have been thinking how very gently I have always been dealt with. I have never had a violent shove all my life. The only desire which I can have is like David to serve my own generation by the will of God, and then fall asleep.
I’m no Maxwell, but I have been blessed that I have thus far lived a life in times and places where violent shoves have been few and far between. In America and the world at large though, there’s an increasing sense that the world we know is cracking under the strain and eventually will shatter. The causes vary; all are hotly disputed. Historically though, the causes of turmoil and bloodshed have been things like racial and ethnic animosity, ideological division, religious conflict, environmental disasters, economic dislocation, famine, plague… in short, everything that’s become so dramatically volatile here in the 2020s.
It is possible everything will work itself out. It does often happen in history that troubled times blow over and lead to stretches of prosperity. But sometimes, some jerk shoots the Archduke of Austria and before you know it a few hundred million people have died horribly in two consecutive apocalyptic wars.
I don’t think it’ll come to that, and certainly I have no ability whatsoever to affect the course of history. But like all of us, I do have the ability to serve my generation – my family, friends, and community. And to whatever extent I have a modest ability to think, write, and do the occasional math and science, I can commend that work to the digital ether and perhaps you will find it useful.
A programming note: Built on Facts (in its various past iterations) has been sort of a typical if rather math-heavy pop science blog with a relatively narrow focus. This will be more wide-ranging.