I've learned a new word in the past week that has shown up in three (not quite) independent context. From Wikipedia:

Cliodynamics (etymologically from Clio, one of the nine muses (that of history), and dynamics, the study of temporally varying processes) is a new multidisciplinary area of research focused at mathematical modeling of historical dynamics.

I first encountered the word through a link to this journal by a friend. I then read about it in another link I followed through a friend (who is directly related to the original friend, thus the non-independence). Finally, I read about it in the 'Long Data' post by Sam Arbesman I mentioned last time.

What is cliodynamics? A field1 focusing on 'theoretical historical social science.'

Which sounds fantastic. And interesting. But taking a look at a sample of articles from the journal I linked to, I commented to my friend:

Some of the authors seem to be academics, and others look like amateurs with Excel spreadsheets (and email addresses...).

Not that Excel spreadsheets necessarily preclude good science. But they act as a good filter2 indicating the people doing the science might not be using the most sophisticated methodology. As Aaron Clauset comments:

We implemented data methods from scratch because we don't trust the standard software packages and neither should you.

Or as I would modify it,

We implemented data methods from scratch because we want to understand the standard algorithms, and so should you.

Since I should be doing real3 research (possibly more on that later), Cliodynamics will have to go on the back burner for now.

  1. Not 100% sure about its reputation as a field. Though it did get a mention in an opinion piece in Nature... (That piece has been added to my Instapaper roll.)

  2. In the same way that someone using LaTeX doesn't necessarily indicate they're more mathematically sophisticated. But it's rare (though not impossible!) to come across someone who is mathematically sophisticated and doesn't use LaTeX.

  3. That is, research related to my PhD thesis.