[p2p-research] FOSS modeling tools (was Re: Earth's carrying capacity and Catton)
rlanham1963 at gmail.com
Sat Aug 15 23:45:06 CEST 2009
Yes, gardening would work, Paul. I like it. I keep thinking the
manufacturing guys would build something that would support universal
fab...Andersen Consulting used to do stuff like this at a lab associated
with the research park at Northwestern.
It's another lego block concept. Why couldn't math models be factors as I/O
standard devices that could be linked in open source frameworks at will. In
a sense all object-oriented programming is what I am talking about...but it
should have a GUI and be easy. Chunky math tools.
On Sat, Aug 15, 2009 at 3:33 PM, Paul D. Fernhout <
pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com> wrote:
> Ryan Lanham wrote:
> > Personally I wish a programmer type would produce an open source
> > tool of the simplicity and clarity associated with Stella which I started
> > using on the mac almost 20 years ago. We need a graphical modeling
> > environment that allows simple math models to be visualized as Stella
> > does.
> > I've long looked for a free/open source substitute but have found none.
> > I'd be very interested if anyone has seen something of that sort.
> > I have long wished for an open P2P math model environment where complex
> > math models would be built, linked and vetted collaboratively as with a
> > wiki. I know of no such project.
> I'd love to do that kind of stuff.
> One proposal was shot down by the NSF twelve years ago (1997): :-(
> ... We plan to enhance the product so users can develop their own models
> and modify existing models and collaborate with others by sharing models and
> data over the internet. ... The modeling framework of version 2.0 will
> support the development of models ranging from very simple to complex. Users
> will choose a base model, then add their own equations and methods or modify
> existing ones. The model development environment will include debugging,
> version control, and flexible data storage. Sharing of model code and data
> will be supported so that collaborative efforts will be possible over the
> That was intended to be a general tool, even if at the time it was oriented
> towards agricultural simulation.
> We ran out of money after 1.1 (released under the GPL with source) and
> spent years working for others on unrelated stuff to pay back vast amounts
> of money we borrowed for living expenses to finish the first version. :-(
> Granted, we did not keep trying with lots of other funding sources.
> So, if you want to know why there is not free (and better) alternative to
> proprietary stuff like you mention, that is part of the story. Of course,
> *now* NSF funds some open stuff and related conferences,
> "NSF Workshop on Modeling and Simulation for Design of Large
> Software-Intensive Systems: Challenges and New Research Directions (DLS03)
> [Dec 3-4, 2003] "
> but without PhDs, we're not "qualified" in that sense these days,
> especially with the vast competition for grants.
> And the US government still funds lots of proprietary stuff, so even when
> universities get grants, you can't assume to be working on stuff that is
> free and open source.
> Below I will attach some recommendations about current open source modeling
> software written from a homeschooling perspective. One might be able to
> start from those links and build up a whole environment for modeling these
> sorts of issues.
> Here is also another source of information I sent to a homeschooler with a
> child interested in political science and video games:
> Tell [name] I appreciate him mentioning that there were websites about
> political games written in flash; I see there are a few:
> By the way, here is a link for him also related to mixing his political
> science interests with simulation and games (academic stuff like SimCity):
> "Artificial Society is the specific agent based computational model for
> computer simulation in social analysis. It is mostly connected to the theme
> in complex system, emergence, Monte Carlo Method, computational sociology,
> multi-agent system, and evolutionary programming. The concept itself is
> simple enough. Actually reaching this conceptual point took a while. Complex
> mathematical models have been, and are, common; deceivingly simple models
> only have their roots in the late forties, and took the advent of the
> microcomputer to really get up to speed."
> A few posts I had made about that field in 2002 (although most of the
> links in those posts are no longer working):
> Here is a related older book:
> "Growing Artificial Societies"
> And a recent article:
> A classical example:
> So, lots of fun stuff that is also linked to cutting edge political
> So yes, this is a very exciting area of research (even a dozen years later)
> that I am still interested in.
> Implicitly, a lot of what we are doing in the free culture movement is
> creating for free and in public the equivalent of what neoconvervatives in
> the USA did with lots of money in private. :-) Not to say money would not
> help. :-)
> One could easily have hundreds (even thousands) of people in a research
> institute working on this kind of stuff. Would be a lot of fun. :-)
> The Brookings Institution had people doing that for a long time (links
> above to a book by Joshua M. Epstein and Robert Axtell; Epstein is still at
> A simulation and modeling and analysis environment might be one part of a
> proposal in relation to the funding opportunities that you and Michel have
> posted to the list for education and EU citizen participation and peer
> governance. It also links with the Joseph Jackson initiative on games to an
> extent. So, maybe, a long time later, such is now possible? I can hope it is
> true for somebody. I agree the word really needs this sort of tool.
> Anyway, such tools are all part of what I wanted the kitchen-sink of the
> Pointrel Social Semantic Desktop to have as plug-in modules (or perhaps just
> plugins that acted as gateways to existing mathematical packages like
> mentioned below).
> For whatever reason, I just end up writing more emails instead though these
> days though; I'm tremendously torn between writing more on abundance issues
> and working on such software. I really should be working on the software
> though, since, unlike writing emails, there is some tiny hope (as discussed
> on the Open Manufacturing list) that I could supply a fee-based add-on
> service for convenience for using the FOSS software. For example, if I could
> get 50,000 users of the FOSS Pointrel system, and 1% paid US$100 a year for
> the convenience of a related service like a relay server that was
> pre-configured and backed up and came with an hour of tech support, that
> would be terrific and let me keep doing that indefinitely. Still, with
> Google Wave and Microsoft-owned Groove and NEPOMUK and several other
> packages (OpenKollab in yet another attempt), it's not clear if the world
> needs a new platform though, even if I feel my approach has some interesting
> different characteristics. It is potentially more p2p in some ways, because
> it is intended to support keeping a copy of all information on the desktop,
> plus running on Java it is fairly cross-platform, plus the data format is
> designed to be extensible in a semantic web sort of way.
> Anyway, I'd be happy to be on any such proposals for such modeling tools,
> content, and supporting infrastructure as long as the work was free and open
> source. :-) Might as well get paid for stuff I want to do anyway, so I can
> keep doing it longer. :-) Or afford to go to related conferences, etc. :-)
> --Paul Fernhout
> Sent to a local homeschooling list, in response to a question about math
> Re: Algebra and Beyond Software; 6/7/07 4:58 PM
> Here is a link to a discussion about "Open Source Math Software For
> It does not discuss curricula (perhaps that was more your interest?) but
> does discusses computer software tools which does mathematical things.
> In general, these sorts of tools can be wonderful playthings if you
> and/or your child have the time and inclination to wrestle with them.
> Another summary link:
> "Software for Mathematics Education"
> Here is another link to a discussion of three big free software packages:
> The big three mentioned there are:
> "Scilab is a scientific software package for numerical computations
> providing a powerful open computing environment for engineering and
> scientific applications."
> See also the related Scicos:
> "Scicos is a graphical dynamical system modeler and simulator toolbox
> included in the Scilab ® engineering and scientific computation
> software. With Scicos you can create block diagrams to model and
> simulate the dynamics of hybrid dynamical systems and compile your
> models into executable code. Scicos is used for signal processing,
> systems control, queuing systems, and to study physical and biological
> systems. New extensions allow generation of component based modeling of
> electrical and hydraulic circuits using the Modelica language."
> "Maxima is a system for the manipulation of symbolic and numerical
> expressions, including differentiation, integration, Taylor series,
> Laplace transforms, ordinary differential equations, systems of linear
> equations, polynomials, and sets, lists, vectors, matrices, and tensors.
> Maxima yields high precision numeric results by using exact fractions,
> arbitrary precision integers, and arbitrarily precision floating point
> numbers. Maxima can plot functions and data in two and three dimensions."
> "R is a free software environment for statistical computing and
> graphics. It compiles and runs on a wide variety of UNIX platforms,
> Windows and MacOS."
> Here is another free package discussed at the first link:
> "GNU Octave is a high-level language, primarily intended for numerical
> computations. It provides a convenient command line interface for
> solving linear and nonlinear problems numerically, and for performing
> other numerical experiments using a language that is mostly compatible
> with Matlab."
> Here is another (simpler) free package for statistics and plotting:
> "Gnuplot is a portable command-line driven interactive data and
> function plotting utility for UNIX, IBM OS/2, MS Windows, DOS,
> Macintosh, VMS, Atari and many other platforms. "
> However, to get a lot out of any of them, you have to put some time into
> them and probably consult additional reference materials in their
> tutorial manuals, on the web, and/or in related textbooks. Also, these
> tools are all are a matter of convenience -- a general purpose
> programming tool with some good libraries (e.g. Python + SciPy)
> can let you do pretty much anything these specialized packages do and in
> a much more expandable way -- it just takes *much* more time and
> understanding to work with the general tools (though you learn a lot
> doing that). I'd suggest perhaps doing both -- play with the tools *and*
> try to learn how to program with various packages. :-)
> As you can see from especially the third link above, there are several
> other tools. I'm not sure how well all of these run under other
> operating systems (most probably do run under Windows, but my wife and I
> don't use that ourselves anymore except under emulation on the Mac or
> Linux). You can probably find most of theses tools included (or easily
> loadable) in Ubuntu (a version of GNU/Linux), which is available for
> free here (you can download and burn a bootable CD to run these when you
> want by rebooting, even if you run Windows):
> and they also mail out free CDs (but it may take some time -- see the
> links on that page). There is also an "Edubuntu" educational variant,
> but it seems more targeted at schools and I haven't tried it.
> Instructions for loading some of these packages into Ubuntu:
> Any one of these packages is a project to get to know and understand. It
> might takes quite a while to get a feel for them. But I think mastering
> any of these packages will have a lot of practical value -- more so than
> doing some paper exercises.
> While our child is [not that old] (and so I haven't tried to use these
> packages to teach him math; I'm still focusing on John Holt's ideas of
> seeing how small numbers like nine can be broken down and assembled many
> ways), I have been involved tangentially with some people doing
> mathematical education using computer software for more advanced math,
> primarily using the programming language Python.
> There is a newer way of thinking about math and physics which suggests
> thinking about that as just a subpart of computer programming, rather
> than a more classical school subject approach which often puts computer
> programming as an add-on under math & physics. :-) Essentially, by
> developing programs and simulations of interest to a child, a child
> learns more and more about basic principles of mathematics they need to
> solve problems of interest to them, as well as to develop a certain type
> of mathematical thinking skills related to precision and causality and
> symbol manipulation and so on. Learning to program then becomes the
> stepping stone to learning about math and physics.
> For example, a child can learn a lot about trigonometry by just playing
> around with a 2D or 3D turtle:
> "turtle -- Turtle graphics for Tk using Python"
> However they typically need to learn a little programming first (like
> how to write a loop). Consider, for example, this college assignment:
> "Mandelbrot, Turtle Graphics and L-Systems in Python"
> I would think those sorts of experiments could keep a high schooler busy
> for quite a while, while also learning about angles and distances and
> mathematical reasoning (while they debug their graphical programs); but
> I wouldn't try those as a first step for someone who did not already
> know programming. Here is a simple code snippet for someone wanting to
> learn some simple programming and turtle graphics with Python:
> "Turtle Graphics (Python)"
> Modify that to draw a few geometric shapes (cubes, octagons,
> parallelograms, etc.) and it's a start down the path of 2D geometry. :-)
> Here is a bigger set of links (mostly programs) related to
> Python+Geometry for homeschoolers
> In general the author of that site has a lot to say about the
> intersection of computing and mathematics.
> To get more advanced in 3D geometry, here is a free package by the late
> Arthur Siegel to do interactive 3D geometry in Python:
> "PyGeo is most fundamentally a framework for the creation of dynamic
> geometric constructions - i.e. constructions which embody defined and
> persistent geometric relationships responsive to real time on-screen
> interactivity. PyGeo is, further, an implementation of this underlying
> abstract framework - exposing a range of geometric objects as the
> building blocks for virtual, dynamic geometric constructions. The focus
> is away from Euclidian geometry and metrics, and toward later geometric
> and mathematical developments - particularly those connected with
> projective geometry of real space, and the geometry of complex numbers
> on the plane and on the unit (Riemann) sphere."
> Nothing about school-style trigonometry "proofs" there though -- except
> the ones you build for yourself in passing to debug things. Here's lots
> of links related to logic software and logic education if you want to
> focus on proofs (includes some links to theorem provers):
> But I would think this a dustier and drier route for most kids to get an
> intuition for geometrical things than indirectly via programming.
> By the way, some fraction of the population has trouble visualizing or
> rotating things in 2D or 3D,
> so some kids find geometry much easier than others. I think 3D spatial
> visualization tools may help narrow that gap, especially tools which can
> make the 3d object rotate (at least slightly). Related exercises:
> "Spatial Encounters: Exercises in Spatial Awareness."
> Likewise some kids almost need to visualize things to feel they
> understand them as opposed to accept purely symbolic representations;
> there are various approaches to mathematics that are more highly visual
> than others. Example:
> If there is one issue that may make or break in some advanced math
> studies, it is an ability to visualize. If the kid in question isn't
> good at that, it may help more to focus early on visualization skills
> (including blueprint reading) than to move ahead to more advanced topics.
> Here is another programming language system Squeak (Smalltalk) which has
> various educational tools in it like turtles:
> It has a steeper learning curve than Python though.
> In my own life I've found the only major use for trigonometry was
> writing 3D graphics software. :-) Here is a example of such software
> (available for free) which my wife and I wrote:
> "PlantStudio Botanical Illustration Software is a tool for creating 3D
> plant models and 2D illustrations. PlantStudio simulates herbaceous
> (non-woody) plants like wildflowers and cut flowers, vegetables, weeds,
> grasses, and herbs using a parameter-driven simulation of plant growth
> and structure. You can "grow" plants over their life cycles, producing
> lifelike images at any age. You can design, animate and breed a wide
> variety of plants. By using the "evolutionary arts" of variation and
> selection in the plant breeder, you can quickly and easily create whole
> families of unique plants for your 3D scenes."
> There's a lot of stuff in there about angles and rotations and so on --
> can't help but learn a little about trigonometry (and botany) even by
> just playing with it.
> While I know schools tend to focus on a chain of algebra, trigonometry,
> calculus, (especially for kids interested in engineering) I'd suggest
> learning about probability and statistics (done as part of developing a
> computer simulation) would generally be a more useful mathematical skill
> in the real world for most people, since we all need to make decisions
> every day related to risks and also trying to read between the lines of
> newspaper articles and advertisements throwing statistics around in an
> attempt to inform or persuade us.
> For example, here is a fun link about how to lie with statistics:
> "Ok...this is what you have been waiting for. How can you lie with
> statistics? Actually, the purpose of this page is NOT to teach you how
> to lie and cheat with statistics. Rather, I hope you will learn how it
> is possible to be misled and how to spot "statistical abuse." You can
> find poor use of statistics everywhere...magazines, newspapers, polls,
> TV, even research papers. I do not want to hear of any of you readers
> using these poor methods."
> And here is a book on that topic:
> _How to Lie With Statistics_
> There are also a variety of free instructional videos available over the
> web as part of the Annenberg CPB project if you have a fast internet
> connection (and otherwise likely available from a local library or
> through interlibrary loan):
> "Against All Odds: Inside Statistics; This video instructional series
> for college and high school classrooms and adult learners leads to a
> greater understanding of statistics by exploring authentic examples —
> from environmental studies to weight-loss programs."
> "Algebra: In Simplest Terms; This video instructional series for college
> and high school classrooms and adult learners guides students
> step-by-step through algebra concepts, while highlighting common trouble
> "Learning Math: Geometry; Learn the basics of geometry in this video-
> and Web-based course for K-8 teachers."
> I haven't watched any of those, but many years ago I did go through the
> entire Mechanical Universe physics series for myself and liked it:
> "The Mechanical Universe…and Beyond; This video instructional series
> for college and high school classrooms and adult learners demystifies
> physics and illustrates abstract concepts."
> (Physics ends up being mostly math at more advanced stages.)
> I also enjoyed their World of Chemistry, but I didn't see that is
> online. There is also an accompanying textbook to the Mechanical
> Universe; if you really wanted something like a curriculum, that might
> be a way to go which integrates mathematics into a physical setting that
> helps motivate its study.
> Anyway, plenty of open-ended free resources to play with and learn
> something mathematical for kids or adults.
> --Paul Fernhout
> p2presearch mailing list
> p2presearch at listcultures.org
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