The Azimuth Project
Open projects



Here are some of the main projects we’re currently working on. If these make you want to help, please let us know at the Azimuth Forum, so we can coordinate our efforts. For details on how to add information to this wiki, see Help edit this wiki.

Plan C

We are starting to work through various plans for dealing with global warming and peak oil, describing them in blog entries and gathering critical comments. The ultimate goal is to formulate our own plan: Plan C. We call it this because the intention is to avoid overoptimism: it will assume that everybody’s “Plan B” — tackling problems after they appear but before serious damage has occurred — has failed.

So far you can see the results here:

Our discussion of Pacala and Socolow’s plan of action is the most well-developed:

You don’t need to be an expert on any particular discipline to help. You just need to be able to read plans of action and write crisp precise summaries, as above. We also need help finding the most important plans of action.

In addition to plans of action, we also need to summarize various ‘reports’, which summarize where we stand, rather than propose courses of action. See:

Overview pages

We are building up a nice collection of pages on climate, energy, and environmental issues. But there is still much that needs to be done here. For example, we need overview pages that include nice general essays on these topics:

The end of each overview page should already have links to our more specialized pages in that category. Keep that stuff there, but try to make sure your essay is studded with links to all these pages!

Azimuth Code Project

Various people, most notably Tim van Beek and Graham Jones, are writing software as part of the Azimuth Code Project. This serves several functions:

  • John Baez is using this software to explain ideas in This Week’s Finds.

  • Over time the results will become a repository of open-source modelling code.

  • As a side effect, we will try to show that clean, simple, open-source, well-managed and up-to-date code handling is possible at a low cost, and how it can be done.

If you have a background in programming, we need your help here!

So far most of the software on the Azimuth Code Project is connected to stochastic differential equations:

  • Software for investigating the Hopf bifurcation and its stochastic version: see week308 of This Week’s Finds.

  • Software for studying predator-prey models (generalized Lotka–Volterra equations) including stochastic versions: see the page on quantitative ecology. Ultimately it would be nice to have some software to simulate stochastic Petri nets.

  • Software for studying stochastic resonance: see the page on stochastic resonance. We need a lot more on this, leading up to software that takes publicly available data on Milankovitch cycles and uses it to predict the glacial cycles. See Bayesian prediction of the next glacial inception for more information on how we might do this.

  • Software for investigating the delay-action oscillator as a model for the ENSO cycle.

Some possibilities for the future:

  • An open source version of FESA (Future Energy Scenario Assessment). FESA from Orion Innovations is proprietary software which models energy systems scenarios, including meteorological data, economic analysis and technology performance. The main data needed are historical weather records to estimate wind and solar energy fluctuations, and data for our-by-hour electricity usage — ideally for the entire world, but one could start with whatever regions make such data available.

  • An automated species-identification system. See

    • Time to automate identification, Nature 467 (2010), 154–155.

    The authors say that taxonomists should work with specialists in pattern recognition, machine learning and artificial intelligence to increase accuracy and reduce drudgery. The data required is likely to be quite disparate: photos people have taken of dragonflies in their garden, sound recordings of bat echo-location calls, micro-photographs of phytoplankton in the ocean, etc.

Some topics that, whilst interesting, probably require very extensive work on data collection for model/software development and evaluation:

  • Modeling advanced strategies for an electrical SmartGrid,

  • Modeling “smartphone/website based car- or ride-sharing schemes”

  • Modeling supply routing systems for supermarkets that attempt to reduce ecological footprint (in various aspects) of produce.


John Baez is interviewing people for This Week’s Finds: scientists who have switched from physics to environmental issues, and people with big ideas about how to save the planet. The goal here is to attract people, especially students, into working on these subjects.

Here are the interviews, in various stages of completion:

If you know anyone with important ideas, and you’re good at interviewing people, this is another place you might help. Admittedly, John is a bit possessive about the This Week’s Finds brand, but he is already trying to subcontract out one interview to a mathematician friend — and it would also be great to have interviews on the blog that weren’t part of This Week’s Finds. If you’re interested in this, contact John.

Blog articles in progress

There are usually several blog articles in various states of progress that need feedback and are being actively discussed in the forum before being posted to the blog. You can find them on the Blog articles in progress page. If you want to help us make the articles better please join the discussion on the forum.

category: meta, things to do