Unpicking the Big in Big Numbers

It’s election season, and so big numbers are everywhere. Some of them may even be accurate, But as politicians promise £millions here and criticise £billion cuts there, distinctions between these numbers blur. I think of it as £M and £bn both amounting to what Daniel Kahneman might term the ‘prototypical image’ of a great heap of cash, with no further disaggregation required. But distinctions are important.

Visions of Nature in a World of 10bn People

As part of the University of Sheffield's pioneering interdisciplinary programme 10bn (see this previous post for more details), I was due last Friday to talk at a session we had organised on 'Visions of Nature in a World of 10bn'. Unfortunately, Storm Doris had other ideas, and I was stranded in London. But had I made it back in time, here's what I would have said…

The Nature of Experience, and the Experience of Nature

I came to bird song rather late. As a child, my enthusiasm for birds was almost entirely visual. I would spend hours copying pictures out of bird guides, but knew few other than the obvious, onomatopoeic calls. Over the past decade or so - with a conscious effort, and with considerable direction from my partner, whose ear is much more musical than mine - I’ve managed to tune in to the more common songs you’re likely to hear in Britain. I’m nowhere near able to deconstruct a full dawn chorus, but at least now unfamiliar songs stand out, often a sign that something interesting is around.