My primary occupation these days is evolutionary biology. I am a theorist, specializing in computer simulations that demonstrate how natural selection can act on groups and communities. I am affiliated with the EAPS at MIT, but I work on my own. I've recently completed a book on aging from an evolutionary perspective, and in it I explore the conundrum: if aging destroys our fitness, then why does evolution put up with it? Indeed, why do we have genes whose purpose is to kill us on a schedule? The short answer is that without aging, no one would die until everyone was dying, in an epidemic or a famine. Steady, predictable death rates are necessary to build stable ecosystems. (I welcome your comments on the ms - a draft is available here.) More about this on my biology page. Another book, taking a broader cultural and medical view of the subject of aging, is in the works with Dorion Sagan.
Check out my page on how to live a long life, and weekly blog on aging science.
In the past, I have worked in astrophysics, optical design, and energy conservation. I have taught (statistics, physics, math, astronomy, evolution) at Harvard, Berkeley, Temple, UPenn, LaSalle and Bryn Mawr.
Since the 2004 presidential election, I've been part of a net-organized coalition of statisticians who analyze voting patterns for evidence of errors or fraud. I work closely with Election Integrity, and the Election Defense Alliance.
In the past, I was active at the Drexel Math Forum , where students from around the world submit questions that are fielded by a loose network of volunteer experts and educators. The Northwestern University Center for Connected Learning , where I am a consultant, is pioneering the idea of computer simulation as a flexible learning tool.
My two commercial software packages are intended to make smart financial analysis accessible to people of limited math background - they're available for free download below and at the Per%Sense web site.
I'm a peace activist and an environmentalist, a retired board member at Philadelphia's Energy Coordinating Agency. and past president of the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Pennsylvania.
For almost thirty years, I've been teaching a weekly yoga class through Mount Airy Learning Tree, an education coop named for my neighborhood in Philadelphia. This is my own brand of public health activism, as well as a way to keep my own spiritual practice alive. I enjoy the support of the meditation community at Springboard Studio in Mt Airy.
I am active in Philadelphia's amateur music community, playing piano in chamber ensemble, French horn and oboe in the Olney Symphony. Summers, my family and I have enjoyed the music camp in Quebec operated by CAMMAC, the Bennington summer program for chamber musicians, and a Pennsylvania music camp called Summertrios. I'm an avid member of the Amateur Chamber Musician Players.
For twenty years, I was married to Alice Ballard, a civil rights attorney in
Philadelphia. Our two daughters, Sarah and Madeline,
are among the first children adopted from China in the mid-1980s. Sarah is building a career as a
Maddy graduated this year from Eugene Lang College, and is continuing to take courses to prepare herself for veterinary school.
Address: 654 Carpenter Ln, Philadelphia, PA 19119
Phone: 215 248-1010
Fax: 530 678-5456
A new message posted each day. Optimistic, uplifting, non-religious. http://daily-inspiration.org
How to Live a Long Time
Welcome to a community of people who are making life choices to extend their healthy years.
list of Academic Papers and Articles
Whence Cometh Death? : It's no mere clich? that we are born to die. Death is programmed into our genes. But why and how? Scientists continue to grapple with the question and its meaning. (reprinted from The Humanist, Jan-Feb 2002)
Why is the Democratic Party afraid to stand its ground? : The absence of a credible opposition party in this country is condoning the rapid transition toward disastrous, immoral policy agendas and a lawless, dictatorial executive. All this is just too convenient for the Republicans.
Why the Gazelle Doesn't Live Forever: A Just-So story of co-evolution.
Death by Design : Why evolution has built aging and death into life's plan, and what this might mean for healthy diets, for medical interventions to extend our lifepan, and for the Great Chain of Being.
Evolution of Aging : My Wikipedia contribution (the link to which may offer a surprise at any time - that's the beauty and the folly of Wikipedia. Here is a more reliable link to what I actually wrote.)
Long-Range Selection - a personal view : Chromosomes seem to be structured in a way that greatly increases the probability of favorable mutations. How did they come to be that way? The evolution of evolution may be a key to understanding why group selection is more effective than classical population genetics theory would suggest.
Francoise: A tale of love and art and redemption, set in medieval
Newly-Discovered Pages from the Journal of Margaret Fell: What sort of love did George Fox and Margaret Fell share as they founded the Society of Friends in 17th century England?
An Imagined Near-death Experience ...and associated philosophical musings.
My Thesis (1987): O thou who in research's hollow stumblest on this mildewed tome / Hear, herewith with no apologies, the author's rambling poem.
Population Policy (2000): It was my father who first told me, when I was a boy as yet unschooled in biology, but curious about why the bee buzzes and the bird sings / That they all seek for one of three things.
Hatikvah (1999): A liberal translation. "Jerusalem's gate means hope to one and all."
Disengagement (2005): I know best what's best for thee.
The Poet and the Philosopher (2005): What mortal man with eyes unglazed would deign adopt a lover's role?
Expanse (2007): This world holds terrors we dare not avow / And wonders that surpass what we'll allow.
Contrition (2007): If she had not forgiven me / so patient with my errant need.
Dream within a Dream (2010):
All that we may see or seem / Is but a dream within a dream
(After Edgar Allan Poe)
This is the moment for which you have been a lifetime in preparation (2010)
An Inquiry into the Texture of Experience and the Plausibility of Reincarnation (2012)
Myriad Ephemeral Droplets (2014)
While running along the beach, I saw my consciousness as an ephemeral droplet split off from a great universal consciousness,
and my life like the momentary existence of a droplet in the ocean spray, which falls back to rejoin the deep waters.
computer renditions of my compositions
available for free download:
Per%Sense : World's most complete (and friendly) financial calculator, recently recreated by James Wells as a shareware Windows application. From simple loan amortization to complex financial planning scenarios. Includes present value and IRR calculator with easy-to-use interface where you fill in a chart and just leave blank the number you want to solve for. "Every financial calculation you can imagine." (DOS version of this program was promoted commercially in the early 1990's, mostly to lawyers, accounts and financial analysts, and still has over 10,000 users.)
BondSheet: Calculator for Wall St and number-conscious investors. Computes yield to maturity and current yield, with and without taxes; also bond price for a given yield. Smart bond swap analysis.
Sudoku : Creates a new puzzle on your desktop each time you run it..
Kidware : An assortment of activities and puzzles for a variety of ages, 7-13. All designed to inspire creative response. No video games.
Extended Precision : Performs arithmetic with 200-place accuracy. Four
+ - * / , plus integer ^ and !. Chain calculations together. Source code, including examples (Borland Pascal)
scheduler : Divides people into groups of
specified size, repeated over a number of rounds of play, so as to
minimize overlap of groups. Source code,
ignorance toboggans into know."
- e e cummings