Jericho Brisance Re-Opened

Greetings to those who may still be subscribed to Jericho.

After three years of dormancy, I’ve decided to reopen and re-brand a bit. In the past, Jericho was largely focused on religion: Christianity, deconversion, atheism, and historical studies related thereto. Moving forward, Jericho will serve as a broader platform, featuring content divided into a few departments:

  • Religion
  • Science
  • History
  • Stories
  • Resources

Pandemic, Science, and Society

Why now? As the COVID virus began to spread, I took more and more notice of the data being collected. Back in January, the trends I saw in the data had become fairly disturbing. I talked with my family about it, as well as my research engineering colleagues. As the situation began accelerating, I started modeling the data and sending summary emails to my family, a few friends, and some of my co-workers. I found myself explaining the relevant math and science, and trying to convey what we data people saw when we looked at the numbers. This liaison function seemed to be of value to folks, and I was asked to keep the updates coming. Then the obvious clattered through my head:

“Gee, it would be nice to have a blog to publish this on.”

Meanwhile, I would read the news and talk to people – well meaning people – and I saw a lot of misunderstanding. There was paranoia. There was denial. There were a lot of deaf ears and blind eyes.

Now that we’re a bit further down the road, we are seeing more specific judgments from various quarters about whether “the models” were wrong, or whether “science” swung and missed, etc. And we have a lot of apples-and-oranges mismatches regarding the statistics involved.

Politics aside, there are some ground-floor reasons this is happening. Human, evolved-primate reasons.

As I looked around, I saw that people kept trying to apply common sense to what they were seeing. They would look askance and squint an eye, and then they would apply good old-fashioned common sense. But pandemics are exponential systems, and common sense is no match for exponential systems. Our intuitions mainly evolved on the paleolithic savanna to handle proportional systems. Applying common sense to the dynamics of a pandemic is flawed. It’s a category error. But unless a person has been deeply trained in mathematics, its the tool they have for reasoning.

This is a problem, but not an incurable one. I believe that our intuitions are malleable, trainable, and expandable.

Mission: a Visual Approach to Data

For twenty years, I have worked as a research engineer across a range of disciplines. A research engineer is fairly equal measures engineer and scientist. We deal with the theoretical and the practical, the physical and the mathematical, etc. These days I’m doing quite a bit with artificial intelligence development, pulsed laser systems, and computational models. We do a lot of esoteric stuff, but at the end of the day we find out whether we’re right with big, expensive, real-world applications: things that go boom or crunch if we get it wrong.

A key aspect of my occupation is explaining complex topics to non-specialists. We do this in reports, in proposals, and in presentations. After a long time at this game, I believe that most science can be understood conceptually by non-scientists. Ordinary people can develop intuitions about strange things pretty easily. Science fiction movies and books work because this is true. And right now, society needs to understand what is happening better, by developing different intuitions.

So, how can new intuitions be learned by non-specialists? One of the best methods is the use of visual illustrations.

Jericho subscribers already know my penchant for making explanatory graphics about topics of religion. My present goal will be to take readers through a similarly visual tour of the pandemic and relevant science concepts. I hope to help at least a few thoughtful readers to see COVID through the eyes of a data scientist, and to build intuitions better than common sense. In the age of pandemic, climate change, artificial intelligence, and genetic engineering, we primates need to keep working on cognitive upgrades. The reasoning faculties we were born with will fail against such problems, and by progressively larger margins.

Perhaps the endeavor is doomed. But its a big pond, and I’ve got a handful of pebbles to throw. 🙂

The Past Three Years

For prior readers who may be curious, my family and I have been doing well over the intervening years since I suspended Jericho. We’re still happily married, have four (much taller) children, and have continued living in Austin. I’ve spent a lot of the last three years doing financial modeling and trading algorithm development. My writing ambitions, like my blog, have been fairly dormant.


  1. (null) (null) says:

    I was just happy to see you are still alive. Looking forward to seeing what comes. Cheers!

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Resurrected after three years – it’s a miracle! Welcome back, and glad to hear that all is well with you and your family.


  3. Glad you’re back. Your blog was one of my favorites.

    Liked by 1 person

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