Welcome! The picture was taken in Venice in 2001. One of the skills I learned in the UMCP Bat Lab was animal handling, and the pigeon was amazed to have a mere human being capture it. It was just beginning to try to escape in the photo. For pictures of the hedgehogs, go here. Here's Diane's report on the Crete trip. My civil liberties concerns are discussed on this page.
Personal e-mail: email@example.com
University e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
I am currently teaching at the University of Sunderland in the UK. My web site can be found here: <http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her> and is mirrored here: <http://crowan-scat.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/index.html>.
My blog (View from England) can be found here: <http://crowan-scat.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/ViewFromEngland/>
My research is in computational neuroscience. My current project is documented here:
Home Phone (UK): +44(0)191 520 3646
Home Phone (US): +01 703 218 3408
Office Phone: +44(0)191 515 3227
Mobile Phone: +44(0)759 549 4289
I have a PhD (November 1999) in Computational Neuroscience. That means I know how to apply large scale modeling and database techniques to problems in (neuro)science and ethology. I also have expertise in ESS Theory (related to sociobiology) and chaos theory (non-linear dynamics)--I was the first researcher to identify chaos in computer systems (Erwin, H., 1989. "Mixing and Sensitive Dependence on Initial Conditions in Computer Systems," Computer Measurement Group Transactions, 65:3-6, Summer 1989). The connection between modeling and chaos theory is deep--I am interested in understanding complex non-linear systems. Unfortunately, there's evidence that those systems cannot be formally modeled except in approximation (Rosen, 1985), so naturally I'm interested in understanding how well they can be modeled.
BS, Mathematics, UCD, 1968.
MA, Mathematics, UCSD, 1971 (with progress towards a PhD in algebraic topology).
PhD, Computational Neuroscience, the Institute for Computational Science and Informatics at George Mason University, January 15, 2000.
I have been working with the Auditory Neuroethology Laboratory, Department of Psychology, University of Maryland, to develop a computational sensorimotor model of an echolocating bat. My current project is documented here: http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/mediawiki/index.php/AuditoryResearch
I have had 34 years of software systems engineering experience, mostly at TRW, which I retired from on 1 September 2003. For the last ten years, I was a senior computer systems analyst supporting air traffic control systems. My specialty areas included:
Until January 2001, I was an adjunct professor in the Department of Computer Science at GMU. I have been chief engineer for a major USMC command and control system (7 years--never again!) and have twice been principal investigator for IR&D programs. I was also the security architect for the US Treasury Communications System.
I have a background in operational analysis. This page provides some ideas about modeling operational combat.
Married to Diane Erwin, who does statistical programming in support of NIH
Three sons: Jeffrey, who graduated in history from Bard and did a double masters at New College in California; Jeremy, a premed graduate from Antioch who also has a bioinformatics masters from GMU; and Michael, who graduated from Beloit and did an MA in archaeology at the University of Cardiff.
We have a family site.
I organized the re-publication of James H. Schmitz's works. I didn't do the editing; instead I kept the team functioning and introduced Eric Flint and Guy Gordon to each other. I've also been a proof-reader for the republication of Jack Vance, and recently became a Fellow of the Institute (which almost seems appropriate if you have ever read the Demon Princes novels).
Filk (SF folk singing) site
I have been involved in the Boost library development (random number generators) and continue to monitor that process.
I am a member of the Washington DC Grotto of the NSS and of the Potomac Speleological Club.
I have been a licensed USSF referee and referee instructor. I played at UCD and UCSD and for TRW in industrial league.
I played a little at UCD and UCSD. (I sat on the bench during our game against the All Blacks. That was probably for the best. 73-3)
I'm involved with the Durham Bat Group and do presentations on bat behavior.
I'm an active member of the Democratic Party. I have worked at the grass roots level as an organizer--many years ago, I was a congressional district representative to the Democratic Central Committee in Connecticut--the man who beat my candidate recently went to jail. I've even been approached to run for Congress (I declined). Interestingly, I come from a Republican political family--my mother was a Maine Chase. I did what I could for the 2004 election, and I'll leave it at that.
I contribute regularly to Jerry Pournelle's weblog.
Compare the following images with those on page 43 of Helmbold, R. L. (1971), Decision in Battle: Breakpoint Hypotheses and Engagement Termination Data, Rand Report R-772-PR, June 1971. The first image is split up by outcomes, while the second shows a summary (omitting surrenders). The third gives a general impression of the distributions of outcomes seen historically. For the actual distribution, see the Helmbold paper (which is available free for personal use from Rand).
Sorted by outcomes.
A distribution generated by a Monte Carlo process with same parameters as those seen in Helmbold's paper.
The R script used to generate these is available here.
The csv file is available here.
Practice question 1
Select the correct answer. Which of these courts uses a jury system?
(The correct answer is crown court)
And I hadn't a clue.
Practice question 2
Is the statement below TRUE or FALSE?
Your employer can dismiss you for joining a trade union.
(The correct answer is FALSE)
Unless you work for an American company or your management can figure out a suitable excuse.
Practice question 3
Which TWO telephone numbers can be used to dial the emergency services?
112 123 555 999
(The correct answers are 112 and 999)
Eh? What's this?
Practice question 4
Which of these statements is correct?
A television licence is required for each television in a home.
A single television licence covers all televisions in a home.
(The second statement is the correct answer)
Since I don't have a TV at home, my answer is none of the above.
The changing role of women
• Do women have equal rights and has this always been the case?
The PC answers are yes and no, but based on observation around me, the answers are no and no.
• Are there as many women in education or work as men?
Probably, given that the Government would like it that way.
• Do women get the same pay as men? Do women with children work?
Who are you kidding?
Children, family and young people
• How many young people are there in the UK?
Either too many (in this case yobs) or not enough (if you're concerned with the population bust)
• Do many children live in single parent families or step-families? When do children leave home?
I suppose so. Children leave home when their parents get tired of them.
• What sort of work do children do?
Why does this matter?
• When do children take tests at school? How many go on to higher education?
Far too frequently and more than should go on.
• What are the minimum ages for buying alcohol and tobacco? What drugs are illegal?
I haven't a clue.
• How interested are young people in politics? What do they see as the main issues today?
The regions of Britain
• Where are geordie, cockney and scouse dialects spoken?
Customs and traditions
• Do people tend to live in the cities or in the country?
Wherever they can afford it and find work.
• What and when are the national days of the four countries of the UK? What are bank holidays?
Is this on the test???
• What and when are the main Christian festivals? What other traditional days are celebrated
Given that the number of practicing Christians is so small, why does this matter?
The working system of government
• What are MPs? How often are elections held and who forms the government?
MPs are people who have never run a corner shop and make it illegal for other MPs to hold a real job. Elections are held randomly and the party which gets 35% of the vote forms the Government.
• What is the role of the prime minister? Who advises them and what are the main roles in the cabinet?
The PM is the first minister. God advises him and nobody else.
• What type of constitution does the UK have? What is her majesty's opposition and what is the role of the leader of the opposition?
The UK is an elective dictatorship. Her Majesty's opposition is the party that got 34% in the last election. The role of the leader of the opposition is to help make sure no MP ever holds a real job.
• How is political debate reported? Are newspapers free to publish opinions or do they have to remain impartial?
Newspapers are free to publish opinions except when it is illegal.
The formal institutions 1
• What is the Queen's official role and what ceremonial duties does she have?
The Queen is the owner of about 25% of the country, so her official role is to be the biggest gorilla.
• How do elections for the House of Commons work? How are candidates selected? What do the speaker and whips do?
It's all handled in smoke-filled rooms.
• What is the House of Lords and who are its members?
A place for retired politicians and bishops with time on their hands.
• How can you visit parliament?
By getting in line and waiting a couple of hours.
The formal institutions 2
• How are judges appointed and how do they apply the law?
Appointments by favoritism and application of the law is arbitrary.
• How are the police organised and who controls their administration?
Forty-three local areas, with the Home Secretary at the center of the web.
• What is the civil service and how do civil servants work with government?
An employer of last resort--see the Wednesday Guardian for what I mean. Given that the Government gives them their jobs, they do as they're told.
• How are local services managed, governed and paid for?
Poorly, poorly, and by local taxes.
Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited
I come from the same group of New England families that 'gave' America both Bush and Kerry. Erwin is a pseudonym--my greatgrandfather was born Edgar Albert Dodge (Tristram line) and later changed his name to Edwin Eugene Erwin about the time he married. He was an interesting character. He went to Japan in 1911 and supposedly became a westerner in the Imperial Court and the Emperor Tai-sho's oil advisor. (If that was true, he became a Japanese subject and received a Japanese title.) The Emperor Showa (Hirohito) sent him back to California in 1926. My Grandmother Erwin was Welsh-Canadian with American roots in the Plymouth colony and Welsh roots in the border gentry. I'm named after her father, Harry Albert Edward Rowlands (via my father, also a Harry). Her family was proud of their Tudor ancestry (via Frances Brandon, the mother of Lady Jane Grey and a granddaughter of Henry VII, and via Richard Edwards, an illegitimate son of Henry VIII), and 'Harry' is a reference to those famous members of the family (Henry is pronounced 'Harri' in Wales). My mother was a Maine Chase, with connections to Salmon Chase and Margaret Chase-Smith. If you want to read about that family, google "Ethan Allen Chase" and look for Riverside. My Grandmother Chase was a Stuart descendant (from an illegimate son of James V).
I'm a lay administrant for the Church of England. My American religious ties are Protestant--I'm an ordained Presbyterian elder, and a member of the Methodist and Congregational Churches, although I'm most comfortable with the Disciples of Christ. My family was historically Unitarian and (earlier) Baptist, and we've always had an ambiguous relationship with established churches. My mother's family has a tradition that the founder was hung for picking peas on a Sunday. (He was only fined. He was a sea captain and was used to working on the sabbath.) My father's family opposed slavery, running a station on the Underground Railroad in Pleasantville, Pennsylvania, and fought on the Union side in the Civil War. Following family traditions, I took an extremely uncomfortable position as a draft resister during the Viet-Nam War. How did I end up chief systems engineer for a major USMC command and control system afterwards? Life is never a straight line from point A to point B, and sometimes moral courage is required of you. Just hope you're never in a position where you have to choose.
God takes his stand in the court of heaven to deliver judgement among the gods themselves:
"How long will you judge unjustly and show favour to the wicked?
You ought to give judgement for the weak and the orphan, and see right done to the destitute and downtrodden,
you ought to rescue the weak and the poor, and save them from the clutches of evil men.
But you know nothing, you understand nothing, you walk in the dark while the earth's foundations are giving way.
This is my sentence: Gods you may be, sons all of you of a high god, yet you shall die as men die;
princes fall, every one of them, and so shall you."
Arise, O God, and judge the earth; for thou dost pass all nations through thy sieve.
So the Word became flesh; he came to dwell among us, and we saw his glory, such glory as befits the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth.
I am, inter alia, a biologist-my PhD is formally in computational biology. My concerns about evolution are within the context of evolutionary theory-there is nothing that suggests to me that a viable alternative exists that rejects the basic principles of evolutionary theory, and the experimental evidence for evolution appears to me to be very robust.
I attend the Church of England, but my beliefs are consistent with my scientific background. For example, I'm a monist-the experimental evidence from neuroscience and neurosurgery is that there is nothing of the mind that survives death, and any hope for that survival (whether in this universe or outside) is dependent on an actions of another. But that is a valid position and was dominant in the early days of Christianity.
I also believe God is not limited to space-time. My reasoning is that the evident lack of a preferred frame of reference is incompatible with omnipotence and omniscience. The universe we can perceive is finite and will always be finite, and I see no reason to assume that it is all that exists.
I believe in a positive sense that God respects the action of the causal laws that He established. Science seems to be able to make sense-using mathematics-of anything that is studied long enough, and that is rather surprising when you think about it. There is nothing about the formal syntactical manipulation of symbols that necessarily implies that they will serve to describe our reality, and yet they seem to work. I think that provides some insight into the Nature of God.
I do not believe that a reductionist stance is capable of explaining consciousness. Paul Davies's (2004) argument pointing out that the computational resources of the visible universe since the Big Bang are insufficient to compute the shape of even medium sized proteins (and realistic modeling of some neurons is even more computationally demanding) is enough to show that computational techniques cannot predict the behaviour of biological systems for the foreseeable future. Higher level descriptions continue to be necessary. I do criticize knowledge arguments-claiming that materialism is false as otherwise someone possessing complete physical knowledge would have full knowledge of mental states that they had never experienced-as they assume infinite computational capabilities and so cannot apply to finite beings. Materialist accounts must fail because they are practically infeasible, not necessarily because they are theoretically inadequate. That they may be theoretically inadequate as well may be suggested by the work of Robert Rosen, but it is already clear to me that they are inadequate to address consciousness in any practical sense.
The universe appears to be unreasonably friendly to intelligent life. If I were a solipsist, I might regard that as accidental, but accidentally habitable universes are much less special than our specific universe. That is exactly as far as I will go in the direction of intelligent design-God chose a specific set of initial conditions, parameters, and causal laws for the universe and let it evolve freely. My suggestion is that God values something about that combination-perhaps intelligence but perhaps something else-and so we find ourselves in a position to speculate about His Nature.
I am currently reading Penrose, R., 2004, the Road to Reality, London: Jonathan Cape, where he argues that the universe is remarkably unusual. I have the math and physics to follow his argument (there's an annotated copy of Gravitation in my US flat, and I used to read the early papers on String Theory and Supersymmetry for fun), I've published in chaos theory, and I find his point that the increase in gravitational entropy is quite surprising to be significant.
I was recently asked my opinion on a few questions.
You might read Graves and Patai, Hebrew Myths: the Book of Genesis, Carcanet, recently republished. The book of Genesis is the sacred charter of the Hebrews. It describes where they came from almost four thousand years ago and who they are. Myths have a moral and need not be objectively true to have power. Think- does your family have myths? Mine does.
Not one of these stories is completely 'true'. The founder of my mother's family was only fined; there is no independent evidence for the Underground Railway station; I'm actually named after my father, who was named after his Welsh grandfather, who was named after his Tudor ancestors; and my greatgrandfather was actually the manager for the first oil field in Japan.
These stories are charter myths, and Genesis is, too.
A comment on inflationary cosmology
You've probably heard about the recent results from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe and how they are supposed to support inflation. I have a bit of a problem with a theory that proposes the universe expanded to its current expanse in something like 10^-10 second. How do you tell the difference between that and a 'flat end' to the universe in that direction (of time)? Remember Penrose's point that the entropy of that state is dominated by gravitation and is extremely small.
An interesting site on the international baccalaureate for those interested in secondary education.
What should everyone know about science? <http://www.guardian.co.uk/life/feature/story/0,13026,1453311,00.html>.
How should science be taught at the university level? <http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/sciences/story/0,12243,1453583,00.html>. I believe you cannot get too much advanced education nor can it be too broad, so my background includes the following (a 'semester' is a university class or module for a semester unless otherwise noted):