Grading completed

The final has closed, and the grades for the final have been adjusted according to the “best 20” rule.  ANGEL has done its thing and the grades have been entered into ELION.  For those who are interested, here’s how the grade distribution went down:

  • A and A-: 8
  • B+, B and B-: 15
  • C+ and C: 7
  • Other: 4

Once again, I’d like to thank all the students who participated and made this such an interesting class to teach.  Best wishes to those of you who are graduating, and for the rest, have a great summer!




Blogging Theme for Week 14

As a theme for this week, I would suggest “Policy proposals for limiting carbon emissions”.   We discussed some of these in class on Friday, but in a quite abstract, mathematical way – how they could work in an “ideal world”.   But how about in the real world? What ideas are being tried, how might they work in practice, how successful are they?

Here are some possible readings and references on this issue

Remember that, as always, the theme above is only a suggestion.  You are welcome to post on any relevant topic, including one of the earlier suggested themes.  Here is a list of those:


Events Schedule Week 14

Here is the schedule for the coming week

      • Monday 4/20,  2:30 – 3:20, Class – Unit 4.3
      • Monday 4/20,  4:00-5:00, Kaley Weinstein’s office hour and tech support (101 McAllister)
      • Tuesday 4/21 3:30-4:30, Sara Jamshidi’s office hours, 419 McAlliste
      • Wednesday 4/22 2:30 – 3:20, Class – Case Study – “Opportunities in Sustainability at PSU” – Susannah Barsom.   Dr Barsom is Director of Academic Programs at Penn State’s Sustainability Institute.
      • Thursday 4/23, 10:30 – 12:00, John Roe’s office hours, 204 McAllister
      • Friday 4/24, NO CLASS TODAY

Readings for  classes are available at

For Monday’s class we will continue studying decision making in networks – that is, where your neighbor’s decisions affect what you do.  The class readings from the Easley-Kleinberg book, has been posted.  Please read sections 6.4 and 6.5, and 8.1 and 8.2


Alien Supercivilizations Absent from Nearby Galaxies

This piece from Scientific American:

is mostly about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI).  But on the way, it gets into some interesting musings on exponential growth, energy usage, and whether our picture of what “advanced civilization” entails is realistic.  Here’s a quote:

In 2011 the science fiction author Karl Schroeder coined an all-too-plausible reason for the apparent absence of aliens: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from nature.” In this view the future of technology would not consist of star-hopping civilizations spreading like wildfire through galaxies, disassembling planets and smothering suns, but rather of slow-growing cultures becoming more and more integrated with their natural environments, striving for ever-greater efficiencies and coming ever-closer to thermodynamic equilibrium. Simply put, profligate galaxy-spanning empires are unsustainable and therefore we do not see them. “SETI is essentially a search for technological waste products,” Schroeder has written. “Waste heat, waste light, waste electromagnetic signals—we merely have to posit that successful civilizations don’t produce such waste, and the failure of SETI is explained.”

Tragedy of the commons

The phrase “tragedy of the commons” is used generally in environmental writing to talk about the way some shared resource can be damaged when individuals – striving to maximize their personal gains in utility – use more than their socially optimal share of the resource.   The term was introduced though in a famous paper by Hardin

which refers specifically to population issues.  This is a disquieting article to read today, with its echoes of early 20th-century eugenicists’ fears of the “lower classes” outbreeding the elite, but it is also an important one in the history of environmental thought.

Sustainability Institute welcomes responsible business thought leader on April 18

(This is from Sue Barsom at the PSU Suustainability Institute)

Carol Sanford, author of “The Responsible Business” and “The Responsible Entrepreneur,” will be a featured speaker on April 18 during the Sustainability Institute’s inaugural Reinvention Fund Symposium.

Sanford has consulted with companies such as Seventh Generation, Intel, Dupont, and Colgate-Palmolive, and her work has also been used in a Google Innovation Lab. Sanford’s books are required reading at leading business schools including Harvard, Stanford, Haas Berkeley and MIT.

She holds undergraduate degrees from UC Berkeley in Economics and Public Law and a graduate degree from California State University, San Jose in Urban Planning.

Central to Sanford’s philosophy and approach is a fresh look at what makes an organization truly innovative and responsible. “It’s important to find out what differentiates a business from the crowd,” Sanford says, “and then thinking about how to innovate in business so that workers/suppliers, communities, societies, and ecology, investors — as a whole, are improved. These are not separate but interwoven pursuits. It’s completely doable, and a conversation worth having.”

Sanford’s April 18 keynote address “Catalyzing Innovation: Local Economies, Entrepreneurship and Education in a Living Systems Paradigm” will be held from 1:30 to 2:45 p.m. in Ballrooms CDE of the Nittany Lion Inn.

Sanford’s lecture is sponsored by Penn State’s Sustainability Institute and the Reinvention Fund. A question and answer session will follow. Visit for the Reinvention Fund Symposium full agenda. The symposium and Sanford’s keynote address are free and open to the public.

For more information about Carol Sanford, visit or watch her talk from TedXBerkeley.

For more information about sustainability at Penn State visit