Frank Herbert’s DUNE is probably the most popular science fiction novel ever (over 12 million of copies sold). It has everything – a complex and dynamic main hero, great villains, neat ecology (planetology!), philosophical and religious insights, and (what is particularly fascinating to me) a well-structured social world. I have written before on this topic (see the ‘Dune Hypothesis’ and Psychohistory and Cliodynamics).

On Tuesday, April 9, the Science on Screen program, which pairs scientists with entertaining films, will be screening David Lynch’s adaptation of DUNE, and I am giving an introductory talk before the movie. I will be talking about how well Herbert constructed the social reality of DUNE from the point of view of the new science of Cliodynamics, as well as the writings of the fourteenth century’s Arabic sociologist Ibn Khaldun.

If you live in Hartford area, join us! The screening will be at 7 pm, and the directions are here.

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Notes on the Margin: all the commentaries on Harvey Whitehouse’s article have been published. Harvey’s response to these comments will be published as soon as I get it, which in turn depends on him returning from Vanuatu safe and hale in early April.

Peter Turchin

Peter Turchin

Curriculum Vitae

Peter Turchin is an evolutionary anthropologist at the University of Connecticut who works in the field of historical social science that he and his colleagues call Cliodynamics. His research interests lie at the intersection of social and cultural evolution, historical macrosociology, economic history and cliometrics, mathematical modeling of long-term social processes, and the construction and analysis of historical databases. Currently he investigates a set of broad and interrelated questions. How do human societies evolve? In particular, what processes explain the evolution of ultrasociality—our capacity to cooperate in huge anonymous societies of millions? Why do we see such a staggering degree of inequality in economic performance and effectiveness of governance among nations? Turchin uses the theoretical framework of cultural multilevel selection to address these questions. Currently his main research effort is directed at coordinating the Seshat Databank project, which builds a massive historical database of cultural evolution that will enable us to empirically test theoretical predictions coming from various social evolution theories.

Turchin has published 200 articles in peer-reviewed journals, including a dozen in Nature, Science, and PNAS. His publications are frequently cited and in 2004 he was designated as “Highly cited researcher” by ISIHighlyCited.com. Turchin has authored seven books. His most recent book is Ultrasociety: How 10,000 Years of War Made Humans the Greatest Cooperators on Earth (Beresta Books, 2016).

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