MODSIM Conference, Day 1

I am attending the MODSIM International Congress on Modelling and Simulation in Hobart, Tasmania. It promises to be another great event.

I spoke today on “Sampling bias and implicit knowledge in ecological niche modelling.” Out of the many interesting talks I listened to, one that stands out is “The Waroona fire: extreme fire behaviour and simulations with a coupled fire-atmosphere model” by Mika Peace. It introduced me to “pyrocumulonimbus clouds,” and some of the complex weather–fire interactions in severe bushfires. This is certainly a phenomenon that needs to be better understood.


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Angélique du Coudray, pioneer midwife


Angélique du Coudray

Angélique du Coudray (c. 1714–1794) was a pioneering French midwife. In 1759 she published a midwifery textbook, Abrégé de l’art des accouchements. Her introduction notes the fact that incompetence or lack of care can lead to the death of both mother and child, and continues with a politico-religious imperative: “Ignorons-nous que ces deux viâimes étoient chères aux yeux de Dieu, utiles à leur famille, & nécessaires à l’État? C’étoit un dépôt qui nous avoit été confié. Pouvons-nous, en les sacrifiant à un vil intérêt, ne pas trembler sur le compte exact que nous en rendrons un jour à celui qui leur avoit donné l’être?” (“Do we not know that these two lives were dear to the eyes of God, useful to their families, and necessary to the State? They were a deposit which was entrusted to us. Can we, if we sacrifice them to a vile interest, not tremble at the exact account that we shall one day render to Him who gave them to be?”).

To avoid such deaths, du Coudray explains proper prenatal care, and provides instruction on both normal deliveries and a range of common obstetric problems.


Illustration of a normal delivery, from the 1777 edition of Abrégé de l’art des accouchements

Also in 1759, Angélique du Coudray was commissioned by King Louis XV to tour the country training midwives, in the hope of reducing perinatal mortality. She personally trained thousands of midwives, many of whom went on to train others. Her training course was assisted not only by her book, but also by her Machine, a pioneering lifesize obstetric simulator. The Machine included realistic internal structure, such as bones and ligaments, and could be used to practice delivery of a baby in a range of different positions, while giving the trainee midwife a feel for the forces involved.


Angélique du Coudray’s Machine (photo: Ji-Elle)


MODSIM Day 1: Honeybee Colony Collapse

The MODSIM 2015 International Congress on Modelling and Simulation opened today with a plenary talk by Mary Myerscough on honeybee colony collapse disorder. The talk was based on work published in PLOS ONE and in PNAS.

Mathematical modelling strongly suggests that the problem is caused by the death of foraging bees. The colony reacts by drafting younger hive bees into the foraging role. This strategy works well as a response to short-term problems but, since younger bees are less effective foragers, it sets up a positive feedback loop which can cause colony collapse. What is worse, the signs of impending collapse are subtle, being reflected only in the number of adult bees.

This interesting talk also provided a wonderful answer to the perennial question “how is mathematics useful?” The mathematics was accessible to anyone who could understand differential equations, and the problem was accessible to anyone at all. And, because of their role as pollinators, bees are very, very important.


World Solar Challenge: Team 23

23  Kecskemét College Faculty of GAMF (MegaLux)

The team from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Automation at Kecskemét College are first-time participants in the WSC this year. Their car (above) has a really cool steering wheel (below). Hopefully, it is very fast as well!

The team have also developed this fantastic simulation model of the car in action. Good luck, team 23!

For up-to-date lists of all World Solar Challenge 2015 teams, see:

World Solar Challenge: Race Simulation

Solar Team Twente recently blogged about their 2013 strategy for WSC race simulation (Dutch video above). Such simulation training – ideally physical where possible, but computer-simulated where dangerous or expensive – is widely used in the medical and emergency-management fields (see below). Simulation of this kind is particularly important in team training. Twente recognised this, and spent three days practising their driving, control stops, tire changes, and other activities. They even got into the “outback” spirit by putting up fake kangaroo warning signs! This very professional approach to training would certainly have helped Twente gain 3rd place in WSC 2013. This year, they are doing it again.


Left: A training exercise on the US Navy hospital ship Comfort (photo: US Navy / MC2 Joshua Karsten). Right: A simulated rescue within an emergency management exercise in the Philippines (photo: Claire McGeechan/AusAID).