“Too Lazy”: Episode 3 with Dirk Brockmann

This episode’s guest is Dirk Brockmann. Dirk is a physicist and complex systems researcher. He’s a professor at the Department of Biology, Humboldt University of Berlin and the Robert Koch Institute, Berlin. Berfore returning to his native Germany, he was a professor at Northwestern University.

Watch it on YouTube, or – even better – subscribe where you normally get your podcasts (Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, etc)

Dirk is a man of many talents. His academic work spans pioneering papers on human mobility and has also pioneered work on its connection to Infectious Disease Dynamics (there’s a super nice paper developing the idea of effective distance in Science a few years ago, but also many more). But that’s not all, he has many other papers, to give you a sense, he has a recent one on social networks of honey bees.

Read all about him and his amazing group of researchers here: https://rocs.hu-berlin.de

Finally Dirk has been a crucial voice of reason during the COVID-19 … dare I say becoming a bit of a celebrity in his native lands … all the while also making important scientific contributions on a number of aspects related to the epidemic.

Now. Dirk is also a rebel, so he decided to rebel against the “rules” of the podcast. And submitted a paper to me that wasn’t even his own work. But experience tells me, that unexpected paths are often the best ones, so I decided to roll with it. And it sure was worth it. In the podcast, we talk about a review paper by Ilana Zilber-Rosenberg and Eugene Rosenberg concerning the “hologenome theory of evolution” (1).

And it was glorious!

Relentlessly and methodically, Dirk took me into an amazing world of little creatures I knew little about. And I also detected a beautiful political undercurrent, in this story of life and evolution as a massive collaborative and mutually supporting endeavor.

Check out his hand-drawn illustrations here: https://twitter.com/suneman/status/1383359122700001283

If you love deep dives, this podcast is for you

  • [0:00:00] Intro by Sune
  • [0:04:08] We talk about headphone settings and friendship. [0:08:50] Why is Dirk a scientist?
  • [0:12:40] Patterns in Biology.
  • [0:16:15] Origin story. An anti-arrogance view of the world.
  • [0:25:10] We get started talking about the paper. The hologenome.
  • [0:33:33] An evolutionary theory that goes beyond the individual; beyond the concept of the species. It’s about collaboration.
  • [0:43:00] Meddling with Nature.
  • [0:55:22] What about variability?
  • [0:59:30] The collaborating Aphid.
  • [1:03:10] The “Ship of Theseus” and adaptability
  • [1:15:16] The invisible Squid; too complex to be intelligent design. [1:19:20] One more thing.


(1) https://academic.oup.com/femsre/article/32/5/723/2398937

The podcast has theme music by Waylon Thornton. Songs are “American Heart” and “Seven”. Via freemusicarchive.org and licenced under CC BY-NC-SA. The podcast was funded in part by the Villum Foundation

One response to ““Too Lazy”: Episode 3 with Dirk Brockmann”

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