How to Avoid the Tribal Trap of Stories

A Scientific Approach to the Way We Think


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A new piece of mine was featured in Areo Magazine. Here is a synopsis:

In Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari highlights the importance of stories (religious, national, etc…) as the basis for human cooperation and of our modern societies. Stories are able to fill that role because of the way they shape how we think and provide shared morals. Cognitive research shows that we use analogy-based mental models to interpret and understand our reality. However we have seen that stories can also fuel tribalistic attitudes and dogmatism. Pointing out the parallels between mental and scientific models, this piece highlights the lessons we can learn from the scientific method in improving our reasoning and development of moral values.

Read the full article here:

An integrated 1D–2D hydraulic modelling approach to assess the sensitivity of a coastal region to compound flooding hazard under climate change

I’m excited to share my first academic paper, which was just published in Natural Hazards!

It is freely available in Open Access at the following link:


Catherine Deneuve, #MeToo, and the Fracturing Within Feminism

I recently had the opportunity to write an opinion piece for the online magazine Quillette.

When 100 women, including Catherine Deneuve, signed a letter warning over potential excesses of the MeToo movement, they faced a serious backlash. I argue that their nuanced view is valuable and is not only compatible with the fundamental message behind #MeToo, but can also help it lead to concrete change.

Check out the article on Quillette for more on that.

As an anecdote, my article was shared on Twitter by one of the 5 original authors of the letter, Peggy Sastre. For all its faults, social media does provide an amazing reach for voices that would have no reason to be heard other than for the ideas they express.



President Macron – a new French revolution?

A big thanks to My French Life for publishing this article on their website. My French Life is a must-read for English-speaking francophiles. Do check it out! 


With the election of Emmanuel Macron, France has entered a true political revolution that had been brewing for months, if not years. “Revolution” was the title of the 39-year-old’s book in which he laid down his vision for the country with the launch of his new movement En Marche! (“Onward!”). The choice of words seemed a little presumptuous at the time. After all, France has had its fair share of revolutions. And yet, in electing someone without a membership card from either of the two main historical parties, the French people have thrown their country into a state of unprecedented uncertainty — the kind of chaos reminiscent of any significant upheaval.

With Brexit and the election of Donald Trump in the past year, liberals can finally rejoice. For once, the growing wave of protectionism has been crashed down in a western democracy — it’s not all bad. Marine Le Pen very much embodied the same rejection of the status quo that we saw in Britain and the United States. She undoubtedly felt emboldened by Trump’s success and employed some of her fellow blond’s — let’s say — unconventional tactics. However, there is a point here that is lost, and that will be important to learn from. Macron was also born out of the rejection of the same system. Where Macron’s position is groundbreaking, is that he translated this rejection into an internationalist, inclusive and optimistic voice.

Continue reading “President Macron – a new French revolution?”

[R] Plotting results from extRemes package – Extreme Value Analysis


Something a little different to my usual posts and targeted to people interested in Extreme Value Analysis (EVA).

I have been working on an analysis of extreme sea levels as part of my PhD on flooding risk. If you are familiar with EVA in R you will have likely come across the extRemes package, written by Eric Gilleland. While I am not (yet!) an expert in EVA, I have found this package to be quite accessible.

The package’s main function, ‘fevd()‘, fits an extreme value distribution to data. Methods for plotting are available for objects of class ‘fevd‘ to produce diagnostics and result plots, such as a return level plot.

My issue is the restricted control you seem to have over the plot’s layout and general look. You can choose which plots to show, or to add a custom title, but not much else. What if you want to customise the plot to your liking, plot the results in another software/package or display two EVAs on the same figure as shown above?

Continue reading “[R] Plotting results from extRemes package – Extreme Value Analysis”

COP21: The Anchor to the Storm in Paris

This post was originally written for the EnvEast Doctoral Training Partnership student blog. EnvEast is a collaboration between three UK universities, including University of East Anglia where I am carrying out my PhD. The blog can be found here

The Paris motto is painted on the Place de la République following the shootings in the capital (credit @LucieSoullier)
The Paris motto is painted on the Place de la République following the shootings in the capital (credit @LucieSoullier)

Fluctuat nec mergitur

“Battu par les flots, mais ne sombre pas. Tossed by the sea, but not sunk.”

Continue reading “COP21: The Anchor to the Storm in Paris”

The environmental paradox behind the Tianjin explosions

From water scarcity to air pollution, without forgetting world-leading greenhouse gas emissions, China is facing a multi-faceted environmental crisis. I was able to witness the extent of the issue first hand when I studied Environmental Management at Tsinghua University in Beijing as part of a joint program with the French university Mines ParisTech. The resounding blow of the August 12th explosions in Tianjin – which killed over a hundred people – has now pulled me back to that time spent in the “Middle Kingdom”. Amidst the apparent lack of available information about the disaster and fears of cyanide pollution, a memory that stands out is my field trip to Tianjin in 2013, which highlights a revealing paradox.

Tianjin explosion aftermath Continue reading “The environmental paradox behind the Tianjin explosions”