Spring 2021 Update & Reflection

Date: April 11, 2021

This is a belated update! On a personal note, I spent much of 2019 working on a university spinoff venture related to a new e-publishing platform, and then most of 2020 catching up with teaching and other employment to recover from that start-up. Covid and the civic events of 2020 also gave me pause to listen and reflect to the pain many are feeling.

Meanwhile, the older HistoryQuant and History Dynamics sites have been consolidated into the site. Yes, that is with a “1” and a “0”.

Like the earlier sites, concerns the development of a unified, quantitative science of human history. There have been some extremely critical statements about the creation and utilization of science and mathematics. However, the invention and development of math and science have been neither monocultural nor mono-racial. Peoples and cultures from across the globe and throughout the course of history have made original discoveries and breakthroughs. The ancient great pyramids and structures of Asia, Africa and the Americas were not made through physical effort alone but from equally amazing edifices of math and science. Although math and science have been used at times by European cultures to facilitate oppression, neither are exclusively European or oppressive. They are the shared heritage and domain of all humans.

The relationship between history studies and sustainability is likewise complicated. History expresses stories of sustainability over centuries and millennia. A truly sustainable human society arguably requires a fundamental understanding of historical processes. Unfortunately, the term sustainability has been used to advocate preservation of resources in often inequitable ways. Historical research should not turn a blind eye to impacts on inequities in sustainability advocacy.

So what progress has been by this endeavor over the past few years?

grassy areas and tiny horses

Simulation of nomadic riders across a grassy region

Presentation to Emergy Systems at U of Florida

Date: August 23, 2018

A presentation on Emergy and efficiency analysis of historical bubbles was made at the 10th Biennial Emergy Research Conference, Emergy Synthesis 10, held at the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL, on January 25-27, 2018.

The concept of emergy is essentially the amount of available energy that has been used up to create a present quality of available energy. For example, to produce coal that can be burnt in a power plant, the coal was likely dug out by petroleum-consuming mining equipment, and transported by a petroleum-consuming train. In turn, that petroleum required a lot of energy for exploration, drilling, refining and transport to the mining equipment. Emergy comprises the sum of these energy inputs rather than the available energy in, say, a ton of coal itself. Emergy is useful in studying the flows and consumption of energy in a wide range of systems from swamp ecosystems to the global economy.

If less emery is utilized to produce one ton of coal than another, then one could say that the production process for that one ton of coal was more efficient that the process to produce the second ton of coal. Since the analysis of dynastic and economic bubbles involves efficiency, the emergy approach is of special interest to physical and quantitative history.

Emergy Synthesis 10

Publication: Navigating the Currents of History

Date: March 29, 2018

This piece is part of a forum on Organizing World History in World History Connected organized by Rick Szostak of the University of Alberta.

Column chart of China dynasties versus time, with a slight downward trend

Duration of Chinese dynasties versus time

“Navigating the Currents of History” (World History Connected, University of Illinois Press, February 2018) represents an attempt to create a generic, but unified conceptual language to describe a broad range of phenomena, ranging from history to the geosciences. The goal such an effort is to make it easier to compare diverse phenomena to recognize similarities and also to develop a deeper understanding of the fundamental principles that unify these diverse areas.

Update—Winter 2018


(It has been over a year since the last update, but I needed to temporarily reduce activities to spend more time dealing with family health issues. Hence the update hiatus.)

There have been two areas of special effort. The first is to develop a generic but unified language that describes a broad range of phenomena, ranging from history to planetary processes. The second is to delve further into physical and geographic data and analysis.

Recent work has focused upon entering more data into the Colossus world history simulator and analyzing the relations between additional dynasties.


Update—Mid 2016

Date: May 15, 2016

Group of people writing at table

Winter Institute 2016, San Diego

It has been several months since the last update, but work has been continuing in several areas.


HistoryQuant continues to conduct research in the following areas.

Community and Winter Institute

Conference Presentation

Dynasty Power Simulations Available!

Date: December 18, 2015

Rising then steeply falling plot

Romanov dynasty power profile

HistoryQuant can use its unique simulators to generate a power models of your favorite historical dynasty using techniques derived from thermodynamics. Large, independent, robust dynasties work best.

For more information about the general approach, see (with the understanding that the methodology has been somewhat updated since that paper).

The HistoryQuant workflow:

Steps from left to right

History lab workflow

Wake-Up Call: Technologists’ Take of History Coming to HBO

Date: May 9, 2015

Perspectives on History logo

Letter to the American History Association Perspectives magazine regarding how Interstellar’s screenwriter Jonathan Nolan recently announced that he is developing an HBO series to adapt science fiction author Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels, and how the history community should work before the showing to prevent misconceptions, and to guide increased interest in history into channels where it can be most effective and beneficial.

News from the 2015 AHA Annual Meeting

Date: January 3, 2015

AHA 2015 meeting banner

The 2015 AHA Annual Meeting demonstrated the rapid influx of digital technology and even the “hard” sciences into the realm of historical research. Sessions of particular interest included The Resurgence of Science in Historical Method and History and Biology: History and Evolution. Such has not been without controversy, as demonstrated by Ethan Kleinberg’s talk Just the Facts: The Fantasy of a Historical Science. There were too many digital humanities sessions to mention here.

Mark Ciotola gave a lightning talk on Developing Ruby Programming Simulations for History and Using R for Visualization. Relevant links follow:

Requirements of a Science of History

Date: November 26, 2013

Painting of man holding a small telescope

Galileo Galilei by Justus Sustermans

The physical sciences have advanced so far due to the utilisation of the scientific method and their unified nature.

In the scientific method, a hypothesis can be quantitatively tested and rejected rather than relying upon anecdote and informal observation. Using the scientific method, Galileo was able to establish that all objects fall to the surface of the Earth at the same rate, regardless of their mass, unless a counterforce such is present, such as atmospheric drag. This was counterintuitive, and flew in the face of contrary longstanding conclusions made by Aristotle and others.

The scientific method is necessary but not sufficient to develop a really powerful science of history. Social sciences such as sociology already use the scientific method in many cases. Yet those sciences remain highly disjointed, and relatively ineffectual.

The unified nature of the physical sciences (engineering, and to some extent the natural sciences) is an under-appreciated but vitally important source of their effectiveness. The demonstration by Isaac Newton that phenomena in both space and on the Earth were subject to the force of gravity was the cornerstone of this unification. Previously, terrestrial and celestial phenomena were treated as being subject to separate sets of laws.

Painting of man with long hair

Isaac Newton by Godfrey Kneller

In the unified physical sciences, a hypothesis must produce results that are consistent with the generally accepted principles of physics. It is expected that a hypothesis in the atmospheric sciences will be consistent with the known laws of thermodynamics, such as conservation of energy. When a hypothesis is inconsistent with the laws of physics and cannot be refuted using observational evidence, then the laws of physics must be changed. A principle in astronomy can hence be related and constrained by a principle in geology. Since the laws of physics are invariant across time and space, a planet around the Sun follows the same laws as a planet around a distant exoplanet.

To be truly effective, a science of history must be unified within itself. One principle must be consistent with another. This will be bitter pill to swallow for armchair kings and emperors who savor multiple theories and fought over them with ferocious enjoyment and indignant delight.

The pill gets more acerbate. To approach the effectiveness exercised by the physical sciences, a science of history must also be unified with the laws of physics. If so, historical phenomena must be constrained by physical laws such as the conservation of mass and energy. This is a controversial proposition, and not likely to be accepted without an overwhelming amount of supporting evidence and the passing of time.

In summary, for a science of history to approach the effectiveness of the physical science, it must use the scientific method, be unified within itself, and be unified with the laws of physics.

Links Page Provides Brief Survey of Science of History Field

Date: November 15, 2013

The Links page serves as a brief survey of endeavours related to the new science of history. will post news, articles and reviews about many of these endeavors and tools, and analyze how they all fit together. If any vital links have been missed, please tell the Editor!

Copyright Mark Ciotola.