Sunday, April 10, 2016

Perhaps my last post - we'll see

I noticed that the posts of a friend who died of cancer trickled away to a non-conclusion, and this seems an inevitable difficulty, that the final post won't ever get writ.
I'd like my posts to have an ending, so I'm going to make this my final one - maybe.
While the doctors haven't expressed an opinion, I think it's possible I haven't got long to go, because I've lost 15 kg, and last Friday's CT scan showed that I've got secondaries on the go in my bones (as we already anticipated from the high ALP levels measured over the past weeks); my platelet count is very low, so they suspect that my bone marrow may be having trouble with cancer cells. On Monday they propose to take a bone marrow sample to find out what's going on. My extreme breathlessness continues - lying still in bed is fine, but getting out of bed onto the commode and back feels afterwards rather like a marathon. Maybe I'll pull through, but let's tentatively wrap up my blog-posts now.
There's lots I could write, but the way I'd like to stop is by pointing you to the writings of someone else. Max Edwards wrote a piece for the Guardian about his own cancer, and much of what he writes resonates for me. He was a remarkably eloquent writer.
Thanks for reading!


Unknown said...

Hi David,
Just to say, thinking of you. And sad to think you won't be here with us. Though I've not seen much of you for many years, I've seen what you've done for the world, and I've had the happiness of knowing I might see you on those rare visits to England. The rest of us will continue and will be joining you before we know it, but it's sad to lose you so soon.

Adrian Kent said...

Thanks for this and for everything, David. Max was very interested to hear about Dasher and the Global Calculator in his last few days. He was particularly happy that these, and
Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air , were
freely available, inspired as he was by altruism and the belief that we should work for the common good. He would have been very happy to see your link to his article.

Unknown said...

Good luck, David. Your book on information theory has been my go-to reference for many years. Thank you.

eiskunst said...

Dear David,

you are one of the most inspiring persons I have ever known. Thank you for everything you have done for the society. I really admire you, your strength and optimisms. Hope, it was not your last post!


ASuitableApartment said...

Dear David
Really painful reading your last two posts and hearing about your strength drain away. Keep thinking / hoping you'll write to report a dramatic improvement. Take care and please at least get a good night's sleep.


joabbess said...

Thank you a hundred million times. Listen to the stars - they're singing.

joabbess said...

Thank you a hundred million times. Listen to the stars - they're singing.

Unknown said...

Your book inspired me to investigate how I could decarbonise my lifestyle. I went on to swap my gas guzzling TT for an electric Nissan Leaf and persuaded my parents to install ground source heat pump + Solar PV.

dadeece said...

Dear David,
I'll come back to check for further appendices, but this seems like a good point to say 'Thanks'.
Thanks for this story.
Thanks for the numerous talks and lectures on climate change, energy planning and energy policy.
Thanks for your excellent books and notes on inference which saw me through undergraduate engineering.
Thanks for taking part in our government to provide a voice I trust on difficult issues.
Thanks for everything.

I'm not sure whether it was part of your intent or not, but one of the ideas I took away from your talks was that deciding to confront a difficult issue is the starting point and that there's no shame attached if the first attempt at solution isn't good enough. Just being on the path to improvement can be sufficient and may even be enough to bring others on the journey with you.

I wish you all the best.

Adam Dawson said...

Keep strong David. Thinking of you. Thank you for being such an inspiring person. Adam D.

KAP said...

Dear Dr. MacKay,

I have never met you nor communicated with you, but I wanted to tell you know that your book on energy is brilliant and will live long after you, and will continue to influence many, many people you have never met. Thank you, and keep fighting.

Keith Pickering

Keith D. Levin said...

Dr. MacKay,

Your influence on my thinking, both as a scientist and as a citizen, has been invaluable. My deepest thanks and best wishes to you and your family.

Keith D. Levin

planetcooler said...

David - our paths have only crossed briefly. I don't know who initiated your appointment as the first Chief Scientist at the new Department of Energy and Climate Change - but it was inspired. The rigour that you brought to the analysis of these two huge challenges was refreshing - and must have been difficult to sustain in a political environment. The signed copy of SEWTHA lives on my desk - and I am sure that the young(er) scientists and engineers whom you encouraged at DECC will remain indebted to you. As folk wake up to what the world is confronted with, the tools and methods that you drove forward under your stewardship will continue to provide valuable insight. With thanks and (hopelessly inadequate) best wishes on your difficult journey - Robin C -aka planetkooler.

Unknown said...

Thank you David. With your writing you have touched many lives. You are a great teacher and scientist, a great inspiration to think independently and fearlessly and work hard to improve our future.

I'm very deeply thankful to you.

Unknown said...

If this is so long, and I deeply deeply hope that it isn't, then thanks for all the paradigm changes.
John Laurie

Unknown said...

I loved your book so much I'm considering shifting into a new career.
All my thoughts for you and yours.


Pilgrim Beart said...

I'm so sorry to hear your news. Thank you for all your great works, including of course SEWTHA which completely changed my view of the world, and that of many others, and will for many years to come, I'm sure.

Thinking of you and wishing you all the very best.


rhirata said...

I am very sorry to hear that, David. I hope there is a chance you can recover your health. I also thank you very much for your work and your book. All the best!

Michael Shellenberger said...

Dear David,

Thank you for this brave and moving post.

I hope you are proven wrong, and that you will be back with many future posts, for many years to come.

Please know that you helped inspire a growing global movement of pro-nuclear environmentalists who have come together to advocate practical and ethical solutions to climate change. We admire the care and discipline with which you did your work.

Your contribution will live on.


Michael Shellenberger

Unknown said...

Many thanks for many things, including this blog, which has been both insightful and also (against the odds, given the subject matter) amusing.
But a more particular and personal thanks from me - it's thanks to you that I have a PhD. Some time ago, in the mid-90s, you wrote some neural network code which I and my colleague Joy Jones (now Warde) used to model the physical properties of nickel-based superalloys (based in the materials science department). By some miracle, and thanks to you generously sharing your code with us, I cobbled this into a passable PhD Thesis, and can say "Trust me, I'm a doctor".
From a slightly shaky start (in my hands) this research field has gone from strength to strength, and is a big strand of work in the Rolls Royce UTC in the Dept of Materials.
I fled academia, but got my next job thanks to my PhD, and 20 years later I found myself back in Cambridge, at the Department of Engineering, sitting in a meeting with you. I didn't manage to thank you that day, so am taking this chance. I'm sorry we didn't get to work more closely together, but many people will be taking your excellent work forward.
I wish you all the best.
Jennifer Schooling

Peter Norvig said...

David, Thanks for two books (on Inference and Climate) that changed the way I think about the world, and for Dasher which inspired other applications, and for a long history of key papers. I knew you were an avid bicyclist, but I didn't know you were an Ultimate player too -- it seems we share all the same hobbies and interests. I know that many of us are thinking that we need to step up and follow your lead as not only a scientist, but also a public advocate ... you are an inspiration.

Unknown said...

David, Thanks for your moving posts and for our conversations many years ago at Darwin. Am thinking of you. Don't give up yet! With my very best, Anna

Michael Karnerfors said...


You did good. Your legacy will live. You will continue to speak to people long after this post was written. Know that even after your conscious mind is no more, you will still exist and continue to provide a good argument for anyone and everyone that wants to build a sustainable future for ourselves and for our descendants.

Well done, thank you.


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Prof. MacKay,

We've never met, we've never spoken, I've never commented, so I should now. Thank you for all of your inspirational work. You helped change the direction of my career from physicist to someone who is focusing on energy and climate education. I've used your books and talks in my class. I've even started my own project. You've been a huge inspiration and simply wanted you to know.

With gratitude for all that you've done,
Jason Donev
University of Calgary

Barcelona said...

Dear David,

I'm not sure you remember me, I was a postdoc at TCM. When I arrived you kindly supported my application to Darwin College as a research visitor and showed me its beautiful grounds. Life at Darwin made a huge difference to my enjoyment of Cambridge and I gained many friends and wonderful memories from that time, which would not have been possible without your sponsorship. Thank you for this.


Unknown said...

Thank you for all of your hard work. Your legacy will live on! RIP

Unknown said...

Dear David,
My name is Clara Breteau and I interviewed you 2 years ago in your office at Cambridge on the subject of society's collapse for my Mphil's dissertation. I have a vivid memory of this talk and you seemed to me to be one of the rare courageous persons daring to face this daunting but nonetheless rational - things being what they are - future prospect of ours. While I was interviewing you my own father Abdiaziz Bahloul was in the terminal phase of cancer, and having just read your post I feel very moved and wanted to send you a grateful and warm goodbye. The best thing I remember about you and something I'll probably never forget was when I discovered - as I was researching your life and background to prepare the interview - that the biggest part of your biography was taken by the recipe of porridge. Unforgetable!
Have a good, just and serene way forward, whatever it will lead you to. All the best Clara Breteau

Unknown said...

David - I am sorry I never had the courage to say this to you - but you were always an inspiration to me. I have rarely met someone with such principles, letalone intellect. I wish I could chuck a disc with you one more time. Rik.

Unknown said...

I am very saddened by your post. I didn't know you were wrestling with cancer. I have deeply respected you and your creative thinking over the years. Your work and ideas will have everlasting influence. I love the picture you selected.

Erhardt said...

Hi David,

You introduced me to Cambridge Ultimate early on in my MPhil year at Darwin College, when I was trying to find roots as an American from a very different kind of university back in the U.S. Since then, I have regularly been inspired by what you have contributed to the wider world. As a PhD student at MIT, I have encouraged my colleagues in the Science Policy Initiative to reference your way of framing energy and climate change, and have reflected often how I might have an impact on society sharing my scholarship generously and earnestly like you have done. More importantly, I want to thank you for simply being a kind and encouraging person; I can only imagine the thousands of others like me who have been inspired after only the briefest of interactions with you.


Sustainawill said...

I thought this the best place to post my thanks to David Mackay for being the man he was and to send my sincere condolences to his family. I was unaware of his plight and as a father of young children, it fills me with sadness and reminds me just how precious life with them is.

I wanted especially to thank him for his work on energy. I was at one of David's first presentations in Cambridge when he started to take the issue of sustainable energy into his able grasp. His no-nonsense, pragmatic, incisive, practical, data-driven brilliance cut to the heart of the options to address the challenge we (still) face, through as he put it, just using good arithmetic. It is testimony to his work and communication ability how quickly it went from obscurity to being so influential.

His placement of science and engineering at the heart of energy (as opposed to economics, politics, marketing and policy waffle) was an inspiration to me personally and I have never stopped recommending his book to everyone I meet who has an interest in the area.

A very sad loss to the academic community and the world of energy and climate change policy/action. His work will continue to influence and to inspire me. My thoughts are with his family.


Aadya said...

Dear David, I sincerely hope and wish for comfort and respite for your body at the moment. I know that your beautiful mind is eternal and completely agile. Kindly consider voice recording your thoughts if permissible. I am very sorry for the pain you are feeling I pray that some medication gives you respite. Please do not give up hope, mind over matter is still one area which is being explored at least in many cancer centres in the US, including Mind-Body Centre at Harvard (MGH). Wishing you whatever will give you peace. Warmly, Aadya

Nick said...

Dear David,
RIP, and congratulations for having achieved so much in just 48 years. I interviewed you in 2001 about Bayes and information theory and learned a great deal from that brief conversation.
Nick Dunbar

Unknown said...

Dear David,

Your works should be required reading for energy regulators everywhere. Thanks for your contributions and may peace by with you.

Kevin Krause

K-NODE said...

Dear David,

This was a quite good experience knowing you. May God be mercy on you

Translation in Auckland

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Timtak said...

Brilliant blog. Very moving and in spite of things, positive. I think that David's widow should consider making this into a book.

Unknown said...

I wanted to add here my gratitude to David for all that he has done for the world. While I never met him on a one to one basis, I was privileged to attend his information theory course as an undergraduate. Since then I have also followed from afar his work on energy, as well as being a huge fan of his inference textbook. More than science however, it is very clear that he was a man of principle, humanity, and great kindness. It was a very pleasant surprise to hear that he had become the government energy advisor, you know that the job is in good hands when someone with his humanity is in the role. A true hero. It is with great sadness that I read about your passing David, thanks for being an inspiration!

Shashank Virmani

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Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing life experience. We are all supporting you from afar! I can hear your strength and positive growing in your words.If you need more information about cancer interventional radiology .

Sid said...

I've been watching your lectures on Information Theory and reading your book. I didn't even know you but I feel this immense loss all of a sudden. Thank you and I am sorry.

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So sorry to hear that you have passed away. Thank you for the reminder today to hug and love those dear to me. God bless you and your family.

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