Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Cant Predict the Future


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So the tone of the book is already biased, but nobody would say that it is intended to be an unbiased look at the ways that we plan and justify our interventions in natural systems. Geographers in the southeastern U. His documentation of the vicissitudes of beach replenishment, the very useful series of "Living with the Shore," and his more recent critiques of coastal business-as-usual are all well known to anyone interested in coasts and beaches.

Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Can't Predict the Future

His co-author, Linda Pilkey-Jarvis, brings expertise in both environmental contamination problems and public administration. The pairing of a serious academic gadfly with an environmental scientist who works professionally in the public arena makes for a broad, and very useful, perspective. The book is organized around seven case studies in which quantitative mathematical modeling has been at least misleading and at worst highly damaging. Each case is described in a chapter: Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.

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Without cookies your experience may not be seamless. In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content: We all use models—simplified representations of things, processes, and systems—in ways that range from helping us make decisions ranging from day-to-day personal tasks going to a grocery store requires a mental model of one's current location, the location of the store, and the route between the two to enhancing scientific understanding of the most complex patterns and processes of the universe.

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Project MUSE Mission Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide. Contact Contact Us Help. And that would be just fine if a bit intimidating if the mathematical models accurately described the world. In fact, mathematical models are often so divorced from the real world they are intended to describe, and the figures on which the models are based often chosen so arbitrarily, that basing decisions on those models can actually hasten the rate of damage done to the environment.

Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Can'T Predict The Future By Orrin H Pilkey

Faced with the prospect of assuring the public that the dump would remain leak-proof for 10, years — later expanded by court decree to a million years — environmental scientists, geologists, hydrologists, and engineers took it upon themselves to render mathematically the entire mountain, its structure and surroundings, the flow of water around and through it, and a host of other climatic, biotic, and geologic factors. This was done to determine whether highly radioactive waste placed in storage within the mountain would stay there for the requisite number of millennia.

Imagine writing the math to cover every layer of rock in the mountain, unseen except through sampling and remote sensing, and trying to account for every hairline crack, then using that data to predict how the mountain will change — down to that same hairline crack level — after 10, years of earthquakes in the seismically active Mojave.


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The local water table is 2, feet below the surface, and the mountain is in a basin with no outlet to the sea. But 12, years ago, there were gigantic freshwater lakes in the Mojave. And not too long before that, water flowed from what we now call Death Valley, a similar basin only a few miles west of Yucca Mountain, into the Pacific Ocean.


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What will the climate be like in the Mojave in another 10, years?

Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Cant Predict the Future Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Cant Predict the Future
Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Cant Predict the Future Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Cant Predict the Future
Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Cant Predict the Future Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Cant Predict the Future
Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Cant Predict the Future Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Cant Predict the Future
Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Cant Predict the Future Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Cant Predict the Future
Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Cant Predict the Future Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Cant Predict the Future
Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Cant Predict the Future Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Cant Predict the Future
Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Cant Predict the Future Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Cant Predict the Future

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