Download A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the by Paul N. Edwards PDF

By Paul N. Edwards

The technological know-how at the back of international warming, and its background: how scientists realized to appreciate the ambience, to degree it, to track its earlier, and to version its destiny.

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Yet these methods, too, have evolved. With each iteration in the cycle of reexamination, correction, and analysis, the climate data record changes. As a result, we have not one data image of the planetary climate, but many—very many. How can this be? Aren’t data supposed to be the stable cornerstone of the entire edifice of knowledge? ” In modern weather forecasting, for example, only about ten percent of the data used by global weather prediction models originate in actual instrument readings. The remaining ninety percent are synthesized by another computer model: the analysis or “4-dimensional data assimilation” model, which creates values for all the points on a high-resolution, three-dimensional global grid.

Only some of this communication is ever condensed into formal publications. Libraries and online depositories store and provide access not only to published results but also (increasingly) to raw data, preprints, and other intermediate products of scientific investigation; this storage and maintenance activity represents a major commitment of human and financial resources. To keep the whole thing going, large institutions such as national science foundations transfer money from taxpayers to researchers.

Dynamics of Infrastructure Development To be modern is to live within and by means of infrastructures: basic systems and services that are reliable, standardized, and widely accessible, at least within a community. For us, infrastructures reside in a naturalized background, as ordinary and unremarkable as trees, daylight, and dirt. Our civilizations fundamentally depend on them, yet we notice them mainly when they fail. They are the connective tissues and the circulatory systems of modernity. 9 Infrastructure thus exhibits the following features, neatly summarized by Susan Leigh Star and Karen Ruhleder: Embeddedness.

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