Page:Lawhead columbia 0054D 12326.pdf/4

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


studied by scientists. Dynamical complexity, a concept articulated in detail in the first third of the dissertation, is designed to bridge the gap between the mathematics of contemporary complexity theory (in particular the formalism of “effective complexity” developed by Gell-Mann and Lloyd [2003]) and a more general account of the structure of science generally. Dynamical complexity provides a physical interpretation of the formal tools of mathematical complexity theory, and thus can be used as a framework for thinking about general problems in the philosophy of science, including theories, explanation, and lawhood.

Methodological questions include questions about how climate science constructs its models, on what basis we trust those models, and how we might improve those models. In order to answer questions about climate modeling, it’s important to understand what climate models look like and how they are constructed. Climate model families are significantly more diverse than are the model families of most other sciences (even sciences that study other complex systems). Existing climate models range from basic models that can be solved on paper to staggeringly complicated models that can only be analyzed using the most advanced supercomputers in the world. I introduce some of the central concepts in climatology by demonstrating how one of the most basic climate models might be constructed. I begin with the assumption that the Earth is a simple featureless blackbody which receives energy from the sun and releases it into space, and show how to model that assumption formally. I then gradually add other factors (e.g. albedo and the greenhouse effect) to the model, and show how each addition brings the model’s prediction closer to agreement with observation. After constructing this basic model, I describe the so-called “complexity hierarchy” of the rest of climate models, and argue that the sense of “complexity” used in the climate modeling community is related to dynamical complexity. With