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

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By Paul N. Edwards

ISBN-10: 0262013924

ISBN-13: 9780262013925

The technology at the back of worldwide warming, and its heritage: how scientists discovered to appreciate the ambience, to degree it, to track its prior, and to version its destiny.

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Extra info for A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming

Sample text

If they are really infrastructures, they eventually make older ways of life extremely difficult to maintain: think of family farms against industrial agriculture, or newspapers against the Internet. Every choice involves tradeoffs and consequences. Infrastructures have victims and “orphans” (people and groups who are unable to use them or to reap their benefits because of their circumstances)—for example, people with rare diseases ignored by pharmaceutical research, blind people unable to navigate graphics-based websites, and the 5 billion people still without access to the Internet.

Over time, as knowledge production becomes infrastructural, these relationships become increasingly invisible, even as they continue to evolve. The difference between controversial claims and settled knowledge often lies in the degree to which the production process is submerged. Thus, an established fact is one supported by an infrastructure. In the rest of this book, Thinking Globally 23 I explore the meaning and implications of this claim for knowledge about weather, climate, and global warming.

And since we are talking about global climate, we need some kind of picture of the whole planet—from the equator to the poles, across the continents, and over the oceans. How do we get that? Experience isn’t enough. No one lives in a “global” climate. 75°C, the amount we have seen so far. Extreme weather events—heat waves, hurricanes, droughts, floods—dominate human experience and memory, and they often create false impressions of average conditions. In the winter of 1981–82, the first year I lived in California, it rained in torrents all day, every day, for weeks.

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A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming by Paul N. Edwards


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