There was a book review in The New York Times last week by Cornelia Dean which began:
“When coastal engineers decide whether to dredge sand and pump it onto an eroded beach, they use mathematical models to predict how much sand they will need, when and where they must apply it, the rate it will move and how long the project will survive in the face of coastal storms and erosion.
Orrin H. Pilkey, a coastal geologist and emeritus professor at Duke, recommends another approach: just dredge up a lot of sand and dump it on the beach willy-nilly. This “kamikaze engineering” might not last very long, he says, but projects built according to models do not usually last very long either, and at least his approach would not lull anyone into false mathematical certitude.
Now Dr. Pilkey and his daughter Linda Pilkey-Jarvis, a geologist in the Washington State Department of Geology, have expanded this view into an overall attack on the use of computer programs to model nature. Nature is too complex, they say, and depends on too many processes that are poorly understood or little monitored — whether the process is the feedback effects of cloud cover on global warming or the movement of grains of sand on a beach…
Read the complete article entitled ‘The Problems in Modeling Nature, With Its Unruly Natural Tendencies’
You can buy the book entitled ‘Useless Arithemetic: Why Environmental Scientists Can’t Predict the Future’ at Amazon.com