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

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

by Paul N. Edwards
     
 

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Global warming skeptics often fall back on the argument that the scientific case for global warming is all model predictions, nothing but simulation; they warn us that we need to wait for real data, "sound science." In A Vast Machine Paul Edwards has news for these skeptics: without models, there are no data. Today, no collection of signals or

Overview

Global warming skeptics often fall back on the argument that the scientific case for global warming is all model predictions, nothing but simulation; they warn us that we need to wait for real data, "sound science." In A Vast Machine Paul Edwards has news for these skeptics: without models, there are no data. Today, no collection of signals or observations — even from satellites, which can "see" the whole planet with a single instrument — becomes global in time and space without passing through a series of data models. Everything we know about the world's climate we know through models. Edwards offers an engaging and innovative history of how scientists learned to understand the atmosphere — to measure it, trace its past, and model its future.

Editorial Reviews

American Historical Review - Ronald E. Doel
[A] stimulating, well-written analysis...a visual feast.

Environmental History - Steven Goldman
This is an excellent book and a valuable resource for all sides in the debates over global warming.

Review of Policy Research - Chad Monfreda
A compelling account of how political and scientific institutions, observation networks, and scientific practice evolved together over several centuries to culminate in the global knowledge infrastructure we have today.

Communications of the ACM - Thomas Haigh
A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming by Paul Edwards is an outstanding example of the potential for historians to contribute to broader public debates and give non-specialists insight into the work done by scientists and the process by which computer simulation has transformed scientific practice.

The Economist
A 2010 Book of the Year

Nature - Myles Allen
A thorough and dispassionate analysis by a historian of science and technology, Paul Edwards' book is well timed. Although written before the University of East Anglia e-mail leak, it anticipates many of the issues raised by the 'climategate' affair. [...] A Vast Machine puts the whole affair into historical context and should be compulsory reading for anyone who now feels empowered to pontificate on how climate science should be done.

Science Magazine - Richard J. Somerville
A Vast Machine...will be readily accessible to that legendary target, the general reader...The author's impressive scholarship and command of his material have produced a truly magisterial account.

American Scientist - Noel Castree
I recommend this book with considerable enthusiasm. Although it's a term reviewers have made into a cliché, I think A Vast Machine is nothing less than a tour de force. It is the most complete and balanced description we have of two sciences whose results and recommendations will, in the years ahead, be ever more intertwined with the decisions of political leaders and the fate of the human species.

Computing Reviews - Jeffrey Putnam
On the whole, this is a very good and informative read on the problems in atmospheric modeling and the way computers are — and have been — used in the process.

From the Publisher

"[A] stimulating, well-written analysis... a visual feast." --
Ronald E. Doel, American Historical
Review

The MIT Press

"This is an excellent book and a valuable resource for all sides in the debatesover global warming." -- Steven Goldman,
Environmental History

The MIT Press

"[A] a compelling account of how political and scientific institutions,
observation networks, and scientific practice evolved together over several centuries to culminate in the global knowledge infrastructure we have today." --
Chad Monfreda, Review of Policy
Research

The MIT Press

" A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the
Politics of Global Warming
by Paul Edwards is an outstanding example of the potential for historians to contribute to broader public debates and give non-specialists insight into the work done by scientists and the process by which computer simulation has transformed scientific practice." -- Thomas
Haigh
, Communications of the ACM

The MIT Press

"A 2010 Book of the Year" -- The
Economist

The MIT Press

"A thorough and dispassionate analysis by a historian of science and technology, Paul Edwards' book is well timed. Although written before the University of East Anglia e-mail leak, it anticipates many of the issues raised by the
'climategate' affair. [...] A Vast Machine puts the whole affair into historical context and should be compulsory reading for anyone who now feels empowered to pontificate on how climate science should be done." -- Myles
Allen
, Nature

The MIT Press

"A Vast Machine...will be readily accessible to that legendary target,
the general reader... The author's impressive scholarship and command of his material have produced a truly magisterial account." -- Richard J.
Somerville
, Science Magazine

The MIT Press

"I recommend this book with considerable enthusiasm. Although it's a term reviewers have made into a cliché, I think A Vast Machine is nothing less than a tour de force. It is the most complete and balanced description we have of two sciences whose results and recommendations will, in the years ahead, be ever more intertwined with the decisions of political leaders and the fate of the human species." -- Noel Castree, American
Scientist

The MIT Press

"On the whole, this is a very good and informative read on the problems in atmospheric modeling and the way computers are--and have been--used in the process." -- Jeffrey Putnam, Computing
Reviews

The MIT Press

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780262518635
Publisher:
MIT Press
Publication date:
02/08/2013
Series:
Infrastructures
Pages:
546
Sales rank:
557,125
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.70(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

James Rodger Fleming
This important and articulate book explains how scientists learned to understand the atmosphere, measure it, trace its past, and model its future. Edwards counters skepticism and doom with compelling reasons for hope and a call to action.

From the Publisher

"This important and articulate book explains how scientists learned to understand the atmosphere, measure it, trace its past, and model its future.
Edwards counters skepticism and doom with compelling reasons for hope and a call to action." -- James Rodger Fleming, Professor of Science,
Technology and Society, Colby College

The MIT Press

"With this new book, Paul Edwards once again writes the history of technology on a grand scale. Through his investigation of computational science,
international governance, and scientific knowledge production, he shows that the very ability to conceptualize a global climate as such is wrapped up in the history of these institutions and their technological infrastructure. In telling this story,
Edwards again makes an original contribution to a crowded field." --
Greg Downey, University of Wisconsin-Madison

The MIT Press

Donald MacKenzie
A Vast Machine is a beautifully written, analytically insightful, and hugely well-informed account of the development and influence of the models and data that are the foundation of our knowledge that the climate is changing and that human beings are making it change.

Greg Downey
With this new book, Paul Edwards once again writes the history of technology on a grand scale. Through his investigation of computational science, international governance, and scientific knowledge production, he shows that the very ability to conceptualize a global climate as such is wrapped up in the history of these institutions and their technological infrastructure. In telling this story, Edwards again makes an original contribution to a crowded field.

Meet the Author

Paul N. Edwards is Professor in the School of Information and the Department of History at the University of Michigan. He is the author of The Closed World: Computers and the Politics of Discourse in Cold War America (1996) and a coeditor (with Clark Miller) of Changing the Atmosphere: Expert Knowledge and Environmental Governance (2001), both published by the MIT Press.

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