Speaker: James R. Fleming, Professor of Science, Technology, and Society, Colby College
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In 1960, using a small computer and a simple, but profound, non-linear model, Edward Lorenz (1917-2008) introduced chaos theory into meteorology, challenging the technological enthusiasm fueled by the recent arrival of numerical weather and climate models and Earth-orbiting satellites, and effectively ending a sixty-year neo-Laplacian quest for prevision. This presentation, based on Inventing Atmospheric Science (The M.I.T. Press, 2016), examines the work of three interconnected generations of scientists and the influence of three families of transformative technologies in the first six decades of the twentieth century. Discussion will emphasize issues of scale and how the atmospheric sciences are still in the process of coming to terms with chaos.