Monday, October 11, 2021

Nobel Prizes in Physics

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, History of Science, Nature of Science, Global Climate Change, Models

Ed Hessler

The 2021 Nobel awards in the various science disciplines have been awarded. I want to say a few things about the award in physics.

Three scientists shared the Nobel Prize in Physics award, two of whom,  fit neatly into the category of global climate change and one who seems to many of us, less related or not so clearly related to climate change. However, as Thors Hans Hansson, chair of the physics Nobel committee put it "These are two different prizes, but there is the common theme" with climate and the theory of complex systems. "We can predict what is happening with the climate in the future if we know how to code the chaotic weather."

An article written by Davide Castelvecchi & Nisha Grand in the British journal Nature provides a brief and informed summary of the awards made to two climate modellers--Klaus Hasselmann and Syukuro Manabe--and a theorist--Giorgio Parisi--of complex systems.

Climate scientist Bjorn Stevens of the Max Planck Institute for Meterology provides one of the best one sentence summaries of the fundamental contributions climate modelers made. Manabe showed us how and why increasing CO2 leads to global warming. Hasselmann showed that it is happening." And Manabe's reaction was priceless as well as humble. "But I'm just a climatologist."

Federico Ricci-Tersenghi at University of Rome La Sapienza, a former student noted that Parisi "opened up a way to see and interpret complex that until then had been missed, a theory "useful even for systems that at first sight seem to be completely random, such as the structure of glass."

Castelvecchi & Grand talked with John Wettlaufer, Yale University who said that "Parisi's research looks at underlying disorder and fluctuations and predicts emerging behaviour. The link between his work and that of Manabe and Hasselmann is that fluctuations are key for predictability."

This is how Goran Hansson, secretary-general of the Royal Swedish Academ of Sciences in Stockholm, which awards the prize said the award is saying. "[M]odelling climate is solidly based in physical theory and solid physics. Global warming is resting on solid science. That is the message." (my emphasis)

Please read the Nature essay to fill in details and learn more about the science and the scientists. It is worth the time, is accessible and important.

No comments:

Post a Comment