I am busy taking my graduate math courses and I’m also taking an introductory level science course on the atmosphere and meteorology. I am doing this because I would like to work with climate modeling. I was chatting with a casual friend, who is also a mathematician, who asked me:
“why are you doing mathematics to work on climate change? why not just do science?”
My initial response sounded something like, “…cause I like math…” But I realized I would be approached with this question repeatedly over my life and I should find a good answer. My roommate and I have a saying, “Math + Science = WIN.” We both believe this so intuitively that we never discussed why this equation would be true. I’m going to try to do that now.
The Shodor Education Foundation developed an online simple climate model we are using in my science class. They have an excellent page about creating models. Scientists model things when they happen too fast for observation, they are unsafe to experiment on, or in the case of the climate, we just can’t several experiment on the global system. As a result, the scientists make models to let them run experiments. When scientists model something they have to ask one very important question, “How do we know the model is right?” This is where the mathematicians can really help.
Mathematicians know a lot about models, and we know what kind of things models should do if they are robust. We can look at the original equations of the model to see that they make mathematical sense. As the models get more complicated, the scientists need more mathematicians to figure out if things are working together correctly or not. So as a combined effort, the mathematicians can really support the science by using their abstract knowledge on a specific model.
And that’s one reason why math + science = WIN. I’m sure there are more reasons, and perhaps better reasons. Can you think of any?