The statistician George Box said that ‘essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful’. Depending on your point of view it is all too easy to get stuck up on the first part of that statement, ‘all models are wrong’ without paying attention to the rest of it. As scientists or even just people going about our lives, we interpret the world around us through the use of models and the assumptions that go with them. These models are not perfect, but hopefully they are useful, or have ‘skill’. That skill allows us to understand and interact with our environment and even to project forward our assumptions about how the world works, to try to understand the consequences of actions or choices that we have made, are making, or will come to make. Dr Gavin Schmidt, a climate modeller at NASA recently gave a TED talk on how models can be developed even for highly complex systems such as the Earth’s climate with enough skill to answer some of our questions and even pose new questions about about our environment and our relationship with it. It’s 12 mins, but well worth the time, especially in full screen.
Senior Lecturer in Renewable Energy
Sustainable Environment Research Centre
University of South Wales