September 24, 2004


There are lots of different kinds of noise and what is defined as noise is often a function of reference frame. In my 12 May 03, I talked about Equation 0, which relates, data, models and residuals. In that frame residuals are noise and clearly as data and models change so will what is considered noise.

HOWEVER - the noise I am talking about today is the much more common form and in my case it has to do with keeping NYC streets clean and with moving people and goods around. I live on the 6th floor of a great building in a great location with the exception that the part of Riverside Drive where I live is a fairly important (which isn't to say busy) thorough fare. One of the things that I have learned by living where I do is that alot of street level noise abatment is accomplished by aiming the offending sources upward in a way that makes my office a particularly good receptor.

Zora's favorite reference for many things of interest great interest to people her age tells me that if you have to shout to be heard that the noise level is too high. Well when the buses go by, I can't hear the TV. And when the street cleaner goes by I can't hear myself think.

I am not sure what this has to do with Earth Systems Managment; except that it is an example of noise that I can't make go away simply by understanding it.

September 21, 2004

Nice weather map

Nice National weather map today:

I guess I like it for its simplicity and for the beautiful line of rain that tracks the trough alont the edge of the big High that is dominating the weather in New York and over most of hte country east of the Mississippi (and a bit to the west as well). Simple cold front disolving into a stationary front as the trough between Highs kind of falls apart.

Just off the map the remains of the storm called Jeanne can be seen. That storm ran into the big high and curved around to the east and off into limbo; however it looks like it is back to hurricane strenght and projected to head back to the NW over the next few days - kind of pointed at North Carolina, but who can tell at this point.

Earlier I had threatened to write alot about the wiring of universities - have no fear those thoughts are still out there...

September 19, 2004

Fall is here

It is a beautiful clear and crisp day in New York City today. The overnight low dipped well into the 50's for the first time in months and there is a pretty impressive high pressure system set up to the NNw generating steady NE winds.

The point with respect to this effort is that as tumultuous as our relationship with the planet may be, the seasons continue to turn. Humans are a forceful part of the Earth System, but we haven't yet started messing with the macro elements of our orbit around the Sun. The natural part of the Earth System is still out there and will always remain so. Sometimes you just have to wonder at it.

So then how does the current situation between the Yankees and the Red Sox figure into the the Natural functioning of things. An empirical argument would suggest that Friday's outcome was but a blip, kind of like the passing of a storm, while yesturday reflected a return of the macro systems of Fall. Another interpretation which looked at the pattern of the season as a whole might suggest that, just as the state of the Atlanic ocean has changed in such a way that it will produce more and more powerful storms, Friday's result is the precursor of things to come.

Looks like a great day for baseball at The Stadium!

September 15, 2004

the cost of Ivan

When Ivan does eventually come ashore and starts to knock things down, we will calculate the cost of picking them up again. But Ivan is already costing our economy tremendously. The Keys were evacuated nearly a week ago as were many other areas that now have very low probablities of experiencing the storms full force. Better safe than sorry, I guess

Each of those 100s of thousands / millions of evacuations has an a opportunity cost that I can't help but believe outweighs the increase in spending due to increased fuel, food and materials sales. Furthermore I am not sure that the spending in most cases is an actual increase, but rather a redirection. If most of the people who have to evacuate are in the lower income brackets (which is nearly assured), then the money they are spending on lumber and fuel would likely have been spent on other nearly as essential things anyway.

As far as I know we have no way of knowing whether our increased ability to forecast storm tracks and disseminate those forecasts actually saves money. I do expect that it save lives and perhaps that is enough...

One final thought - What if New Orleans and the lower Mississippi take this large storm on the chin? Will this be the event that finally overwhelms the Army Corp and send the Mississippi down the Atchafalaya?

September 14, 2004

tenure as defense

I learned something interesting today - A reasonable interpretation of the history of the development of tenure in the US is that is was a defensive reaction to a percieved threat during the time that disciplines and departments were evolving. During that time a layer of administration was developing beween faculty and the president of the university. And it was during this period of rapid evolution and growth that the American Association of University Professors (f. 1915) was formed.

These comments are reactions to reading Chapter 1 of Geiger's To Advance Knowledge and looking at the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) website; especially the Committee A page.

The percieved threat was that as universities grew and departments evolved, the legitimate sphere of faculty authority no longer encompassed the entire academic enterprise but became limited to a specific and restricted subset of that enterprise. On top of this, the primary concern of the leadership became the business of running the university rather than the intellectual affairs of its faculty and students.

My interpretation of tenure as defense then is that, in the US at least, it was invented to insulate faculty from the increasingly foriegn, and hence unpredictable (irrational?), actions of the administration. This is plainly an interpretation on my part. The AAUP, which is clearly the professional body at the center of the discussion and adjudication with respect to tenure, has as its mission the advancement of academic freedom. While state positively there is something adversarial to the tone of the AAUP's rhetoric that suggests that academic freedom needs to be protected.

This may indeed be the case; one of our founding folks (Jefferson probably) noted that, "Eternal vigalence is the price of freedom" None the less, I find it fascinating that one of the cornerstones of academia could have its roots in an adversarial move on the part of faculty and that, if this interpretation holds, tenure codifies the traditional tension between faculty and administrators in the research university.

September 13, 2004

So, what have you been up to?

time to bring this thing back to life...

From the prespectives of this blog, the last 14 months can be considered a black box, the challenge to the reader is to figure out what the inputs were, how the wiring has changed and whether it matters.

One of the outputs is that at least for the next little bit, the Earth Systems that I am likely to be fixated on will have more to do with the internal wiring of universities. In particular why are they wired the way they are? and What are the implications for any rewiring we might attempt to undertake?

I am in the process of launching myself as a consulting firm -
Earth Management Consulting: interdisciplinary solutions for evolving institutions
The bullseye audience is the set of academic institutions that sees rewiring in response to changes in the external intellectual, economic and political landscapes as a strategic part of their competitive advantage in the coming years. At the center of that bullseye are those institutions that see Earth Systems as key to that evolution. Surrounding those are institutions that want to develop other interdisciplinary topics as their foci and surround that are other kinds of knoweldge institutions (e.g. NGOs and government agencies) that also see the need to mangage and consume knowledge in new ways. (e.g. ProNatura USA)

The dominant theme at the moment is that I suspect that we may be going through fundamental shift in how academia is organized. I am thinking along the lines of the creation of ONR and NSF following WWII or the establishment of German model universities (Johns Hopkins and Clark) in the mid- to late 19th Century. For the moment, I am going to hold the exact nature of this shift close to my chest, but suffice it to say that if I am right, places that have a tradition of porosity across organizational boundaries are going to be in a much stronger position than those with a strong disciplinary traditions.

Pressing questions include:

  • Can the time necessary to implement institutional cultural change be shortened?

  • How strong are the historical settings of univeristies like Johns Hopkins, North Carolina State or Arizona State?

  • Can the rate evolution of univerisities match our need for new knowledge production?

Hilary says that my blog should be more like Somwhat employed. I am not sure how they are diifferent except that mine has more acronyms and the last 14 months are trapped in a black box as an exercise for the reader...