Crafting Stability, Tipping Points and Chaos
How do you craft objects from the mathematical models that are used to investigate climate and environmental change?
Dr Markus Mueller and Samantha Gerlach’s collaborative project sought to translate those dynamic-behaviour mathematical models into crafted objects; these were creative interpretations of the concepts of stability, tipping points and chaos.
Basic mathematical models describing the Earth's energy balance have been used for over 150 years. For most of this time, it has been understood that the Earth’s atmosphere acts as an insulator that holds solar radiation, and therefore maintains and stabilises global temperature to produce conditions favourable to sustaining life. It is also acknowledged that the concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere might be responsible for an increase or decrease in the Earth's temperature.
From a mathematical viewpoint, temperature simply balances the equation of incoming and outgoing energy from the sun. As we inflict change on systems like the energy balance equation, or many other dynamically changing systems, it is possible that these systems will experience so-called ‘tipping points’. This means that a stable equilibrium state, and thus a balanced temperature, ceases to exist. This would result in a rapid and potentially immense change, e.g., 'Snowball Earth', in response to a changing climate.
Typically, it is not possible simply to reverse this effect because reversing the trigger for change may lead to chaotic and unpredictable behaviour of the system: in other words, global warming is not simply reversible by global cooling.
In July and August 2015, a summer show in the ESI's Creative Studio featured work-in-progress from three collaborations between ESI researchers and creative practitioners, including 'Crafting Stability, Tipping Points and Chaos'.