The above is an article recommended at Judith Curry’s Climate, Etc site and WUWT.
I don’t expect you to have the time to read this article about scientific knowledge having created so much data that we may never be able to catch up and understand any of it.
But one passage made me want to share it. Here is the passage:
We therefore stared at tables of numbers until their simple patterns became obvious to us. Johannes Kepler examined the star charts carefully constructed by his boss, Tycho Brahe, until he realized in 1605 that if the planets orbit the Sun in ellipses rather than perfect circles, it all makes simple sense. Three hundred fifty years later, James Watson and Francis Crick stared at x-rays of DNA until they realized that if the molecule were a double helix, the data about the distances among its atoms made simple sense. With these discoveries, the data went from being confoundingly random to revealing an order that we understand: Oh, the orbits are elliptical! Oh, the molecule is a double helix!
With the new database-based science, there is often no moment when the complex becomes simple enough for us to understand it. The model does not reduce to an equation that lets us then throw away the model. You have to run the simulation to see what emerges. For example, a computer model of the movement of people within a confined space who are fleeing from a threat–they are in a panic–shows that putting a column about one meter in front of an exit door, slightly to either side, actually increases the flow of people out the door. Why? There may be a theory or it may simply be an emergent property. We can climb the ladder of complexity from party games to humans with the single intent of getting outside of a burning building, to phenomena with many more people with much more diverse and changing motivations, such as markets. We can model these and perhaps know how they work without understanding them. They are so complex that only our artificial brains can manage the amount of data and the number of interactions involved. [emphasis added]
The bold passage immediately took my brain to traffic.
“Traffic?” You are probably asking, right?
In occasional discussions about driving and traffic (a big deal in the Chicago area, I assure you) I have probably heard twenty or thirty people rag on about when there is a barrier in one lane ahead, and “everyone” is getting in the non-barriered lane, forming one long line of courteous people, but then there is one discourteous “bastard” who drives up the almost totally open OTHER lane. These people get really LIVID about that guy “cheating” by not getting in line like everybody else. There is more to it even than, “Who does he think he is, anyway?”
Me? I grew up in an area where people didn’t all get at the back of one line, they formed two roughly equal-length lines, and merged when they got up to the front of each line, up at the barrier.
Which way is best? I don’t know.
Who is right and who is wrong? I don’t know.
But let’s discuss it a bit…