I mentioned a few days ago that i was planning to give a talk on "The Mathematics of Planet Earth" to the Penn State student math club, and this duly took place last week. There was a good crowd, including a few students from my Math 230H course lat year, and a group from the local chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World. I was encouraged by the turnout - and still more so (though a little scared) by a couple of requests that the lecture be posted online. So, above is a link to a YouTube video (in five parts) of the event.
I probably (okay, definitely) tried to say too much. There were three points I wanted to make:
- The paradigm shift from "empty world" to "full world", and mathematical ways of understanding that.
- Pretty simple calculations can help us get a feeling for the magnitudes of the challenges ahead - I tried to illustrate that by doing some global warming calculations, though I maybe included too much chemistry (one person walked out when I put up the hydrocarbon combustion formulae, but maybe that was unrelated)
- There are contributions mathematics can make through education and through research (probably the weakest part of the talk, partly through time pressure, partly because some of my ideas were a bit unfocused).