“The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything” is … 42 (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla, PhD)


“The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything” is … 42 (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla, PhD)

DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.2400.2324

[Updated with comments at the bottom 03/09/2014]

I am not so fond on using numbers to give answers to environmental issues. Let me break the ice here, you might recall “The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything” is: 42. (if you don´t know where is this coming from you would have to watch “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams”. You might enjoy it.)

     I have experience in evaluating the limitations of monitoring environmental atmospheric conditions from fundamentally looking at limitations when monitoring meteorological parameters and biological atmospheric particle load and transport (pollen). From my research, the papers that I have found through my career as researcher and my experience participating in debates there is a general bias admitted in today’s environmental data coming from conventionalisms based on prioritising building data sets. This situation induce many studies to overlook the impact that the disparity of representativeness between monitoring locations incorporates in the interpretation of many correlations.

Those limitations are consciously present in my position about global climate variations. I am not in neither side, claiming in favour or against AGW. Actually, I would like to follow a side walk, trying to be apart from any already adopted preconception, trying to start from the bottom up and see which conclusions could be found following separate paths.

We try to correlate increases in temperature with changes in our environment. That means looking at only parameters “knowingly” related with temperature. And this relation has to be direct in order to give the strongest correlations. The limitation that I see in this approach is that indirect effects from multivariable synergistic feedbacks are poorly considered. Instead of following the already settled in stone conception of temperature as the parameter to be correlated with anything or nothing I want to explore the idea of considering temperature as a mere symptom. Why not make the question backwards? Based on what we already know, what could be the possible implications in our ecosystem derived from the broad range of changes induced in our environment?

The most difficult thing in environmental sciences is to recognise and characterize thresholds based on correlations. No correlation can explain and forecast or project the transition from a primitive thermodynamic geologically dominated system to the origin of biological processes. That transition changed the chemistry of the environment in the hydrosphere, landscape, soil weathering and atmosphere composition, affecting the thermodynamics of the whole system.
No correlation can explain and forecast or project the genetic drift in evolution. The transition from simple structures with anaerobic and not solar related metabolism to complex organisms oxygen and solar dependent changed the availability of major volumes of elements by releasing them from their complex molecules into water cycles, ground and air. And it is as much difficult to understand which environmental conditions and parameters define the thresholds that change the magnitude of forces and trigger the activation of new systems (biotic and abiotic).

Lets imagine water as an unknown substance and heat to represent the concept of what I see as our limitations in understanding environmental evolution. The characteristics (physic and chemical) of this substance are different between states from solid, liquid and gas. The major correlation defining the presence of those states is temperature and therefore, the force affecting changes is heat. The strength of any correlation between temperature and water is different for each state of the substance. And there are thresholds that break the correlations by defining changes in molecular organization (freezing and boiling points). But also other factors affect those correlations such as impurities (soluble substances) and environmental conditions such as pressure and surrounding water saturation.

Following this idea, I would take Celsius degrees and liquid water to represent the time scale that we apply in studying environmental correlations. Similarly, in our timescale of environmental data, we see what happens between heat and temperature from 20 to 80 C. We can see raising temperatures in water correlating with other parameters (mostly heat related), and yet, the limitations of our measurements (we only monitor a small fraction of what is going on in our ecosystem, mostly in urbanized areas) and our understanding of synergistic interactions, make our models short-sighted to foresee thresholds marking points of inflexion which might induce changes in the dominant role played by the forces we know, as it would happen in order to foresee what would happen increasing temperature of liquid water beyond 99ºC. Or instead of temperature by increasing pressure, or instead Tª and Pressure by adding soluble particles or instead of … Are we ever be ready to use a number to measure the stability of our environment before establishing how it works? Would not it be like building models assuming liquid water beyond 100ºC? What are we measuring? How much amount of “something” or “everything” can the environment take without other numbers changing? What are we going to measure in order to define the “predictability” of our environment when this environment is constantly absorbing “unpredicted” fast paced alterations?

Let see simple numbers. How many mechanisms of resilience have we managed to identify in our environment at local and global scale? How many perturbations in our environment have already been identified by being linked with those mechanisms? Are we going to measure thresholds defining the limited capacity of those mechanisms to absorb perturbations?

Our environment, as we know it, is the result of many forces (internal and external, biotic and abiotic) exerting pressure against each other. The self regulated – constant adjustment between variations in those forces has created, as a result, the conditions that have been suitable for our ecosystem and ourselves to develop. And we have taken for granted that those conditions that we know, are regulated by forces so strong that anthropogenic pressure might not be “statistically significant” to interfere by any means. What we still don´t fully understand is how difficult or easy might be to interfere in the adjustment existent between those forces. It might be enough to allow one of those forces to gain strength over the others just to be the cause for a change in the adjustment.

In ecology as in biology, what it gives a 99% significant correlation, looking at causes having an impact over the health state of a system, does not come from what attacks the functionality of mechanisms of resilience, in biology called the immune system. Those threats do not aim to the organism existence, they just limit the capacity of defence against other threats. A 99% significant correlation comes from what threats the existence of the system by overcoming the mechanisms of resilience or just, the lack of them. In that way, anthropogenic pressure over the functionality of  the environment might not give ever a significant correlation when compared with other forces. For example,  tree rings will always be defined primarily by solar activity, however, one day it might become relevant to understand the role played in the ecosystem by the type of tree,  the location of those trees, their number and the stress factors affecting their metabolism.

There is a chance of that we might be looking in the wrong direction. Threatening the state of our ecosystem is a different matter that threatening the capacity of this ecosystem to absorb perturbations “in a manner suitable to our capacities for adaptation“. The question following this idea is about, what would happen if the global environment loses flexibility to absorb unusual variation from all the forces playing part in our climate?

The behaviour of the atmospheric circulation (climate) might well generate an indirect indication of fluctuations in forces being part of the mechanisms driving our climate. The correlations might also point to connections between Solar activity and localised events (AO/NAO/PDO/ENSO …). However, several studies have already pointed out that the atmospheric circulation, and potentially the oscillations associated, are also sensitive to the influence of established ecosystems (oceanic and continental). Thus, ativities changing the environmental performance of those ecosystems become part of the whole feedback network.

Measuring singularities might give us numbers. However, if we want to find a number, a significant number which represents the answer to all our environmental questions, I may well take that the answer is 42. What I am missing here, is not about the value of understanding numbers, but the meaningfulness of questions … And please, don´t get me wrong, I am aware of that I might be so off topic, or redundant, or biased, or …  that, my own point of view might be a meaningless one. I leave it open for debate… I just want to make a point.

“ON THE MEANINGFULNESS OF QUESTIONS”

(T. A. COWAN AND C. W. CHURCHMAN. 1946)

The history of Western culture exhibits a profound cleavage of opinion on the
nature of what its members take to be reality. On the one hand, there are those
for whom certain aspects, at least, of the “real” exist in the human mind only.
Others assign as the sole basis of reality the world of non-mental objects. This
difference of temperament is so pervasive that it forms a perennial theme, not
only for philosophers, but also for scientists, poets, and other students of the
vast panorama of the world and its people.
In a sense, this problem better than any other illustrates the intellectual
perverseness of the human species. For, here the mind of man raises for itself
the problem of distinguishing what it knows in and of itself, from the knowledge
which comes to it through extraneous sources. And, the instrument by which it
proposes to achieve this analysis is the human mind itself! Thus put, the problem
is obviously insoluble, if by a “solution” one means an end to the question.
For, the instrument itself is changed by its use, and an answer can only serve as a
stimulus to further questioning.
To those of us who have attempted in one form or another to base our philosophy
on an analysis of experimental method, this problem presents a constant
challenge. For, if the meaning of the real is to be found in an analysis of experimental
method, that is, if reality and scientific method stand to each other as
correlative “answer” and “question,” then the process is obviously an infinitely
prolonged task, and those who believe that ontology reduces to epistomology
once and for all must ignore the modern theory of progress as a never-failing
inspiration in man’s quest to make his knowledge of the world, not certain, but
more nearly certain.
Some of the “empirically-minded,” for example, have attempted to follow the
positivist lead, and to say that certain aspects of the ontological problem are
meaningless. Thus, one is tempted to assert that the question whether there
exists a real that has properties not known to us through observation (direct or
indirect) must be meaningless, since no experimental science could ever hope to
make even a beginning to its answering. Or, again, on the side of mind, our
positivist asserts that any question classical philosophy posed about minds which
cannot be answered by means of empirical evidence must be meaningless. Are
there thoughts and feelings that lie too deep for anyone’s knowing, except, perhaps,
for him who has them? How to answer such a question? If the issue
cannot be settled by empirical methods, then our positivist feels that it can never
be settled at all, i.e., that the question asked is neither true nor false, and hence
is meaningless.

Posts related:

Exploring the effects of humanly generated factors in the role played by Solar activity in the climate.

Looking at the influence of continentality in atmospheric circulation.

Cooking an Environment

_______________________________________________

Author’s Disclosure Declaration

For those unaware of the content offered in this blog I might have to issue a warning: Handle with care. Also with the product obtained from scientific analytical thinking there are traces of personal and professional “passion”, by-products obtained from “original and unpeered grey matter juice” originated from “independent critical thinking”. Also sometimes the packaging might be rough around the edges due to its “unfunded nature”.

4 years ago I joined a discussion which made me realise how much knowledge was settled on the past, built upon past conventions and unable to give answers about present developments in all parts of our environment. From the impact from GMOs, plastics, soils degradation, atmospheric composition, land use and cover, water cycles, … I had addressed scientifically unanswered questions before doing my PhD so I decided to give it a go and to offer my take over those gaps. It has been a pilgrimage to become aware of how much faith and fear is put on scientific publishing above raw understanding and discussion.

I do not know how far this blog will go, however, it represents the assessment of a global process and I expect that past posts will become a description of continuous present for the next years.

Altogether, the body of work which represents the line of research presented in this blog is composed by 170 pieces, covering data analyses and conceptual discussions. All those different discussions and assessments presented here build together a single concept. The format applied is the result of making a big effort trying to apply simplistic approaches with the aim to allow a multidisciplinary access. Since the topics treated in my publications have implications for many sectors in the academic and not academic world, with the aim of allowing my research for open review, there is also the objective of allowing access to a multisectorial and multidisciplinary audience sharing interest.

Diego Fdez-Sevilla Ph.D.

For a more profound discussion over my assessments and analyses as well as constructive feedback, please use my email d.fdezsevilla(at)gmail.com.

My agenda is simple, I am in transition looking for either funding to grow the research published in this blog or for a job position in any field in which my assets are valued. Behind my research there is nothing more, nothing else than to showcase my capabilities doing what I like, research. I am a methodologist. I don´t look at the color of the result obtained, only at the suitability of the method and the coherence of the result. As I have said before, if I am wrong on my assessments and conclusions, it will be better for all, and my work would showcase my capabilities anyway. A CV shines the goals obtained by anyone, but by publishing here my research, I expose myself and my work to public judgement. There is a difference between being naive and raw. If you see the difference you will understand better my work and my personal position.

The aim of publishing my work openly is to allow for it to be exposed for an open review. So any constructive feedback is welcome. After a period of time of at least a month from the publishing date on this blog and at LinkedIn, if no comments are found refuting the value of the piece published I then publish it at ResearchGate generating a DOI for posterior references.

In order to protect my intellectual rights, more assessment in depth and the statistical and numerical analyses that I have performed to support my arguments can be discussed at my email: d.fdezsevilla(at)gmail.com

If you find that my work is worthy to be acknowledged, share your thoughts openly and publicly because by sharing public acknowledging over the value of my work is what will help me in order to find the attention from those able to allow me access to a job position or resources to increase the functionality of my research.

Perspective

(This post is part of a more complex piece of independent research. I don´t have funding, political agenda or publishing revenues from visits. Any scientist working in disciplines related with the topics that I treat in my blog knows how to judge the contribution that my work could potentially add to the state of knowledge. Since I am in transition looking for a position in research, if you are one of those scientists, by just acknowledging any value you might see from my contribution, would not only make justice to my effort as independent researcher, but ultimately, it will help me to enhance my chances to find a position with resources to further develop my work.

I believe that the hypothesis that I have presented in previous posts in this blog (here, here and here) could help to understand present and possible future scenarios in atmospheric circulation. However, this is an assessment based on observation which needs to be validated throughout open discussion and data gathering. So please feel free to incorporate your thoughts and comments in a constructive manner.

If you feel like sharing this post I would appreciate to have a reference about the place or platform, by private or public message, in order for me to have the opportunity to join the debate and be aware of the repercussion which might generate d.fdezsevilla(at)gmail.com

This work is protected under Intellectual Property laws licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.)

Since October 2013 I have been publishing pieces of research studying the behaviour of the Polar Jet Stream and the weather events associated as well as the implications derived into atmospheric dynamics and environmental synergies.

Many of the atmospheric configurations and weather and climate events we see these days are very similar with the progression followed since 2013. Please take a look at posts addressing those events from previous publications in this blog or look at the categories in the top menu. Also at research-gate. Feedback is always welcomed either in this blog or at my email (d.fdezsevilla(at)gmail.com). All my work is part of my Intellectual Portfolio, registered under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License,  WordPress.com license and it is being implemented at my profile in researchgate. I will fight for its recognition in case of misuse.

More assessments presenting chronologically the line of research published in this blog can be accessed in the category Framework and Timeline.

For anybody interested in the posts related with this discussion here I leave you those more relevant in chronological order (there are comments bellow some of them. Please check them out, updated 09th Dec 2016):

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About Diego Fdez-Sevilla, PhD.

Citing This Site "Title", published online "Month"+"Year", retrieved on "Month""Day", "Year" from http://www.diegofdezsevilla.wordpress.com. By Diego Fdez-Sevilla, PhD. More guidance on citing this web as a source can be found at NASA webpage: http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/bibliography/citations#! Bachelor in General Biology, Masters degree "Licenciado" in Environmental Sciences (2001, Spain). PhD in Aerobiology (2007, UK). Lived, acquired training and worked in Spain, UK, Germany and Poland. I have shared the outcome from my previous work as scientific speaker in events held in those countries as well as in Switzerland and Finland. After couple of years performing research and working in institutions linked with environmental research and management, I find myself in a period of transition searching for a new position or funding to support my research. In the present competitive scenario, instead of just moving my cv and wait for my next opportunity to arrive, I have decided to invest also my energy and time in opening my own line of research showing what I am capable of. The value of the data and the original nature of the research presented in this blog has proved to be worthy of consideration by the scientific community as well as for publication in scientific journals. However, without a position as member of an institution, it becomes very challenging to be published. I hope that this handicap do not overshadow the value of my work and the intellectual rights represented by the license of attribution attached are respected and considered by the scientist involved in this line of research. Any comment and feedback aimed to be constructive is welcome. In this blog I publish pieces of research focused on addressing relevant environmental questions. Furthermore, I try to break the barrier that academic publications very often offer isolating scientific findings from the general public. In that way I address those topics which I am familiar with, thanks to my training in environmental research, making them available throughout my posts. (see "Framework and Timeline" for a complete index). At this moment, 2017, I am living in Spain with no affiliation attachments. Free to relocate geographically worldwide. If you feel that I could be a contribution to your institution, team and projects don´t hesitate in contact me at d.fdezsevilla (at) gmail.com or consult my profile at LinkedIn, ResearchGate and Academia.edu. Also, I'd appreciate information about any opportunity that you might know and believe it could match with my aptitudes. The conclusions and ideas expressed in each post as part of my own creativity are part of my Intellectual Portfolio and are protected by Intellectual Property Laws. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial conditions. In citing my work from this website, be sure to include the date of access. (c)Diego Fdez-Sevilla, PhD, 2016. Filling in or Finding Out the gaps around. Publication accessed 20YY-MM-DD at http://www.diegofdezsevilla.wordpress.com/
This entry was posted in Cultural Cognition, Filling in, Finding out, Opinion and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to “The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything” is … 42 (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla, PhD)

  1. Lets hope that the environmental dynamics that we consider to be predictable throughout our models do not surprise us with unexpected behaviours under new unprecedented conditions.
    http://www.iflscience.com/physics/supercooled-helium-does-things-dont-seem-possible

    Like

  2. Here I want to share a reference to an article which I believe is complementary with the point which I am trying to make in my post.

    “Scientific method: Statistical errors.
    P values, the ‘gold standard’ of statistical validity, are not as reliable as many scientists assume.” By Regina Nuzzo, 12 February 2014.

    … More broadly, researchers need to realize the limits of conventional statistics, Goodman says. They should instead bring into their analysis elements of scientific judgement about the plausibility of a hypothesis and study limitations that are normally banished to the discussion section: results of identical or similar experiments, proposed mechanisms, clinical knowledge and so on. Statistician Richard Royall of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, said that there are three questions a scientist might want to ask after a study: ‘What is the evidence?’ ‘What should I believe?’ and ‘What should I do?’ One method cannot answer all these questions, Goodman says: “The numbers are where the scientific discussion should start, not end.”

    http://www.nature.com/news/scientific-method-statistical-errors-1.14700

    Like

  3. (open debate with members from LinkedIn. Names are kept anonymously (unless specifically stated by author) for privacy reasons.)
    ————————
    Scientist at Himachal Pradesh agricultural university
    No never we work hypothetically. Practical precision is necessary to combat the burning issue.

    Visiting profesor, at Forest Science Faculty, UANL
    We need to test it how it works before taking any measure.

    Diego Fernández Sevilla, Ph.D.
    Aerobiologist and Environmental Research Analyst
    (in job search mode worldwide. diegofdezsevilla.wordpress.com)
    Thanks for your comment. I am just trying to make a point. I sense that there is a subtle barrier that separates points of view and efforts when analysing and debating environmental issues. And my hunch is that part of it comes from a misconception in the way sometimes numbers are applied to defend those points of view . What I am trying to bring into play, opening this topic for discussion, are the limitations and side effects of applying and giving to numbers and statistics the role of “answers” instead of being considered by what they are, tools. This situation makes some debates to lose conceptual meaning by becoming a clash of statistical technicalities.

    Like

  4. Pingback: Drinking from the source (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) | diego fdez-sevilla

  5. Pingback: Atmospheric Circulation and Climate Drift. Are we there yet? (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) | diego fdez-sevilla

  6. Pingback: Do You Believe in the Value of Your Work? (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) | diego fdez-sevilla

  7. A new article has been published following the point of view addressed in this publication. You can find more discussion over these recent developments in the following link:
    Do You Believe in the Value of Your Work? (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) | diego fdez-sevilla
    https://diegofdezsevilla.wordpress.com/2016/02/23/do-you-believe-in-the-value-of-your-work-by-diego-fdez-sevilla/

    Like

  8. Pingback: Atmospheric Dynamics. Foreseeable, At The Moment. (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla, PhD.) | diego fdez-sevilla, PhD.

  9. Pingback: Climbing the Hill of Acknowledgement. Peer reviewed articles supporting previous assessments and research published in this blog. (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla, PhD.) | diego fdez-sevilla, PhD.

  10. Pingback: Climbing the Hill of Acknowledgement. Peer reviewed articles supporting previous assessments and research published in this blog. (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla, PhD.) | diego fdez-sevilla, PhD.

  11. Pingback: Ups and Downs on Climatic Assessments. A Matter of Multiple Perspectives from the Same Point of View (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla, PhD.) | diego fdez-sevilla, PhD.

  12. Pingback: Communication takes more than just publishing thoughts. (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) | Diego Fdez-Sevilla, PhD.

  13. Pingback: So Many Questions, We Have Stopped Asking New Ones. (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla, PhD) | Diego Fdez-Sevilla, PhD.

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