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Mathematical Modeling of Earth's Dynamical Systems by Rudy Slingerland, Lee Kump

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CHAPTER1

Modeling and Mathematical Concepts

A system is a big black boxOf which we can’t unlock the locks,And all we can find out aboutIs what goes in and what comes out.

—Kenneth Boulding

 

Kenneth Boulding—presumably somewhat tongue-in-cheek—expresses the cynic’s view of systems. But this description will only be true if we fail as modelers, because the whole point of models is to provide illumination; that is, to give insight into the connections and processes of a system that otherwise seems like a big black box. So we turn this view around and say that Earth’s systems may each be a black box, but a well-formulated model is the key that lets you unlock the locks and peer inside.

There are many different types of models. Some are purely conceptual, ...

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