Quo vadis, natural science?
On Wednesday last week the town where I lived got 20 inches of snow in a twenty-four hour period. I got an unexpected, happy, day off work. Bizarrely, southern regions like Washington and Baltimore got much more than northern ones; Baltimore got 40 inches, Philadelphia got about the same. Records were set in both places for the snowiest winters in recent history. People were left wondering and reeling at this capriciousness of the Norse Gods.
So what could be the reason for this sudden onslaught of severe weather? That’s akin to asking what could be the reason for cancer suddenly emerging in someone’s body or for a particular drug demonstrating a slew of side-effects. The reasons are non-obvious, often non-intuitive, complex, multifactorial and extremely hard to determine. And that is also what one should say if asked to elucidate reasons for a particularly snowy winter.
But human beings don’t work that way...
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