The Whale and the Supercomputer

Just finished Charles Wohlforth’s The Whale and the Supercomputer, a terrific read on a number of levels.

It is the story of climate change from the point of view of the people along the arctic who are living in its midst, woven with the research community trying to understand climate change as current fact and future implication.

Wohlforth straddles well the worlds of the native whalers, the global climate modelers and the armies of climate researchers trying to gather the data needed to stitch the whole climate story together.

To me, the most interesting thing was the way, like Norman Maclean in Young Men and Fire, Wohlforth leads us along on his own journey to understand and explain.

There’s a marvelous moment when he’s trying to sort out the complexities of federal funding for arctic research – Wohlforth frankly admits, “I didn’t hope to know the truth of the matter. As a machine for spending money, Washington was as complex and inscrutable as an ecological system.” Intellectual humility – a characteristic to be prized.