GEO 1111 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Reductionism, Systems Theory, Aspirin

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14 Aug 2016
The earth as a system
Reductionist approach: boil things down to their essence, then develop
math equations to help explain the phenomenon
Reductionism is bottom-up sci.
Sub-atomic particles > atoms > crystal
Kepler’s Law :
Aspirin triumph of the reductionist approach, explained by molecular
Darwinian evolution is another example
Systems approach: understanding natural phenomena
There is no equation that predicts Earth
Watch analogy (compared to Earth): the parts separately do not give an
idea of what the whole system can do, the watch as a system all-together
does help us know
System : a set of parts that together forms a whole (with surroundings)
Energy-in and energy-out are components of a system
Natural system traits
1. Thermodynamically open (mass and energy flows in, through and out, not
2. Disequilibrium (constant state of motion, parts interacting and feeding off
each other, just like gears of a watch)
3. Beginning and end
The sun and the heat generated by radioactive decay drive the internal
dynamics of the earth
Feedback: something that amplifies or suppresses a change
Positive: volcanism > CO2 increases > Temp. increases > water
vapour increases > greenhouse effect increases > Temp. increases
> … (loop)
Negative: greenhouse effect increases > weathering increases
(higher temp. and precip.) > rocks disintegrate quicker and Calcium
in oceans > decrease in CO2 > decrease in temp. > decrease in
water vapour > decrease in greenhouse effect < decrease in temp.
> … (loop)
The earth has performed experiment, the crime has been committed and
geologists need to figure out what happened, reverse problems
The modern is the key to the ancient
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