Limits and limitlessness: exploring time in scientific practice

Walford, Antonia (2013). Limits and limitlessness: exploring time in scientific practice. Social Analysis: The International Journal of Cultural and Social Practice, 57(1) pp. 20–33.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3167/sa.2013.570102

Abstract

This article explores some of the ways that time figures in the scientific practices of instrumental micrometeorology and climatic and weather modeling. It draws on ethnographic work done with the Large-Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia (LBA), an international scientific project that aims to assess the role of the Amazon forest in the global carbon cycle and to provide sustainable techniques for the future management of the region. An examination of the knowl- edge practices that have emerged from this ethnography (such as cali- bration and prediction) provides an opportunity to rethink the relation between ‘natural time’ and ‘social time(s)’. This allows for a discussion of the roles that certainty, uncertainty, finiteness, and limitlessness play in both scientific and ethnographic practice.

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