On edge and in-between
Titling your Physics World post ‘This article is based on fictional events’ does make it stand out. And David Boyt describes an event I’d wish I’d been to; as part of London Mathematical Laboratory’s Science on Screen series, statistical physicist Valerio Lucarini discussed how Lars von Trier’s 2011 Melancholia “inspired in him a new way of thinking and provided the missing piece of the puzzle for his research.”
I’ve enjoyed von Trier’s thoughtful film, and it’s intriguing to ask how what’s “ostensibly a disaster movie, in which a giant planet – “Melancholia” – is on course to collide with the Earth” could help resolve researcher’s block. “Central to the film’s dramatic tension is a sense of waiting, an inability to predict what’s going to happen” – providing Lucarini the spark for his paper on fluctuations in the Earth’s climate system between two stable states. “The so-called edge, or Melancholia, state – is the paper’s central theme … ‘We can understand states – climatic or emotional – but what do we know about the transition between them, and what mechanism decides where we end up?'” In-between states, it seems, can improve our understanding of changes in both climate and human conditions.