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Editorial - Nº 7 of Uruguay Ciencia - May 2009

A topic often discussed has finally found its place in Uruguay Ciencia magazine: the weather forecast. It is one of those topics which link scientific knowledge to the needs and basic feelings of human beings towards nature and the others. Among them: the desire to foresee the future, the need to recognize patterns repeating themselves in nature, the desire to master the environment without feeling fear or defenseless. Regarding relationships between individuals, people have a need for guidance, a "father", someone to solve all problems and at the same time, and in conflict with the previous one, the need for freedom, for independence, for being masters of our own decisions.

When a natural disaster occurs, the society sustaining the damages must be organized in order to aid those injured and to restore the order of the place, town or city. An organized and efficient action depends on who directs it, on the instructions given and their clearness, as well as on the ones who follow said instructions. It is essential to ensure the accuracy of the information given, to ensure that the final user receives it without any distortion whatsoever, and that the instructions should be reasonable, that they can be followed easily, but above all, that the users trust in the information given to them. Such confidence can only be developed prior to the disaster.

Trust in a weather forecast depends, as everything does and among other things, on the integrity and the ability of the forecaster. In order to make a judgment on the ability of the forecaster it is necessary to know the product, that is to say, what a weather forecast is, and to compare it (measure it) to one of its kind, not to the “imaginary forecast” which fits entirely to the phenomena that later on takes place. Compared to this imaginary forecast, the forecast made will always be incorrect, erroneous, and insufficient.

Therefore, in order to develop the necessary confidence for society to react in the best possible way to a hydro-meteorological natural disaster, such as those occurring in Uruguay, people involved in the weather forecasting system should improve and demonstrate their abilities, for example, by controlling the quality of their products through extern and regular audits. On the other hand, the population, and those who are in communication with it, should modify their concept of forecasting as an exact announcement of what will happen, by understanding that a forecast is an announcement of the likelihood of some events to take place, with a margin of error inherent to the method of obtaining the knowledge and possibly to the phenomenon itself.

The following article, which deals with fractals (often regarded as a theoretical and abstract topic), is connected with the problems of weather forecasting through a fractal, -the Lorentz attractor, which describes the behavior of chaotic systems such as weather-, and with many other human activities, including special effects in movies.

An article on spiders is also included in this issue, this time on the spiders’ relevant role concerning insect control in crops; a research carried out in a field in Rincón del Cerro, Montevideo.

Another significant topic, which is necessary to debate over, both in and out of the scientific community, is the use of animals in scientific testing. Since the ethical behavior of humans towards animals constitutes a problem in many different fields (not only in the scientific sphere), we will be dealing with this issue from a broad standpoint, and will also inform the activities of the “Honorary Committee of Animal Testing” - CHEA, (Comisión Honoraria de Experimentación Animal) and of the “Scientific and Technological Association of Laboratory Animals in Uruguay” - AUCYTAL, (Asociación Uruguaya de Ciencia y Tecnología de Animales de Laboratorio), aiming at the regulation of animal use in the technological scientific activity.

Patricia Linn
Director of Uruguay Ciencia

 

 
     
     
 
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