User login


You are here

Can we predict when the Larsen-C ice shelf will fail?

My opinion is "Not yet".

What stops us from predicting the date on which the Larsen-C ice shelf will fail?

-- Biswajit


Read your analysis on your company blog. From your list of the issues to be resolved, is it point no. 3 (branching) which is the hardest to deal with? Just asking... On second thoughts, no. 2 (significant variation of crack growth rate) also might be a factor that makes predictions difficult. I mean, how do you know that factors other than pure fracturre mechanics (such as presence of meso- or larger-scale features, concentration variations, etc.) were not present and responsible for those variations?

All in all, a tall order, it is!

There are any number of problems that (i) look simple to simulate, (ii) but still lie hopelessly out of the reach of the current state of the art. This is one of them. (Even just the ``simple'' problem of predicting at precisely what time what exact shape is assumed by a melting snowman, is a tough one. I know, because I tried it.)

Anyway, an interesting bit, it was, though. A 10 km by 100 km piece of rock that is about to break away? The mind numbs. ... They had quite an opportunity to advance science though. For instance, how big a noise did it make when it finally broke away? (read: acoustic emission signatures)...

OK. Let me wind up.




Given the near impossibility of predicting everyday experiences using mechanics, let alone more difficult problems involing unknown geometries and materials, it's not surprising that mechanicians have moved to easier problems instead of harder problems over the past 30 years.

I've spent a considerable amount of time trying to solve some simple problems such as splintering wood, making flour dough, or even trying to model what happens when you press your foot into partially saturated sand on a beach - using Newton's laws and widely used material models.  I've failed to predict anything useful every time.  I wish other mechanicians tried to solve more problems of that nature.

-- Biswajit


I understand you wasted a lot of American (or, at any rate, Utahian) tax-payer's money.

I wish other mechanicians did the same, too!




Unfortunately, it was my own money and time.  Can't say it was a waste though.  I learnt a lot in the process about what works and what doesn't and have a better nose for spotting bullshit academic papers as a result.

-- Biswajit



Subscribe to Comments for "Can we predict when the Larsen-C ice shelf will fail?"

Recent comments

More comments


Subscribe to Syndicate