Examples of models: the Earth from several perspectives

December 31, 2011 by Joshua
in Awareness, Evolutionary Psychology, Models, Nature, Visualization

[This post is part of a series on The Model — my model for the human emotional system designed for use in leadership, self-awareness, and general purpose professional and personal development — which I find the most effective and valuable foundation for understanding yourself and others and improving your life. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

Yesterday I started with one of the simplest examples of models — maps. Today we’ll look at other models.

The image below includes a model of the Earth.

A representation of the EarthYou might remember seeing models like this from school. It throws out a lot of information — it’s two-dimensional, showing only half of that, shows no properties of the surface, etc.

But if you want to calculate gravity, this model may serve you best. I would bet the people who sent men to the moon — arguably the greatest engineering feat ever — used models like it daily.

Here is another model of the Earth

A model of the EarthThis model throws out even more information, representing the Earth as a point. Yet for other purposes more useful than the earlier model.

Here is a model with more information, drastically different than the above.

A model of the EarthThis model has more information but would be useless for launching a rocket to the moon. But great for illustrating plate tectonics.

Even for understanding properties inside the Earth, for some purposes, again, less information might help more, as in the following model.

A model of the EarthThis one even contradicts itself internally between the left and right halves. That inconsistency doesn’t hurt it, though, in part for how blatant the inconsistency. We’ll see later that all models have internal conflict and inconsistency. Since only the thing itself is the thing itself, any model will have such inconsistencies. Inconsistencies don’t mean the model doesn’t achieve its purposes.

I stress this point because people routinely reject other people’s models that might serve their purposes best by pointing out flaws in their models. Their own models are just as flawed.

You probably get the idea by now. You can represent the same thing in many ways for different purposes. Hopefully you’re seeing that the purpose for the representation determines its value, not its consistency, the amount of information it shows, who created it, if it looks pretty, and so on.

So far we’ve looked at visual models. Tomorrow we’ll start looking at mental models.

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2 responses on “Examples of models: the Earth from several perspectives

  1. Pingback: Examples of models: beliefs and mental models | Joshua Spodek

  2. Pingback: The Model: the series » Joshua Spodek

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