Friday, August 14, 2009

How Geoscientists Think - and Lawyers

The Louis S. St. Laurent and the Healy are now underway together, having rendezvoused on August 10th. Three members of the Healy science crew are blogging on day-to-day science operations on board: Barbara Moore, for the Extended Continental Shelf Interagency Task Force, Christine Hedges, a NOAA Teacher at Sea, and Jon Pazol for the Armada Project.

Being surrounded again by marine geophysicists is a good reminder of the ways in which our different disciplines see the world. An excellent piece in the August 4, 2009 EoS, How Geoscientists Think and Learn (and the Supplementary Material published online) is especially illuminating with respect to how their spatial and temporal perceptions differ from the general population, emphasizing perceptions of geological time, spatial thinking and understanding of complex systems. The piece is one result of the Synthesis of Research on Thinking & Learning in the Geosciences Project, Kim Kastens, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Cathy Manduca, SERC, Carleton College, PIs.

Lawyers and legal academics are also building on developments in cognitive science, but more to investigate its implications for legal and social policy than to understand how lawyers themselves think (perhaps even this difference in how the two disciplines use cognitive science says something about our view of the world and our roles in it?). The Project on Law and Mind Sciences at Harvard Law School's Berkman Center is self-described as a resource for those “with an interest in understanding the implications of social psychology, social cognition, and other related mind sciences for law, policymaking, and legal theory.” Also of note is Law, Mind and the Brain, by Michael Freeman and Oliver Goodenough, a Law and Mind Project contributor and a Vermont Law School colleague, who investigates how cognitive science is changing Anglo-American approaches to responsibility.

Icebreaking into the Arctic

The USCGC HEALY embarked Barrow, Alaska, in August 2008 to map the US extended continental shelf, or ECS, in the Arctic Ocean (HLY 0805). Healy sailed again from 7 August to 16 September, 2009 (HLY 0905) to continue ECS mapping, joining with the Canadian icebreaker, the Louis S. St.-Laurent. The two vessels mapped together again in 2010 (see HLY1002) and 2011 (HLY1102).

As the only law professor on the science crew, I was along on HLY 0805 and 0905 to better understand
the science behind the legal process that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea establishes for states making ECS submissions. As to why the US is mapping now, even though it has not yet acceded to the Convention, read on both here, and in the Law of the Sea notes below.

Thanks to
Vermont Law School and especially to Larry Mayer, Director of the University of New Hampshire's Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, for making my part in the trip possible.
Thanks, as well, to Adriane Colburn, for opening new windows on and for the deep.