Stefan Helmreich is Professor of Anthropology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of
Waves to Order and Disorder: Making and Breaking Scale Models inside and outside the Lab, from Oregon to Japan
The chapter recounts fieldwork at the Hinsdale Wave Laboratory at Oregon State University, home of the world's largest tsunami simulation basin. It is concerned with what wave science looks like in the lab as scientists make scaled-down replicas of real-world waves. Wave tanks, using water as a modeling medium, turn textbook waves into liquid movies, offering theory that is animated. The chapter also reports on how Oregonian scientists living on the Cascadia fault line grapple with Japan's 2011 tsunami as a premonition of their own possible Pacific future. Wave scientists' experiences in Japan itself, meanwhile, lead them to speculate on what happens when the very notion of scale fails, when lab time cannot prophesize real time.