David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 31 (1):49-74 (2000)
This paper examines the process of modelling a complex empirical phenomenon in modern astrophysics: extended extragalactic radio sources. I show that modelling is done piecemeal, addressing selected striking or puzzling features of that phenomenon separately and individually. The result is various independent and separate sub-models concerned only with limited aspects of the same phenomenon. Because the sub-models represent features of the same physical phenomenon, they need to be reasonably consistent with each other - a criterion not always fully adhered to - and there needs to be a way to conceptually `re-unite' the sub-models to form an overall-model. Visualisation, that is, supplying a concrete interpretation of abstract, theoretical sub-models, aids this modelling process. My case study further endorses the view that modelling is `work in progress', i.e. a form of developing knowledge whereby models represent, not replicate, a phenomenon.
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