From data to phenomena and back again: computer-simulated signatures

Synthese 182 (1):117-129 (2011)
This paper draws attention to an increasingly common method of using computer simulations to establish evidential standards in physics. By simulating an actual detection procedure on a computer, physicists produce patterns of data (‘signatures’) that are expected to be observed if a sought-after phenomenon is present. Claims to detect the phenomenon are evaluated by comparing such simulated signatures with actual data. Here I provide a justification for this practice by showing how computer simulations establish the reliability of detection procedures. I argue that this use of computer simulation undermines two fundamental tenets of the Bogen–Woodward account of evidential reasoning. Contrary to Bogen and Woodward’s view, computer-simulated signatures rely on ‘downward’ inferences from phenomena to data. Furthermore, these simulations establish the reliability of experimental setups without physically interacting with the apparatus. I illustrate my claims with a study of the recent detection of the superfluid-to-Mott-insulator phase transition in ultracold atomic gases
Keywords computer simulation  experiment  physics  evidence  data  phenomena
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11229-009-9612-y
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 16,667
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

View all 8 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

72 ( #47,201 of 1,726,249 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

5 ( #147,227 of 1,726,249 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.