David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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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|
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References found in this work BETA
James Bogen & James Woodward (1988). Saving the Phenomena. Philosophical Review 97 (3):303-352.
James Bogen & Jim Woodward (2005). Evading the Irs. Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities 86 (1):233-268.
Stephan Hartmann (1996). The World as a Process: Simulations in the Natural and Social Sciences. In Rainer Hegselmann (ed.), Modelling and Simulation in the Social Sciences from the Philosophy of Science Point of View.
Wendy S. Parker (2009). Does Matter Really Matter? Computer Simulations, Experiments, and Materiality. Synthese 169 (3):483 - 496.
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