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)
 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: 9,360
External links
  • Through your library Configure
    References found in this work BETA
    James Bogen & Jim Woodward (2005). Evading the Irs. Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities 86 (1):233-268.

    View all 8 references

    Citations of this work BETA

    No citations found.

    Similar books and articles

    Monthly downloads

    Added to index


    Total downloads

    61 ( #20,733 of 1,089,047 )

    Recent downloads (6 months)

    8 ( #13,556 of 1,089,047 )

    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.