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
Wendy S. Parker (2009). Does Matter Really Matter? Computer Simulations, Experiments, and Materiality. Synthese 169 (3):483 - 496.
Eric Winsberg (2003). Simulated Experiments: Methodology for a Virtual World. Philosophy of Science 70 (1):105-125.
James Bogen & James Woodward (1988). Saving the Phenomena. Philosophical Review 97 (3):303-352.
Eric Winsberg (2009). A Tale of Two Methods. Synthese 169 (3):575 - 592.
Citations of this work BETA
Boaz Miller (2015). Why Knowledge is the Property of a Community and Possibly None of its Members. Philosophical Quarterly 65 (260):417-441.
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