On the presumed superiority of analytical solutions over numerical methods

European Journal for Philosophy of Science 7 (2):201-220 (2017)
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An important task in mathematical sciences is to make quantitative predictions, which is often done via the solution of differential equations. In this paper, we investigate why, to perform this task, scientists sometimes choose to use numerical methods instead of analytical solutions. Via several examples, we argue that the choice for numerical methods can be explained by the fact that, while making quantitative predictions seems at first glance to be facilitated by analytical solutions, this is actually often much easier with numerical methods. Thus we challenge the widely presumed superiority of analytical solutions over numerical methods.



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Author Profiles

Vincent Ardourel
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique
Julie Jebeile
University of Bern