Foundations of Science 13 (2):127-142 (2008)

Authors
Mieke Boon
University of Twente
Abstract
This paper is concerned with scientific reasoning in the engineering sciences. Engineering sciences aim at explaining, predicting and describing physical phenomena occurring in technological devices. The focus of this paper is on mathematical description. These mathematical descriptions are important to computer-aided engineering or design programs (CAE and CAD). The first part of this paper explains why a traditional view, according to which scientific laws explain and predict phenomena and processes, is problematic. In the second part, the reasons of these methodological difficulties are analyzed. Ludwig Prandtl’s method of integrating a theoretical and empirical approach is used as an example of good scientific practice. Based on this analysis, a distinction is made between different types of laws that play a role in constructing mathematical descriptions of phenomena. A central assumption in understanding research methodology is that, instead of scientific laws, knowledge of capacities and mechanisms are primary in the engineering sciences. Another important aspect in methodology of the engineering sciences is that in explaining a phenomenon or process spatial regions are distinguished in which distinct physical behaviour occur. The mechanisms in distinct spatial regions are represented in a so-called diagrammatic model. The construction of a mathematical description of the phenomenon or process is based on this diagrammatic model.
Keywords Engineering science  Diagrammatic models  Methodology  Prandtl  Mathematical modelling  Scientific practice  Experiments
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DOI 10.1007/s10699-008-9122-2
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References found in this work BETA

How the Laws of Physics Lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - Oxford University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

How Science is Applied in Technology.Mieke Boon - 2006 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 20 (1):27 – 47.
Two Styles of Reasoning in Scientific Practices: Experimental and Mathematical Traditions.Mieke Boon - 2011 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 25 (3):255 - 278.
Digital ‘Faces’ of Synthetic Biology.Kathrin Friedrich - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (2):217-224.

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