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Robert W. Batterman
University of Pittsburgh
  1. The Devil in the Details: Asymptotic Reasoning in Explanation, Reduction, and Emergence.Robert W. Batterman - 2001 - Oxford University Press.
    Robert Batterman examines a form of scientific reasoning called asymptotic reasoning, arguing that it has important consequences for our understanding of the scientific process as a whole. He maintains that asymptotic reasoning is essential for explaining what physicists call universal behavior. With clarity and rigor, he simplifies complex questions about universal behavior, demonstrating a profound understanding of the underlying structures that ground them. This book introduces a valuable new method that is certain to fill explanatory gaps across disciplines.
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  2. Minimal Model Explanations.Robert W. Batterman & Collin C. Rice - 2014 - Philosophy of Science 81 (3):349-376.
    This article discusses minimal model explanations, which we argue are distinct from various causal, mechanical, difference-making, and so on, strategies prominent in the philosophical literature. We contend that what accounts for the explanatory power of these models is not that they have certain features in common with real systems. Rather, the models are explanatory because of a story about why a class of systems will all display the same large-scale behavior because the details that distinguish them are irrelevant. This story (...)
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  3. Idealization and Modeling.Robert W. Batterman - 2009 - Synthese 169 (3):427-446.
    This paper examines the role of mathematical idealization in describing and explaining various features of the world. It examines two cases: first, briefly, the modeling of shock formation using the idealization of the continuum. Second, and in more detail, the breaking of droplets from the points of view of both analytic fluid mechanics and molecular dynamical simulations at the nano-level. It argues that the continuum idealizations are explanatorily ineliminable and that a full understanding of certain physical phenomena cannot be obtained (...)
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  4. Emergence, Singularities, and Symmetry Breaking.Robert W. Batterman - 2011 - Foundations of Physics 41 (6):1031-1050.
    This paper looks at emergence in physical theories and argues that an appropriate way to understand socalled “emergent protectorates” is via the explanatory apparatus of the renormalization group. It is argued that mathematical singularities play a crucial role in our understanding of at least some well-defined emergent features of the world.
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  5. Asymptotics and the Role of Minimal Models.Robert W. Batterman - 2002 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 53 (1):21-38.
    A traditional view of mathematical modeling holds, roughly, that the more details of the phenomenon being modeled that are represented in the model, the better the model is. This paper argues that often times this ‘details is better’ approach is misguided. One ought, in certain circumstances, to search for an exactly solvable minimal model—one which is, essentially, a caricature of the physics of the phenomenon in question.
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  6.  55
    Autonomy of Theories: An Explanatory Problem.Robert W. Batterman - 2018 - Noûs:858-873.
    This paper aims to draw attention to an explanatory problem posed by the existence of multiply realized or universal behavior exhibited by certain physical systems. The problem is to explain how it is possible that systems radically distinct at lower-scales can nevertheless exhibit identical or nearly identical behavior at upper-scales. Theoretically this is reflected by the fact that continuum theories such as fluid mechanics are spectacularly successful at predicting, describing, and explaining fluid behaviors despite the fact that they do not (...)
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  7.  50
    The Tyranny of Scales.Robert W. Batterman - 2013 - In The Oxford handbook of philosophy of physics. Oxford University Press. pp. 255-286.
    This paper examines a fundamental problem in applied mathematics. How can one model the behavior of materials that display radically different, dominant behaviors at different length scales. Although we have good models for material behaviors at small and large scales, it is often hard to relate these scale-based models to one another. Macroscale models represent the integrated effects of very subtle factors that are practically invisible at the smallest, atomic, scales. For this reason it has been notoriously difficult to model (...)
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  8. Falling Cats, Parallel Parking, and Polarized Light.Robert W. Batterman - 2003 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 34 (4):527-557.
    This paper addresses issues surrounding the concept of geometric phase or "anholonomy". Certain physical phenomena apparently require for their explanation and understanding, reference to toplogocial/geometric features of some abstract space of parameters. These issues are related to the question of how gauge structures are to be interpreted and whether or not the debate over their "reality" is really going to be fruitful.
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  9.  35
    The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Physics.Robert W. Batterman (ed.) - 2013 - Oxford University Press USA.
    This Handbook provides an overview of many of the topics that currently engage philosophers of physics. It surveys new issues and the problems that have become a focus of attention in recent years. It also provides up-to-date discussions of the still very important problems that dominated the field in the past.
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  10. Response to Belot’s “Whose Devil? Which Details?‘.Robert W. Batterman - 2005 - Philosophy of Science 72 (1):154-163.
    I respond to Belot's argument and defend the view that sometimes `fundamental theories' are explanatorily inadequate and need to be supplemented with certain aspects of less fundamental `theories emeritus'.
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  11. Why Equilibrium Statistical Mechanics Works: Universality and the Renormalization Group.Robert W. Batterman - 1998 - Philosophy of Science 65 (2):183-208.
    Discussions of the foundations of Classical Equilibrium Statistical Mechanics (SM) typically focus on the problem of justifying the use of a certain probability measure (the microcanonical measure) to compute average values of certain functions. One would like to be able to explain why the equilibrium behavior of a wide variety of distinct systems (different sorts of molecules interacting with different potentials) can be described by the same averaging procedure. A standard approach is to appeal to ergodic theory to justify this (...)
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  12.  38
    Universality and RG Explanations.Robert W. Batterman - 2019 - Perspectives on Science 27 (1):26-47.
    In its broadest sense, "universality" is a technical term for something quite ordinary. It refers to the existence of patterns of behavior by physical systems that recur and repeat despite the fact that in some sense the situations in which these patterns recur and repeat are different. Rainbows, for example, always exhibit the same pattern of spacings and intensities of their bows despite the fact that the rain showers are different on each occasion. They are different because the shapes of (...)
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  13. Theories Between Theories: Asymptotic Limiting Intertheoretic Relations.Robert W. Batterman - 1995 - Synthese 103 (2):171 - 201.
    This paper addresses a relatively common scientific (as opposed to philosophical) conception of intertheoretic reduction between physical theories. This is the sense of reduction in which one (typically newer and more refined) theory is said to reduce to another (typically older and coarser) theory in the limit as some small parameter tends to zero. Three examples of such reductions are discussed: First, the reduction of Special Relativity (SR) to Newtonian Mechanics (NM) as (v/c)20; second, the reduction of wave optics to (...)
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  14. Defining Chaos.Robert W. Batterman - 1993 - Philosophy of Science 60 (1):43-66.
    This paper considers definitions of classical dynamical chaos that focus primarily on notions of predictability and computability, sometimes called algorithmic complexity definitions of chaos. I argue that accounts of this type are seriously flawed. They focus on a likely consequence of chaos, namely, randomness in behavior which gets characterized in terms of the unpredictability or uncomputability of final given initial states. In doing so, however, they can overlook the definitive feature of dynamical chaos--the fact that the underlying motion generating the (...)
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  15.  93
    Hydrodynamics Versus Molecular Dynamics: Intertheory Relations in Condensed Matter Physics.Robert W. Batterman - 2006 - Philosophy of Science 73 (5):888-904.
    This paper considers the relationship between continuum hydrodynamics and discrete molecular dynamics in the context of explaining the behavior of breaking droplets. It is argued that the idealization of a fluid as a continuum is actually essential for a full explanation of the drop breaking phenomenon and that, therefore, the less "fundamental," emergent hydrodynamical theory plays an ineliminable role in our understanding.
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  16.  49
    Randomness and Probability in Dynamical Theories: On the Proposals of the Prigogine School.Robert W. Batterman - 1991 - Philosophy of Science 58 (2):241-263.
    I discuss recent work in ergodic theory and statistical mechanics, regarding the compatibility and origin of random and chaotic behavior in deterministic dynamical systems. A detailed critique of some quite radical proposals of the Prigogine school is given. I argue that their conclusion regarding the conceptual bankruptcy of the classical conceptions of an exact microstate and unique phase space trajectory is not completely justified. The analogy they want to draw with quantum mechanics is not sufficiently close to support their most (...)
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  17.  58
    Explanatory Instability.Robert W. Batterman - 1992 - Noûs 26 (3):325-348.
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  18.  85
    A ‘Modern’ Attitude Towards Scientific Understanding.Robert W. Batterman - 2000 - The Monist 83 (2):228-257.
    In a recent book on applied mathematics A. C. Fowler offers the following description of what is involved in mathematical modeling.
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  19.  5
    Steel and bone: mesoscale modeling and middle-out strategies in physics and biology.Robert W. Batterman & Sara Green - forthcoming - Synthese:1-26.
    Mesoscale modeling is often considered merely as a practical strategy used when information on lower-scale details is lacking, or when there is a need to make models cognitively or computationally tractable. Without dismissing the importance of practical constraints for modeling choices, we argue that mesoscale models should not just be considered as abbreviations or placeholders for more “complete” models. Because many systems exhibit different behaviors at various spatial and temporal scales, bottom-up approaches are almost always doomed to fail. Mesoscale models (...)
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  20. Chaos, Quantization, and the Correspondence Principle.Robert W. Batterman - 1991 - Synthese 89 (2):189 - 227.
  21.  24
    Chaos and Algorithmic Complexity.Robert W. Batterman & Homer White - 1996 - Foundations of Physics 26 (3):307-336.
    Our aim is to discover whether the notion of algorithmic orbit-complexity can serve to define “chaos” in a dynamical system. We begin with a mostly expository discussion of algorithmic complexity and certain results of Brudno, Pesin, and Ruelle (BRP theorems) which relate the degree of exponential instability of a dynamical system to the average algorithmic complexity of its orbits. When one speaks of predicting the behavior of a dynamical system, one usually has in mind one or more variables in the (...)
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  22.  24
    ‘Into a Mist’: Asymptotic Theories on a Caustic.Robert W. Batterman - 1997 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 28 (3):395-413.
  23.  75
    Irreversibility and Statistical Mechanics: A New Approach?Robert W. Batterman - 1990 - Philosophy of Science 57 (3):395-419.
    I discuss a broad critique of the classical approach to the foundations of statistical mechanics (SM) offered by N. S. Krylov. He claims that the classical approach is in principle incapable of providing the foundations for interpreting the "laws" of statistical physics. Most intriguing are his arguments against adopting a de facto attitude towards the problem of irreversibility. I argue that the best way to understand his critique is as setting the stage for a positive theory which treats SM as (...)
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    ‘Into a Mist’: Asymptotic Theories on a Caustic.Robert W. Batterman - 1997 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 28 (3):395-413.
  25.  60
    The Inconsistency of Physics.Robert W. Batterman - 2014 - Synthese 191 (13):2973-2992.
    This paper discusses a conception of physics as a collection of theories that, from a logical point of view, is inconsistent. It is argued that this logical conception of the relations between physical theories is too crude. Mathematical subtleties allow for a much more nuanced and sophisticated understanding of the relations between different physical theories.
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  26. Irreversibility, Statistical Mechanics and the Nature of Physical States.Robert W. Batterman - 1987 - Dissertation, University of Michigan
    I. Prigogine has proposed, and the writings of N. S. Krylov to some extent suggest, a novel and unorthodox solution to foundational problems in statistical mechanics. In particular, the view claims to offer new insight into two interconnected problems: understanding the role of probability in physics, and that of reconciling the irreversibility of physical processes with the temporal symmetry of dynamical theories. The approach in question advocates a conception of the state of a system which incorporates features of the quantum (...)
     
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  27.  36
    Lawrence Sklar Philosophy and the Foundations of Dynamics.Robert W. Batterman - 2015 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 66 (3):701-705.