Friday, 6 October 2006
Learning from a Simulated Universe: The Limits of Virtual Experiments in Astrophysics and Cosmology
Stéphanie Ruphy, Department of Philosophy,
University of Provence
12:05 pm, 817R Cathedral of Learning
Abstract: Many complex real-world systems are studied by building computer models and simulations of their behavior. The autonomy of such models vis-à-vis theories is now widely acknowledged by philosophers of science. Because of this autonomy, models and simulations do not simply “inherit” the epistemic credentials of the theories involved in their building. How then do they get their credentials? How, for instance, are computer simulations sanctioned as reliable virtual experiments?
My aim in this talk is to investigate how specific features of simulations of complex systems – in particular what I will call their “path-dependency” and their “self-vindication” - affect the realistic ambition of these simulations. I’ll illustrate my claims with two case studies in astrophysics and cosmology.