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Projectible predicates in analogue and simulated systems


We investigate the relationship between two approaches to modeling physical systems. On the first approach, simplifying assumptions are made about the level of detail we choose to represent in a computational simulation with an eye toward tractability. On the second approach simpler, analogue physical systems are considered that have more or less well-defined connections to systems of interest that are themselves too difficult to probe experimentally. Our interest here is in the connections between the artifacts of modeling that appear in these two approaches. We begin by outlining an important respect in which the two are essentially dissimilar and then propose a method whereby overcoming that dissimilarity by hand results in usefully analogous behavior. We claim that progress can be made if we think of artifacts as clues to the projectible predicates proper to the models themselves. Our degree of control over the connection between interesting analogue physical systems and their targets arises from determining the projectible predicates in the analogue system through a combination of theory and experiment. To obtain a similar degree of control over the connection between large-scale, distributed simulations of complex systems and their targets we must similarly determine the projectible predicates of the simulations themselves. In general theory will be too intractable to be of use, and so we advocate an experimental program for determining these predicates.

the object of the natural history which I propose give light to the discovery of causes and supply a suckling philosophy with its first food.

Francis Bacon, The Great Instauration

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Correspondence to James Mattingly.

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Mattingly, J., Warwick, W. Projectible predicates in analogue and simulated systems. Synthese 169, 465–482 (2009).

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  • Computational modeling
  • Analogue modeling
  • Human performance
  • Theory structure