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Idealization and modeling


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 through completely detailed, nonidealized representations.

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Correspondence to Robert W. Batterman.

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Batterman, R.W. Idealization and modeling. Synthese 169, 427–446 (2009).

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  • Models
  • Idealizations
  • Simulations
  • Explanation
  • Fluid dynamics
  • Scaling
  • Molecular dynamics