Shaping Mathematics as a Tool: The Search for a Mathematical Model for Quasi-crystals

  • Henrik Kragh SørensenEmail author
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science book series (BSPS, volume 327)


Although the use of mathematical models is ubiquitous in modern science, the involvement of mathematical modeling in the sciences is rarely seen as cases of interdisciplinary research. Often, mathematics is “applied” in the sciences, but mathematics also features in open-ended, truly interdisciplinary collaborations. The present paper addresses the role of mathematical models in the open-ended process of conceptualizing new phenomena. It does so by suggesting a notion of cultures of mathematization, stressing the potential role of the mathematical model as a boundary object around which negotiations of different desiderata can take place. This framework is then illustrated by a case study of the early efforts to produce a mathematical model for quasi-crystals in the first two decades after Dan Shechtman’s discovery of this new phenomenon in 1984.


Quasi-crystals Mathematization Interdisciplinarity “Mathematics as a tool” Modeling 


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Section for History and Philosophy of Science, Department of Science EducationUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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