New mathematics for old physics: The case of lattice fluids

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 44 (3):231-241 (2013)
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We analyze the effects of the introduction of new mathematical tools on an old branch of physics by focusing on lattice fluids, which are cellular automata -based hydrodynamical models. We examine the nature of these discrete models, the type of novelty they bring about within scientific practice and the role they play in the field of fluid dynamics. We critically analyze Rohrlich's, Fox Keller's and Hughes' claims about CA-based models. We distinguish between different senses of the predicates “phenomenological” and “theoretical” for scientific models and argue that it is erroneous to conclude, as they do, that CA-based models are necessarily phenomenological in any sense of the term. We conversely claim that CA-based models of fluids, though at first sight blatantly misrepresenting fluids, are in fact conservative as far as the basic laws of statistical physics are concerned and not less theoretical than more traditional models in the field. Based on our case-study, we propose a general discussion of the prospect of CA for modeling in physics. We finally emphasize that lattice fluids are not just exotic oddities but do bring about new advantages in the investigation of fluids' behavior.



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Anouk Barberousse
Sorbonne Université

References found in this work

Asymptotics and the Role of Minimal Models.Robert W. Batterman - 2002 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 53 (1):21-38.
Computer Simulation in the Physical Sciences.Fritz Rohrlich - 1990 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1990:507-518.
21 Undecidability and Intractability in Theoretical Physics.Stephen Wolfram - 2013 - Emergence: Contemporary Readings in Philosophy and Science.
Simulating Physics with Computers.R. P. Feynman - 1982 - International Journal of Theoretical Physics 21 (6):467-488.

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