What we cannot learn from analogue experiments

Synthese (Suppl 16):1-26 (2019)
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Analogue experiments have attracted interest for their potential to shed light on inaccessible domains. For instance, ‘dumb holes’ in fluids and Bose–Einstein condensates, as analogues of black holes, have been promoted as means of confirming the existence of Hawking radiation in real black holes. We compare analogue experiments with other cases of experiment and simulation in physics. We argue—contra recent claims in the philosophical literature—that analogue experiments are not capable of confirming the existence of particular phenomena in inaccessible target systems. As they must assume the physical adequacy of the modelling framework used to describe the inaccessible target system, arguments to the conclusion that analogue experiments can yield confirmation for phenomena in those target systems, such as Hawking radiation in black holes, beg the question.



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Author Profiles

Karen Crowther
University of Oslo
Niels Linnemann
University of Geneva
Christian Wüthrich
University of Geneva

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