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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Modelling Matter Symposium

26th March 2008, 10:00, St Chad's College

This interdisciplinary two-day symposium will investigate the different strategies and methods of modelling and representing across the physical and life sciences, and the ways in which models relate to their subject matter and to the empirical evidence.

Scientists represent the world using a wide variety of media, including mathematical and physical models, equations, graphs and visual diagrams, and of course language, analogy and metaphor. Historians and philosophers of science have examined the traditions and modes of representation across different sciences, and in particular when different scientific disciplines interact. Particular traditions of representation employ different media together, so that one medium can take over when the expressive power of another runs out. Thus, for instance, in theoretical physics and chemistry, visual arguments are sometimes employed when more formal mathematical derivations are intractable. Traditions develop so that the modes of representation are implicit, and transparent to the practitioners. Their particular origins and status are unquestioned, and the medium of representation itself is essentially invisible to the practitioner.

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