Reviews elsewhere on the web:
University of Toronto Press Journals
Stathis Psillos

Mary Morgan and Margaret Morrison

Models as mediators

Science is based on the creation of theories to explain observatons. But often the theories are too abstract to relate directly to the world. The contributors to this book explore the idea that scientific models act as mediators between the two. I would say that the book is mostly aimed at philosophers and historians of science - I found it a bit wordy and philosophical at times, and intend to look out for a book on the topic more suited to the general scientific reader. On the other hand there are plenty of concrete examples given, and practising scientists who are facing the issues raised in constructing scientific models will find much of interest. It would also be useful someone entering this area of study, as it introduces many of the 'standard' examples of scientific models.

I was most interested in the chapters looking at the place of computer simulations in relation to theories, models and observations. I particular R. I. G. Hughes examines the Ising model of magnetism, and asks what the success of the model tells us about the underlying system. Also Stephan Hartmann looks at Quantum Chromodynamics, for which Lattice QCD computations can provide results which match observations, but simpler models are needed to understand what is actually going on. Several of the chapters look at this tension between trying to provide a theoretically correct explanation and building a practical model, for instance in the theory of superconductivity. Four of the chapters concern economic models, and the issue here seems to be that some sort of simplification is vital in a model - if you use too complex a model then it is likely that it will neither provide any insight into the problem, nor match the 'real world' particularly well.

Those with an interest in this area might like to look at the papers from the Models and Simulations (Paris, 2006) conference

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Paperback 420 pages  
ISBN: 0521655714
Salesrank: 2494752
Weight:1.5 lbs
Published: 1999 Cambridge University Press
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Paperback 420 pages  
ISBN: 0521655714
Salesrank: 1554270
Weight:1.5 lbs
Published: 2009 Cambridge University Press
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Paperback 420 pages  
ISBN: 0521655714
Salesrank: 360012
Weight:1.5 lbs
Published: 1999 Cambridge University Press
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Product Description
Models as Mediators discusses the ways in which models function in modern science, particularly in the fields of physics and economics. Models play a variety of roles in the sciences: they are used in the development, exploration and application of theories and in measurement methods. They also provide a mechanism for using scientific concepts and principles to intervene in the world. The editors provide a framework that covers the construction and function of scientific models, and explore the ways in which they enable us to learn about both theories and the world. The contributors to the volume offer their own individual theoretical perspectives and cover a wide range of examples of modeling. These papers provide ideal case study material for exploring both the concepts and typical elements of modeling methods, using analytical approaches from the domains of philosophy and history of science.