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Observations, Simulations, and Reasoning in Astrophysics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022


Astrophysics faces methodological challenges as a result of being a predominantly observation-based science without access to traditional experiments. In light of these challenges, astrophysicists frequently rely on computer simulations. Using collisional ring galaxies as a case study, I argue that computer simulations play three roles in reasoning in astrophysics: (1) hypothesis testing, (2) exploring possibility space, and (3) amplifying observations.

Physical Sciences
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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I thank Barry Madore, Michael Weisberg, and Marja Seidel for fruitful discussions on this topic and for our ongoing collaborative projects. I would also like to thank Lucas Dunlap, Angela Potochnik, and the anonymous referees for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article. This work was supported by National Science Foundation award SES-1557138.


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