Simulation and Similarity
Using Models to Understand the World
University Press 2013
In 1956 and 1957, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided to test a plan to dam up the San Francisco Bay in order to protect its water supply: they built a 1.5 acre model of the Bay area in a warehouse, with hydraulic pumps to simulate tides and river flows, and observed the result. The model showed what a disaster the dam plan would be: it would have turned the bay into a polluted wasteland. In Simulation and Similarity: Using Models to Understand the World (Oxford University Press, 2013), Michael Weisberg examines the nature, development and widespread use of models in the sciences as a means to help explain and predict natural phenomena. Weisberg, who is an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, looks at concrete models (such as the Bay Area model), computational models and mathematical models to argue for a model of models, in which models are interpreted structures, and their relation to the part of the world they model is in terms of weighted feature-mapping. His book systematizes and advances philosophical thinking about models and their central role in the practice of science.