Modelling in applied physics: The case of polymers

Dirasat, Pure Science 33 (2):241-250 (2006)
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Until recently philosophy of physics has been overshadowed by the idea that the important philosophical issues that can be derived from physics are related only to fundamental theories, such as quantum mechanics and relativity. Applied fields of physics were deemed as unimportant. The argument for such a position lays in thinking that these applied fields of physics depend in their theoretical representations on fundamental theories and hence are reducible to these fundamental theories. It would be hard to defend such a position, keeping in mind that applied fields of physics have a life of its own totally separate from fundamental physics and have in fact a lot to say to philosophers. The field of polymers is one of the branches of applied physics that has a lot to say to philosophers. It is a field of physics where theoreticians failed to present a coherent theory that can capture the different ways polymers can be built. This paper examines the difficulties that keep theoreticians away from having such a theory, revealing what kind of philosophical lessons polymers might have. The main thesis is: even in the cases where a theory predict the possibility of developing a specific type of polymers that was not previously known, the exact model that represent the outcome polymer theoretically will not be even in principle derivable from the theory that predicted its existence in the first place.
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