tok best - Fatimah Jaffer Period 3 10 A model is a...

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Fatimah Jaffer, Period 3 10. A model is a simplified representation of some aspect of the world. In what ways may models help or hinder the search for knowledge? Since mankind began its origin as a cognitive species, it has sought to diagramatically explain the variety of phenomena with which it finds itself inundated. The product of these endeavors is known as a model—a simplified explanation of an aspect of the phenomenal world. As the quantity and quality of these explanations evolved, the principles on which to derive further models and enhance inherited ones developed in parallel. Particularly salient to these heuristic principles were the faculties of perception, reason, and language: that is, to create a model, one was to observe a specific empirical event, induce general trends in its function as well as the connections among them, and then convey in words a theory that expounded on the hypothesized mechanism of the given phenomenon. Subsequently, one could test this theory against more empirical data for further improvement. In the arena of the natural and human sciences in particular, this general process came to be termed 'the scientific method'. But while models and the general processes used to derive them have always served as vital equipment for understanding the world, they also possess an array of hindrances that may at times encumber the seeker of knowledge. While models are indeed very useful in interpreting aspects of the world, a question arises as to how one should evaluate the supposed utility of one model over that of another. Specifically, what enhances the explanatory power of a theory? A characteristic that is immediately conspicuous is that of predictive strength—the model's success in accurately forecasting the results of future trials. However, another important criterion often overlooked in assessing the value of a model is that of simplicity; the theory should be minimalized to the bare essentials needed to adequately explain the mechanism in question. In summary, then, the overall value of a model lies in the careful balancing act it assumes between accuracy and austerity, which are respectively functions of perception and language. The history of thermodynamics presents an example of these criteria in action; during the nineteenth
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century, two competing theories existed about the nature of heat. The first, known as the caloric theory, assumed that heat was a weightless gas that moved from hotter to cooler bodies, while the second was the kinetic theory of heat accepted today. Although the caloric theory and kinetic theory rivaled each
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This note was uploaded on 03/31/2011 for the course CHM 2051 taught by Professor Staff during the Spring '08 term at University of Florida.

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tok best - Fatimah Jaffer Period 3 10 A model is a...

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