Project B2
Model building and dynamics

Model building and dynamics

This project investigates the structure, role, and dynamics of models in today’s elementary particle physics in light of recent philosophical debates that have emphasised the autonomous contributions of models to scientific explanations. It analyses the rich model landscape of physics beyond the standard model (BSM) and the diverse experimental and theoretical strategies to investigate it. Searches for BSM physics have become the centrepiece of today’s particle physics and of the LHC. To date, however, none of the many features predicted in BSM models have been observed. This long series of negative evidence is beginning to have significant effects on how models are viewed by the particle physics community, leading to an increasing popularity of model-independent approaches and a shift of emphasis from model testing to experimental exploration.The project combines empirical methods with philosophical analyses of the models’ conceptual structures, their conditions of application, and the motives of scientific actors adopting or abandoning them. It will deepen the philosophical understanding of models in general by a thorough analysis of their dynamics in a rapidly changing research field.

This project builds on an earlier phase (2017--2019) where we conducted a four-fold empirical study to assess the changing status of the field and particle physicists' preferences and outlooks.We studied summary reports from major conferences and conducted a widely-distributed survey, a keyword analysis of, and a series of expert interviews concerning topics such as model preferences, the rise of model independence, and the status of guiding principles, like naturalness. In recent papers, we have used some of these results about LHC physics to analyse philosophical topics such as explanation, confirmation, experimental signatures, scientific progress, and others.
These works are listed below.

In the current phase of the project, the group will continue employing the empirical methods from Phase 1 and address three major topics.  First, we examine the development of the model landscape given the null results for BSM physics. We ask what the properties of good models are, whether narratives and explanations play a central role, and what is the role of model-independent methods, like the standard model effective field theory. Second, the project will analyse the theoretical and experimental constraints on model building, particularly involving the role of guiding principles, such as naturalness.The third topic is the theoretical and experimental values of model preferences. Here, the project will examine the relevance of classic values of theory choice to more experiment-oriented values that seem to dominate particle physics research preferences, which one might characterise as signature driven.


Principal Investigator:
Peter Mättig


Principal Collaborator:
Michael Stöltzner


Doctoral Researcher:
Nurida Boddenberg


Previous Members:
Cristin Chall
Martin King (former doctoral researcher)


Relevant Publications


Chall, Cristin (2019). Model-Groups as Scientific Research Programmes. European Journal for Philosophy of Science. Forthcoming.

Chall, Cristin, King, Martin, Mättig, Peter, and Stöltzner, Michael (forthcoming). From a Boson to the Standard Model Higgs: A Case Study in Confirmation and Model Dynamics. Synthese.

King, Martin (forthcoming) Explanations and Candidate Explanations in Physics, European Journal for Philosophy of Science.

Mättig, Peter (2019). Validation of Simulation in Particle Physics. Forthcoming in Beisbart, C. and Saam, N.J. (eds.), Computer Simulation Validation - Fundamental Concepts, Methodological Frameworks, and Philosophical Perspectives, Springer.

Mättig, Peter and Stöltzner, Michael (2018). Model Choice and Crucial Tests. On the Empirical Epistemology of the Higgs Discovery. Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, published online

Mättig, Peter and Stöltzner, Michael (2019). Model landscapes and event signatures in elementary particle physics. Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, published online

Mättig, Peter & Stöltzner, Michael (forthcoming). Searching for Signatures. Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association.