18 Mär 10

Models, Simulations and the Reduction of Complexity

In modern science, complexity is a common feature in models of real world systems. The complexity may be due to various factors: from the sheer size of systems (neurology, climatology), to the high resolution of small scale phenomena in otherwise well understood systems, to the challenge of controlling a system or of designing an optimal shape in engineering. No matter what the origin of such complexity may be, the goal is always to reduce the complexity in a way that makes the problem tractable. Such a reduction can be achieved by improving model assumptions based on "first principles", by the elimination of variables, reducing the relevant subsystems etc. In any case such a reduction of complexity has implications for the validity and the precision of the theoretical findings.

The aim of this interdisciplinary conference is to discuss methodological and epistemological problems arising in this context. Eight renowned experts from climate research, cognitive science, cosmology, economics, mathematics, process technology, psychology, and sociology will introduce some of their modelling and simulation projects. Commentaries by philosophers of science will complement these presentations. There will be a focus on methodological parallels and discipline-specific differences between various approaches to modelling and simulating. We will ask: how do different disciplines manage to capture the complexity of a specific scientific phenomenon in a (relatively) simple theoretical model? Are the strategies employed essentially the same in all disciplines? If not, can any disciplines successfully import methodological strategies from other disciplines? What is the relation between a model and a simulation? And how does the availability of large-scale computers change the nature of science?


Conference organisation:

Prof. Dr. Ulrich Gähde (Universität Hamburg)

Prof. Dr. Stephan Hartmann (Tilburg University)

Prof. Dr. Jörn Henning Wolf (Christian-Albrechts-Universität Kiel)

The conference is held in cooperation with the Center for Logic and Philosophy of Science of Tilburg University




Thursday, March 18th


09.00  Welcome 

Prof. Dr. Heimo Reinitzer, President of the Akademie der Wissenschaften in Hamburg


Session I

Chair:  Prof. Dr. Reiner Lauterbach (Universität Hamburg)


09:15   Prof. Dr. Matthias Bartelmann (Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg)

Cosmology, the largest possible model?

10:00  Prof. Dr. Andreas Bartels (Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn):

Philosophical commentary

10:30  Coffee break

10:45  Dr. Valerio Lucarini (University of Reading)

Modelling Complexity - the Case of Climate Science

11:30  Prof. Dr. Georg Betz (Universität Stuttgart)

Philosophical commentary

12:00  Discussion


Lunch break


Session II

Chair:  Prof. Dr. Ulrich Gähde (Universität Hamburg)


14:30 Prof. Dr. Dirk Helbing (Eidgenössiche Technische Hochschule Zürich):

Understanding the Foundations of Society: Promises of a Multi-Disciplinary Dialogue

15:15 Prof. Dr. Stephan Hartmann (Tilburg University):

Philosophical commentary

15:45 Coffee break

16:00 Prof. Dr. Uskali Mäki (Academy of Finland, University of  Helsinki):

Economic modelling as theoretical experimentation and surrogate reasoning

16:45 Prof. Dr. Julian Reiss (Erasmus University Rotterdam):

Philosophical commentary

17:15 Discussion


Friday, March 19th


Session III

Chair: Prof. Dr. Brigitte Röder (Universität Hamburg)


09:00 Prof. Dr. Peter König (Universität Osnabrück):

The brain formula

09:45 Prof. Dr. Markus Werning (Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf):

Philosophical commentary

10:15 Coffee break

10:30 Prof. Dr. Reinhold Kliegl (Universität Potsdam):

Evaluating a Computational Model of Eye-Movement Control in Reading

11:15 Dr. Martin Hoffmann (Universität Hamburg)

Philosophical commentary

11:45 Discussion


Lunch break 


Session IV

Chair: Prof. Dr. Edwin Kreuzer (Technische Universität Hamburg-Harburg)


14:15 Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Marquardt (RWTH Aachen):

Identification of Kinetic Models by Incremental Refinement

15:00 Dr. Robin F. Hendry (Durham University):

Philosophical commentary

15:30 Coffee break

15:45  Prof. Dr. Martin Golubitsky (The Ohio State University)

Patterns in Physical and Biological Systems (Video Presentation)

16:30 Prof. Dr. Thomas Reydon (Leibniz Universität Hannover)

Philosophical commentary

17:00 Discussion

17:45 Closing remarks

Prof. Dr. Ulrich Gähde (Universität Hamburg)


Konferenzsprache ist Englisch. Die Veranstaltung richtet sich an Wissenschaftlerinnen und Wissenschaftler. Bitte geben Sie bei der Anmeldung Ihre Zugehörigkeit zu einer Universität oder Forschungseinrichtung an.


Registration for the conference is now open.

Please register by "Anmeldeformular für diese Veranstaltung" (below) or write to veranstaltungen(at)awhamburg.de


Seating at the venue is limited. If you only intend to attend some of the presentations, please write to veranstaltungen(at)awhamburg.de

Registration ends on March 5th, 2010.


Programmflyer zum Download


Zur Arbeitsgruppe "Modellbildung, Simulation und Komplexitätsreduktion in den Wissenschaften"


University of Hamburg, Main Building, Lecture room H | Edmund-Siemers-Allee 1 | 20146 Hamburg

Donnerstag, 18. März 2010 um 00:00