Institute for Technology Assessment and  Systems Analysis (ITAS)

The impact of computer simulations on the epistemic status of LHC Data

Project description

Science and technology are intrinsically intertwined. For a long time, technology and engineering were seen as mere application of natural science knowledge into practice. Recent investigation has granted technological investigation and engineering reasoning an independent status. Not only goes engineering and technology beyond mere application of scientific results, also does technology shape and enable scientific discoveries. In modern experiments, technological knowledge is often mediated via computer simulations and in this way also impacts on pure science such high energy physics (HEP). With this project we want to better understand as to how technology in the form of sophisticated experimenting impacts on scientific discoveries by focusing on the computer simulations involved in high energy physics (HEP) data generation.

In computer simulations are today an important tool in experimental data generation. In this project we aim to address the epistemic issues related to this use of computer simulations in experimental data generation. We focus on the use of computer simulations in the ATLAS experiment, which has been operating at the LHC at CERN since 2008. The central objectives of the project are: to explore the utilization of the conceptually simple simulations in the ATLAS experiment and the impact on complex experimental results; to provide an epistemological characterization of experimental knowledge based on simulations; to investigate the relationship between theoretical, phenomenological and computer models; and to analyze how the involvement of simulations in experimental procedures affects the discovery potential of the ATLAS experiment. Achieving these objectives requires a detailed understanding of the utilization, i.e. purposes and key features, of computer simulations at ATLAS, as well as a classification of simulation models with respect to construction and functioning in the overall experiment. In particular, the term epistemic risk will be used to investigate how computer simulations impact the discovery potential of experiment. Here, we will address how uncertainties in experimental results arise due to the use of simulations in data-generation, and how they impact on the reliability of experimental results.

This project is one of six subprojects of the DFG research unit Philosophy of the LHC.


Prof. Dr. Dr. Rafaela Hillerbrand
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe

Tel.: +49 721 608-26450