Empirical models

  • Thread starter Que Pasa
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Hello all,

Could someone offer an example of case where an empirical model was developed first due to absence of theoretical models and later (possibly years later), the theoretical models caught up and were able to explain the mechanistic detail that the empirical model could not?

Thank you,
QP
 

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  • #2
Stephen Tashi
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If you consider a formula to be a model, there are examples of empirical formulas for predicting spectral lines, such as http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rydberg_formula.

What kind of empirical models did you have in mind?
 
  • #3
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I may be completely misunderstanding the question but isn't that basically how most of our scientific knowledge has developed?
 
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ST: Rydberg's empirical relationship was a great example. Exactly the kind I had in mind.
Alan: You are right, experimentation, empirical modeling and mechanistic understanding is how scientific knowledge has developed for the most part. However, most landmark publications give a complete story along with the underlying physics, chemistry or biology as the case maybe. I was going after examples where empirical models were the only mode of understanding for a long period before theory could offer more details. With this and Stephen's example would it be possible for you to offer another example? Thank you!
 
  • #5
Stephen Tashi
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There are the models of the solar system that used epicycles, then the Copernican model, then Kepler's attempt based on the geometry of regular solids.
 
  • #6
FactChecker
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Good examples would be any famous experiments and famous failed theories. Michelson Morley comes to mind. Also, the orbits of planets. Those types of examples show how the struggle for a valid theory proceeded based on empirical evidence.

I agree with @alan2. It seems like almost all our knowledge comes from empirical evidence. There are more failed theories than successful (so far) theories and it is empirical evidence that sorts them out.
 
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