PSA2016: The 25th Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association

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Modeling Star Formation over Cosmic Time. The Schmidt Law: "Not Even Wrong"

Galaxy evolution simulations depend critically upon modeling star
formation. However, astronomy does not yet have a "first principles"
theory of star formation. One of the most influential parameteric
descriptions of star formation is the "Schmidt Law", which supposes
that the star formation rate is a power-law function of the gas
density. I will discuss the popular appeal of the Schmidt Law among
astronomers, as well as its observational and conceptual support. I
will show that the acceptance of this "law" for more than half a
century thwarted a more straightforward, and physically more
meaningful interpretation of the empirical data.

Author Information:

Barry Madore    
The Observatories
Carnegie Institution for Science


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