1.2 What is a “model”?

The review’s very title demands an explanation of what is to be understood by “model”. A model is a theoretical construct used as thinking aid in the study of some physical system too complex to be understood by direct inferences from observed data. A model is usually designed with some specific scientific questions in mind, and asking different questions about a given physical system will, in all legitimacy, lead to distinct model designs. A well-designed model should be as complex as it needs to be to answer the questions having motivated its inception, but no more than that. Throwing everything into a model – usually in the name of “physical realism” – is likely to produce results as complicated as the data coming from the original physical system under study. Such model results are doubly damned, as they are usually as opaque as the original physical data, and, in addition, are not even real-world data!

Nearly all of the solar dynamo models discussed in this review rely on severe simplifications of the set of equations known to govern the dynamics of the Sun’s turbulent, magnetized fluid interior. Yet all of them are bona fide models, as defined here.

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