The question raised in the title of the article is not philosophical. We do not expect general answers of the form “to describe the reality surrounding us”. The question should actually be formulated as a mathematical problem of applied mathematics, a task for new research. This question should be answered in mathematically rigorous statements about the interrelations between the properties of the operator’s kernels and the types of phenomena. This article is devoted to a discussion of the question of what is fractional operator from the point of view of not pure mathematics, but applied mathematics. The imposed restrictions on the kernel of the fractional operator should actually be divided by types of phenomena, in addition to the principles of self-consistency of mathematical theory. In applications of fractional calculus, we have a fundamental question about conditions of kernels of fractional operator of non-integer orders that allow us to describe a particular type of phenomenon. It is necessary to obtain exact correspondences between sets of properties of kernel and type of phenomena. In this paper, we discuss the properties of kernels of fractional operators to distinguish the following types of phenomena: fading memory (forgetting) and power-law frequency dispersion, spatial non-locality and power-law spatial dispersion, distributed lag (time delay), distributed scaling (dilation), depreciation, and aging.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited