Faking it for physicists

Jul 06, 2006

In a "faking it" style test, a social scientist has fooled a panel of physicist judges into believing he was an experienced gravitational wave physicist.

But far from being a demonstration of good bluffing, social scientist Harry Collins of Cardiff University believes the test proves outsiders -- such as social scientists, peer reviewers or science journalists -- can gain "interactional expertise" in a subject, even if they have never studied it formally and can't actually practice it themselves.

An interview appearing in the journal Nature this week details how Collins -- who has spent more than 30 years studying the community of physicists who work on gravity waves -- answered seven questions about gravity waves set by an expert in the subject. His replies, together with those from a gravitational physicist, were sent to nine researchers in the field.

Asked to spot the real physicist, seven were unsure and two chose Collins.

"The results show that outsiders can develop a kind of expertise in a scientific field," says Collins.

Collins' research will be published this December in Studies in the History of Philosophy of Science.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

Explore further: A 'movie' of ultrafast rotating molecules at a hundred billion per second

Related Stories

Measuring the value of science

Apr 16, 2015

Reports about the worthy contributions of science to national economies pop up regularly all around the world – from the UK to the US and even the developing world. ...

Stanford Libraries unearths the earliest US website

Nov 09, 2014

Some of the earliest pages from the World Wide Web have been restored and are once again browsable, providing a glimpse of how the web once operated. Stanford Libraries has made these pages available with ...

How 'man of science' was dumped in favour of 'scientist'

Aug 05, 2014

JT Carrington, editor of the popular science magazine Science-Gossip, achieved a remarkable feat in December of 1894. He found a subject on which the Duke of Argyll, a combative anti-Darwinian, and Thomas ...

We still can't get enough pi ... but why?

Mar 14, 2014

The number pi (π = 3.14159265358979323846…), unique among the pantheon of mathematical constants, captures the fascination of the public and professional mathematicians. Three years ago one of the authors ...

Researchers use science to predict success

Oct 07, 2013

We all want to know the secret to success and physicists are no different. Like the rest of the academic community, physicists rely on various quantitative factors to determine whether a researcher will enjoy ...

Recommended for you

Extreme lab at European X-ray laser XFEL is a go

Jul 02, 2015

The Helmholtz Senate has given the green light for the Association's involvement in the Helmholtz International Beamline (HIB), a new kind of experimentation station at the X-ray laser European XFEL in Hamburg, ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.