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: Optimum inertial self-propulsion design for snowman-like nanorobot

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

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

Spin-based electronics: New material successfully tested

17 hours ago

Spintronics is an emerging field of electronics, where devices work by manipulating the spin of electrons rather than the current generated by their motion. This field can offer significant advantages to computer technology. ...

A transistor-like amplifier for single photons

Jul 29, 2014

Data transmission over long distances usually utilizes optical techniques via glass fibres – this ensures high speed transmission combined with low power dissipation of the signal. For quite some years ...

User comments : 0