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: Experiment with speeding ions verifies relativistic time dilation to new level of precision

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

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

How Paramecium protozoa claw their way to the top

Sep 19, 2014

The ability to swim upwards – towards the sun and food supplies – is vital for many aquatic microorganisms. Exactly how they are able to differentiate between above and below in often murky waters is ...

User comments : 0