Gravity's Shadow: The Search for Gravitational Waves

Gravity's Shadow: The Search for Gravitational Waves

by Harry Collins
     
 

According to the theory of relativity, we are constantly bathed in gravitational radiation. When stars explode or collide, a portion of their mass becomes energy that disturbs the very fabric of the space-time continuum like ripples in a pond. But proving the existence of these waves has been difficult; the cosmic shudders are so weak that only the most sensitive

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Overview

According to the theory of relativity, we are constantly bathed in gravitational radiation. When stars explode or collide, a portion of their mass becomes energy that disturbs the very fabric of the space-time continuum like ripples in a pond. But proving the existence of these waves has been difficult; the cosmic shudders are so weak that only the most sensitive instruments can be expected to observe them directly. Fifteen times during the last thirty years scientists have claimed to have detected gravitational waves, but so far none of those claims have survived the scrutiny of the scientific community. Gravity's Shadow chronicles the forty-year effort to detect gravitational waves, while exploring the meaning of scientific knowledge and the nature of expertise.

Gravitational wave detection involves recording the collisions, explosions, and trembling of stars and black holes by evaluating the smallest changes ever measured. Because gravitational waves are so faint, their detection will come not in an exuberant moment of discovery but through a chain of inference; for forty years, scientists have debated whether there is anything to detect and whether it has yet been detected. Sociologist Harry Collins has been tracking the progress of this research since 1972, interviewing key scientists and delineating the social process of the science of gravitational waves.

Engagingly written and authoritatively comprehensive, Gravity's Shadow explores the people, institutions, and government organizations involved in the detection of gravitational waves. This sociological history will prove essential not only to sociologists and historians of science but to scientists themselves.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780226113777
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
Publication date:
09/04/2004
Edition description:
1
Pages:
864
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 2.50(d)

Table of Contents

Common acronyms in gravitational wave research
Introduction : two kinds of space-time1
Ch. 1The start of a new science23
Ch. 2From idea to experiment35
Ch. 3What are gravitational waves?66
Ch. 4The first published results74
Ch. 5The reservoir of doubt97
Ch. 6The first experiments by others116
Ch. 7Joe Weber's findings begin to be rejected in the constitutive forum135
Ch. 8Joe Weber fights back142
Ch. 9The consensus is formed154
Ch. 10An attempt to break the regress : the calibration of experiments189
Ch. 11Forgotten waves196
Ch. 12How waves spread206
Ch. 13The start of cryogenics215
Ch. 14Nautilus234
Ch. 15Nautilus, November 1996 to June 1998254
Ch. 16The spheres260
Ch. 17The start of interferometry265
Ch. 18Caltech enters the game284
Ch. 19The science of the life after death of room-temperature bars305
Ch. 20Scientific institutions and life after death329
Ch. 21Room-temperature bars and the policy regress358
Ch. 22Scientific cultures392
Ch. 23Resonant technology and the National Science Foundation review435
Ch. 24Ripples and conferences449
Ch. 25Three more conferences and a funeral454
Ch. 26The downtrodden masses480
Ch. 27The funding of LIGO and its consequences489
Ch. 28Moving technology : what is in a large interferometer?515
Ch. 29Moving Earth : the sites525
Ch. 30Moving people : from small science to big science546
Ch. 31The beginning of coordinated science558
Ch. 32The Drever affair572
Ch. 33The end of the skunk works584
Ch. 34Regime 3 : the coordinators592
Ch. 35Mechanism versus magic603
Ch. 36The 40-meter team versus the new management, continued636
Ch. 37Regime 4 (and 5) : the collaboration647
Ch. 38Pooling data : prospects and problems661
Ch. 39International collaboration among the interferometer groups676
Ch. 40When is science? : the meaning of upper limits698
Ch. 41Coming on air : the study and science731
Ch. 42Methodology as the meeting of two cultures : the study, scientists, and the public745
Ch. 43Final reflections : the study and sociology783
Ch. 44Joe Weber : a personal and methodological note800
Coda : March-April 2004 : new developments since the main part of the book was completed813
AppWhat is small?824
AppGravitational waves, gravitational radiation, and gravity waves : a note on terminology826
AppRoger Babson's essay, "Gravity - our enemy number one"828
AppColonial cringe832
AppThe method834

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