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Gravity's Ghost: Scientific Discovery in the Twenty-first Century

Gravity's Ghost: Scientific Discovery in the Twenty-first Century
Author: Harry Collins
ISBN 13: 9780226113562
ISBN 10: 226113566
Edition: 11.1.2010
Publisher: University Of Chicago Press
Publication Date: 2010-12-01
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 200
List Price: $43.00

"In theory, at least, gravitational waves do exist. Scientists tell us we are constantly bathed in gravitational radiation, which is generated when stars explode or collide, and a portion of their mass becomes energy that ripples out like a disturbance on the surface of a serene pond. But unfortunately no gravitational wave has ever been directly detected, even though the search has lasted more than forty years." "That's why, when a sudden burst of energy was detected recently by the giant laser Interferometer Gravitational Observatory, scientists were both cautious and optimistic. Could this be the first direct detection of a gravitational wave after a four-decade search? For eighteen months the physicists calculated and argued fiercely, sometimes accusing each other of being too fearful of making a mistake, sometimes of not being fearful enough. And, of course, as the leading chronicler of the search for gravitational waves. Harry Collins was right there with them. He was given access to the entire debate, including its emotional denouement and immediate aftermath. He recorded and transcribed the crucial exchanges and analyzed what was said while exploring the influence of what was not. The result of his unprecedented access to the front lines of physical science is Gravity's Ghost, a thrilling chronicle of high-stakes research and cutting-edge discovery." Here, Collins reveals that scientific discovery and nondiscovery turn on scientific traditions and rivalries. that secure statistical analysis rests on impossible procedures and unattainable knowledge, and that fact in one place is baseless assumption in another. He also argues that sciences like gravitational wave detection, in exemplifying how the intractable is to be handled, can offer scientific leadership a moral beacon for the twenty-first century. In the end, Gravity's Ghost is a dramatic scientific mystery with a completely unexpected conclusion.