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Lead into gold: the science of finding nothing

Collins, Harold Maurice ORCID: 2003. Lead into gold: the science of finding nothing. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 34 (4) , pp. 661-691. 10.1016/j.shpsa.2003.09.002

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Scientists are always doing experiments or making observations that disappoint them. Most negative experiments are consigned to the file drawer. But in physics, lead is regularly transmuted into gold by treating a negative result as an upper limit—an observation of the maximum strength of the phenomenon under investigation. The logic and sociology of upper limits and the logic and sociology of positive results are different. I explore the difference through a case study in the physical sciences. In the conclusion I ask why social sciences only rarely translate their negative findings into successes.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Q Science > Q Science (General)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Physics; Gravitational Waves; Negative Results; Upper Limits; Audiences for Science
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0039-3681
Last Modified: 31 Oct 2022 10:54

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