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Son of Seven Sexes: The Social Destruction of a Physical Phenomenon Author(s): H. M.

Collins Reviewed work(s): Source: Social Studies of Science, Vol. 11, No. 1, Special Issue: 'Knowledge and Controversy: Studies of Modern Natural Science' (Feb., 1981), pp. 33-62 Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/284735 . Accessed: 12/04/2012 08:32
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* ABSTRACT

Working from within the relativist perspective, this paper documents the demise of credibility of claims for the existence of high fluxes of gravitational radiation. The study is based on interview fieldwork conducted in 1975 and builds upon earlier work reported in 1975. Criticisms of the positive claims are presented schematically and shown to be permeable to alternative interpretations. The actions of one of the major critics are examined in detail and it is suggested that his contribution to the debate is best seen as a - successful - attempt to render alternative interpretations less credible. What was seen by many as a minimal technical contribution was thus made into a decisive experimental account. The case is discussed in terms of the metaphor of 'interpretative charity'.

Son of Seven Sexes: The Social Destruction of a Physical Phenomenon


H. M. Collins

This paper is concerned with the construction of scientific knowledge. It is informed by a 'relativistic' orientation toward the natural world.' I hope to show the validity and value of this orientation through empirical work focussed on an area of natural science - the detection of gravitational radiation. In its empirical style the paper is closely related to a growing number of casestudies which are, broadly, in the relativistic mould.2 However, as its title implies, it builds directly upon work published in 1975 in a paper entitled 'The Seven Sexes...'.3 I will refer to this earlier paper as '7Ss'.
Social Studies of Science (SAGE, London and Beverly Rills), Vol. 11 (1981), 33-62

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In this paper I report on fieldwork carried out in 1975, whereas 7Ss reported fieldwork done in 1972. In 7Ss I used interview material, gathered from scientists working on the detection of gravitational radiation, to show the problems involved in replicating experiments which test for the existence of novel phenomena.4 The acquisition of the skill required to do an experiment requires the transfer of tacit knowledge, and the successful transfer of such knowledge is indicated only by the successful practice of the corresponding skill.5 Usually, successful practice of an experimental skill is evident in a successful outcome to an experiment, but where detection of a novel phenomenon is in question, it is not clear what should count as a 'successful outcome' - detection or non-detection of the phenomenon. Thus arguments concerning the existence of the phenomenon turn, not upon experimental results, but upon what comes to count as a 'well-done experiment'. If those experiments which produce positive results come to count as competently performed experiments, then the new phenomenon will be taken to have been detected - and vice versa. In 7Ss the ambiguity of experimental results was documented, and the processes of 'social negotiation' involved in determining which experiments were to count as competent were examined. In this paper I continue the documentation of the history of the detection of gravitational radiation, showing some of the social processes involved in the growth of almost universal disbelief in the positive claims that were being made up to the mid-1970s. I try to show that there were no purely cognitive reasons that would 'force' scientists to disbelieve these claims. Their incredibility is a social product - though they are none the less incredible for that.6 The paper has two main sections and a concluding discussion. In the first section, I sketch in the scientific background to the controversy - interested readers should turn to the Appendix for more details. In the second section, which is divided into three parts, I describe the critical response of experimenters to the initial positive claims, and the defences against these criticisms made by the original experimenter. This second section reveals the permeability to counter-claim of the purely scientific arguments against the existence of gravity waves. I suggest that critics of the original claims were aware of this permeability and acted in a way that would be consistent with this awareness - that is, they tried to reduce the credibility of the positive experiments and increase the credibility of the negative ones by more than purely 'scientific actions'.7 In the

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discussion section I have used Gellner's metaphor of 'interpretative charity'8to re-describe the negotiating stances of the scientist actors involved in the controversy. The Detection of Gravitational Radiation Gravitational radiation can be thought of as the gravitational equivalent of electromagnetic radiation, and most scientists would agree that Einstein's general theory predicts that moving massive bodies will produce it.'However, gravity waves appear to be so weakly coupled to matter that their detection is very difficult. For example, no-one has so far suggested a way of generating detectable fluxes of gravitational radiation on Earth - at least, not within the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, it is now accepted that some sensible proportion of the vast amounts of energy generated in the violent events which take place in the universe should be dissipated in the form of gravitational radiation, and this may be detectable on Earth. Exploding supernovae, black holes, binary stars and so forth should produce sizeable fluxes of gravity waves which would manifest themselves on Earth as a small oscillation in the value of 'G' - the constant that is related to the gravitational pull of one object on another. While some experiments have been designed to follow this oscillation in detail (mostly using laser interferometers), the predominant approach to the detection of the radiation has been to try to integrate the energy of the radiation in a device that will vibrate naturally at the same frequency as that of the putative wave. The first such devices, which set the broad pattern for subsequent work, were designed and built by Professor Joseph Weber of the University of Maryland. The integrating device was a large bar (several tons) of aluminium alloy that would 'ring' at a characteristic frequency. (1661 Hertz in the case of Weber's detectors.) Vibration in the bar would be detected by piezo-electric strain gauges glued onto it, their output amplified and recorded. Such detectors are often referred to as 'antennae'. Such a device would not, in theory, distinguish between vibrations that are induced in it by gravitational radiation and those induced by any other force. Thus to make a reasonable attempt to detect gravitational radiation the bar must be insulated from all other known potential disturbances. Electrical, magnetic, thermal,

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acoustic and seismic disturbances must be guarded against. Weber attempted to do this by suspending the bar in a vacuum chamber on a thin wire. The suspension was insulated from the ground by a series of lead and rubber sheets. (The seismic insulation seems to have been a particularly simple and ingenious solution to what many had thought to be an insoluble problem.) Even these precautions will not result in the bar remaining completely quiescent when undisturbed by gravitational radiation, for, so long as the bar is at a temperature above absolute zero, vibrations will be induced in it by the random movements of the atoms of which it is made. Thus the strain gauges will register a continual output of 'noise'. If this is recorded on graph paper by a pen recorder (as it was in many experiments), what will be seen is a spiky wavy line showing random peaks and troughs. A gravity wave would be represented as a particularly high peak (see Appendix), and a decision has to be made as to a threshold above which a peak counts as a gravity wave rather than noise. However high the threshold that is chosen, it must be expected that occasionally a peak due entirely to noise would rise above this threshold. So in order to be confident that some gravity waves are being detected it is necessary to estimate the number of 'accidental' peaks one should obtain as a result of noise alone, and to make certain that the total number of above-threshold peaks is more than this number. Weber first claimed to have detected such peaks in 1969 several (about seven) every day. At the time of writing (1979), Weber's claims are nearly universally disbelieved but the search for gravitational radiation goes on, and many of the experimental devices are, in principle, similar to Weber's. The problem with Weber's findings was that he seemed to find far too much gravitational radiation to be compatible with current cosmological theories. Calculations can be made of the probable sensitivity of Weber's device, and of the amounts of energy, dissipated in the form of gravity waves, that should be generated by cosmic events. It seemed that if Weber's results were extrapolated, assuming an isotropic universe, and assuming that gravitational radiation was not concentrated into the 1661 Hertz frequency that Weber could best detect, then the amount of energy that was being generated in the cosmos must mean that its lifetime would be very short indeed. It would soon be completely burnt up. The antennae currently under development aim to be 109 (onethousand-million) times more sensitive in order to find comparable

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numbers of gravitational radiation events. Thus, though I am going to talk of the extinction of certain claims to have found a new natural phenomenon - gravity waves - it must be understood that I refer only to the phenomenon claimed to have been discovered by Weber. This should properly be referred to as 'highfluxes-of-gravity-waves', and I will try to preface each appropriate reference to the phenomenon with the letters (hf), for 'high fluxes'. Finally, it must be remembered that the experiment was being conducted at the frontiers of technology. It was a very difficult experiment, requiring that movements as small as 2xl0-14cm smaller than the radius of an electron - be detected in a massive bar metres in length. One of the smaller antennae that I was shown was encased in a glass vacuum vessel. The impact of the light from a small flashgun was enough to send the recording trace to the edge of its scale. I, as a relative layman, found this demonstration very impressive, though scientists have suggested to me that it represents a fairly insensitive test of one of these devices. Though Weber's first claims were not entirely credible, in the early 1970s he produced a series of ingenious modifications which led other laboratories to attempt to replicate his work. (See the Appendix for a schematic presentation of gravity wave detection.) The most important of his later claims was that above-threshold peaks could be detected simultaneously on two or more antennae separated by about a thousand miles. At first sight it seemed that only some extra-terrestrial disturbance, such as gravity waves, could be responsible for these simultaneous observations. Weber also discovered a periodicity in the disturbances of around 24 hours (see Appendix). This suggested that the radiation came from one extra-terrestrialdirection only. What is more, the periodicity seemed to relate to the Earth's disposition with regard to the Galaxy, rather than with regard to the Sun, and this suggested an extrasolar - that is, galactic - source for the disturbance. (This effect became known as the 'sidereal correlation'.) Encouraged (or incensed!) by these results, several other laboratories began work on gravity wave detectors, and by 1972 a few of these were 'on the air'. In 1972, I interviewed most of the scientists engaged in this work, and reported my results in 7Ss. In 1975, I interviewed these scientists a second time, and it is the results of this second round of interviews that I report here. Most of this paper was drafted early in 1976, and has undergone only minor stylistic alterations since. I note this since I think that it is im-

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portant to record the temporal relationship between the analyst and his/her subject where - as is the case for contemporaneous study of scientific activity - rapid changes of perceived value are to be observed.

The Detection of Gravitational Radiation: Fieldwork 1975 In July 1973, negative results were formally published by two separate groups (one two weeks after the other) in Physical Review Letters. In December 1973, a third group published negative results in Nature. Between then and my interviews in 1975, further articles claiming negative results at increased sensitivity had been published by these groups, and also by three other groups. No results supporting Weber have been published to date. After 1972, the thrust of experimental activity changed, along with the growth of certainty that Weber's results were incorrect. Whereas, in 1972, about a dozen groups were engaged in active experimentation directed at Weber's findings, by 1975 no-one but Weber was still working in this direction and even he faced severe funding problems. Of other American and European groups known to me, two had dropped out completely from the search for gravity waves; seven groups were building (or considering the design of) antennae of several orders of magnitude greater sensitivity in the hope of detecting the small theoretically-predicted radiation flux; one group was searching for two detector coincidences in the hope of finding interesting non-gravitational phenomena, but claimed that their antennae were so much more sensitive than Weber's that even if they succeeded in this aim their discovery would not corroborate his results in any way; and one other group had ceased active experimentation but were still comparing early data with Weber's corresponding data in a search for coincidences. In addition there were groups in Australia, Russia, Canada and Japan whose activities were known to me only through publications, and the reports of third parties. In 1972, a few scientists believed in the existence of high fluxes of gravity waves, and hardly any would openly commit themselves to their non-existence. By 1975, a number of scientists had spent time and effort actively prosecuting the case against Weber. Most of the others accepted that he was wrong, and only one scientist, other

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than Weber, thought the search for high fluxes worth pursuing. It might be fair to refer to 1975 as, in the words of one of my respondents, belonging to 'the post-Weber era'. I am now going to look in some detail at the arguments about Weber's results that were produced between 1972 and 1975 and discussed by my respondents in 1975. I will divide up this discussion into three sections. In the first section, I will look at four major types of criticism of Weber's results, without examining Weber's replies. I will show that even critics of Weber found this evidence permeable. In the second section, I will look closely at the actions of one of Weber's major critics and try to explain them in the light of the preceding section. In the third section, I will look at Weber's replies to his critics. Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations are extracts from interviews conducted in 1975.

What Major Reasons did Critics Give for Thinking that Weber's Results Were Spurious? (a) Computer Error
The real gist of the story is that all the experiments Weber has published have turned out to have been based on faulty computer programs. (Sceptical Scientist)

One scientist (Peters)9 discovered a fault in the program used by Weber to process a batch of data. This fault was acknowledged by Weber to be responsible for the majority of the reported 'signal' in that batch. However, after some delay he changed his program and reported that the new program, which contained no errors, and which corrected certain 'additional errors', found a significant signal in the same batch of data. There is considerable controversy over the significance of the computer error and the legitimacy of Weber's response. Several scientists made comments such as:
... the zero delay excess was still there and in any case, Weber has corrected that since.

Peters was himself convinced by the computer error that Weber's results were wrong, but did not think it a crucial point in the public

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debate. In fact he made no moves to make his discovery of the error generally known. In the first place he told Weber of it in confidence. The first public announcement was forced by another scientist (Quest) at a conference. Quest eventually published a Letter in a popular physics journal which included the statement:
Peters showed that in a.. [certain tape].. nearly all the so-called 'real' coincidences... were created individually by this single program error. Thus not only some phenomenon besides gravity waves could, but in fact did cause the zerodelay excess coincidence rate [in these data]. (Quest's stress)

To sum up, the quotatiop at the head of this section typifies the attitudes of a considerable set of scientists to Weber's computing error, which is to them a major justification of their negative attitudes toward his results. Another group do not invest this mistake with such central significance but would agree that it was a 'damaging point'. (b) Statistical Massage and the Four-Hour Error
We felt that the way he was doing his statistical analysis was open to great misinterpretation...By massaging data again and again, knowing what you want for an answer, you can increase the apparent statistical significance of any bump... I'm pretty sure he could get there out of pure noise. (Sceptical Scientist)

All the scientists I spoke to thought that Weber's presentation of his statistical techniques was less than convincing. A large number agreed with the sentiments expressed in the above quotation, and backed this up with detailed description of Weber's techniques, explaining how the fudging could come about. In several cases an explicit (and unprompted) comparison was drawn with the use of statistics in ESP research. Quest, in the published Letter mentioned above, described an artificial 'analysis' performed by a member of his group on 'two independent streams of random computer generated data' which produced a significant number of 'coincidences'. The implication of this was that Weber could be producing his 'coincidences' in a similar manner. Quest concluded his Letter by stating:
This 'experiment' demonstrates in a simple manner the extreme importance of publishing the details of the selection of data in the processing algorithm that might be used by the Weber group in any future publications.

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This kind of accusation was given great force by another incident involving a tactical error by Weber of classic simplicity. Weber compared a section of one of his data tapes with a corresponding section of tape from the antenna of Peters' group. He reported at a conference that these two antennae showed coincident excitations with an excess of 2.6 standard deviations over background noise. Later it emerged that, because of a misunderstanding over clock settings, the two tapes had not been synchronized, but that in fact Weber had compared sections recorded 4 hours and 1.2 seconds apart! Inadvertently, he had done an experiment like that reported by Quest - but on himself! He had produced a signal from what should have been pure noise. This error, too, was mentioned by Quest in his Letter, and was a significant point for a large set of scientists. Others believed that it was an important point but perhaps did not outweigh Weber's later claims that he was still seeing coincidences. He did not report the 2.6 standard deviation result as a 'positive' result - because, as Weber said, it was not statistically significant by the standards of modern particle physics. A final issue, related to the statistical problem, was the form of Weber's results. Several scientists (including Quest in the Letter) pointed out that the shape of the delay histogram as published by Weber was not the shape that would be expected if the signal were generated by some source of energy outside of the experiment (see Appendix). The histogram was too sharply peaked - a characteristic more typical of artificial generation of the signal from noise.

(c) The Reduction of Weber's Signal


The major thing that dissuaded everybody though - that eventually killed it off - was that no more talk or mention had been made of the sidereal correlation. (Sceptical Scientist)

Though there were rumours in 1975 that Weber had found a correlation with sidereal time in some later data, the early loss of this signal characteristic was important for most scientists, and a dominating criticism for at least one. The sidereal correlation was especially important because it suggested that some significant physical effect was the cause of the signal. It is not easy to think of a trivial effect (electronic correlation, correlated TV programmes,

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tape recorder faults) which would yield an artifact with a periodicity related to the Earth's disposition relative to the Galaxy and the stars rather than the Sun. Prevailing opinion, among those highly critical of Weber's statistics, was that the original reported sidereal correlation was a result of (unconscious) fudging, such as careful selection of reported data, or the like. Another important criticism concerned Weber's failure to improve his signal-to-noise ratio despite several years intensive modification of his apparatus. The signal stayed obstinately just above threshold (and had deteriorated), a characteristic which prompted some critics to draw parallels with other phenomena of 'pathological science' (see below).'? These problems worried most scientists, but were a dominant factor in accounts of only one or two of them. (d) Experimental Results of Other Laboratories
Once, say, two other groups have repeated the experiment, with greater sensitivity, and found nothing, you have to say, either 'all these people are incompetent to repeat the experiment', or 'the first person has made a mistake'. And it's a fairly easy choice. According to the rules of science, Weber has been disproved, even though you can't necessarily find what it is or how he went wrong. (Sceptical Scientist)

At the time of my interview in 1975, scientists had a field of about six negative experiments to compare with Weber's one positive result. But only one of those six experiments was cited by every sceptical scientist as being a good refutation of his results. (This will be referred to as the experiment of the 'King' group.) It stood out as being the only experiment intended to be an exact copy of Weber's - a programme described as 'pedantic' by several scientists interviewed in 1972.1 Only the scientist most sympathetic to Weber's claims believed the King experiment to be less than a convincing refutation of his results. But Weber himself criticized it trenchantly (see below). There were five other negative experiments. One of these was discounted by all scientists in 1975 because of its short experimental period - a run of days rather than months as was normal. All scientists agreed that another experiment surveyed a frequency range too low to be directly comparable with Weber's results. Of the remaining three experiments two also searched at a different

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frequency from Weber, and for some scientists this rendered them incapable of confronting him directly: however, as the searched frequency was in the region of Weber's, not all the scientists concurred with this view. In addition one of these two experiments was thought by at least one experimenter to be too complex to confront Weber directly, and the other was distrusted by more than one scientist on the grounds of incompetent analysis of results and negative rumours concerning the performance of the apparatus. The final experiment was that of Quest. Scientists nearly always discussed this with reservations for it was the smallest experiment of all. Nevertheless its impact was high because of the way it was presented. As one scientist put it:
...as far as the scientific community in general is concerned, it's probably Quest's publication [of the experiment - not his Letter, referred to above] that generally clinched the attitude. But in fact the experiment they did was trivial it was a tiny thing... But the thing was, the way they wrote it up... Everybody else was awfully tentative about it... It was all a bit hesitant... And then Quest comes along with this toy. But it's the way he writes it up you see.

Another scientist said:


Quest had considerably less sensitivity so I would have thought he would have made less impact than anyone, but he talked louder than anyone and he did a very nice job of analyzing his data.

And a third:
[Quest's paper] was very clever because its analysis was actually very convincing to other people, and that was the first time that anybody had worked out in a simple way just what the thermal noise from the bar should be... It was done in a very clear manner, and they sort of convinced everybody.

In discussing the experimental evidence ranged against Weber, scientists tended to cite different combinations of experiments.'2 No experimental group was unanimous in citing their own experiment alone as sufficient reason for discounting Weber's results. It is also the case that no scientist claimed to have developed negative opinions of Weber's findings as a result of a single experiment. In fact most outspoken critics of Weber's work had well formed opinions of it before anything subsequently claimed to be a significant negative experiment was completed. It is important to distinguish between negative belief and public statement. The role of experiment in developing scientists' personal

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beliefs did not seem to have been either crucial or clear cut. But experiment was important in legitimating, first, the publication of negative results, and second, the certainty with which it was claimed, in public statements, that Weber's findings were false. The first negative results were reported with careful exploration of all logical possibilities for error. The style of presentation was thus consonant with the authors' lack of complete publishable certainty that Weber's results were entirely spurious. Following closely came the outspoken second experimental report of Quest with its careful data analysis and suggestion that the results were 'in substantial conflict with those reported by Weber'. Then, as one respondent put it, 'that started the avalanche, and after that, nobody saw anything'. However, of the Quest report itself, one respondent suggested:
Of course he wrote it that way because he could feel more confident having really read and looked at the work of the other people. He said, well God dammit, this is the third time round and still nothing, it's clear Weber's wrong... (Quest himself denied this interpretation.)

Thus the picture that emerges with regard to experimentation is that the series of experiments legitimized the openly publishable statement of strong and confident disagreement with Weber's results, but that this confidence came only after what one might call a 'critical mass' of experimental reports had built up, and that this mass was 'triggered' by scientist Quest. It is important to note that even the sceptical scientists disagreed about which experiments constituted the set of satisfactory confrontations with Weber, each negative experiment (except King's) being thought unsatisfactory in one or more respects by at least one sceptical scientist. (e) Summary: More Ships and Bottles The picture developed by the whole of this section (a-d) is very like that which emerges from the analysis of experimental results only (d alone). Individual scientists first came to their personal conclusions about Weber's results from one or more of the strands of evidence (a-d), but they were not unanimous in their assessment of the importance of the strands in demonstrating that he was mistaken. I will pick up a metaphor used in my earlier discussion of gravitational radiation to illuminate this process.

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In 7Ss I compared pieces of knowledge with ships in bottles. At that time I was concerned to stress that it is only by examining scientific controversies while they are in progress that the mechanism by which ships (scientific findings) get into bottles (validity) can be understood. If this process is not seen in operation it may be thought that the ships were always in the bottles, and that all scientists did was to find them 'ready assembled', as it were. The ship under consideration here is the absence of (hf) gravity waves. (The absence of something is just as much a physical fact as its presence.) The four sections of argument (a-d) may be thought of as four masts which, once erect, will make it appear that the ship could never have been outside the bottle. Yet each of the sets of arguments and evidence (a-d) has been found unconvincing - or, at least, less than satisfactory - by one or more of Weber's critics. In just the same way, each of the negative experiments in section (d), excepting the King experiment, was found wanting by one or more of the critics. One might say that these discoveries of flaws in the critical arguments are like discoveries of hinges and joints in the masts of the ship in the bottle. They show how it gets in, and thus make it conceivable that it might be got out again. A hypothetical scientist (call him 'H-Weber') could reveal the artifactual and flimsy nature of the 'ship of no gravity waves' by using arguments and opinions drawn entirely from his critics. (Only the King experiment 'stay' would be immune.) Thus arguments (a-d) were themselves insufficient to keep the ship in the bottle. It was necessary, therefore, to persuade the scientific community that the masts, and not the joints and hinges, were the crucial thing. Quest's contribution to the debate can be understood in this way. Masts, not Hinges Quest's experiment and experimental findings, it seems, were a means to an end: dissuasion. As he put it:
...what we could have done in the beginning was simply to have analyzed Weber's performance and to have shown in principle that he couldn't have detected the gravity waves that he said he was detecting... We could have argued from the abstract that he couldn't have been detecting them even under ideal circumstances. But we felt that we wouldn't have any credibility if we did that... and that the only way we could get standing, was to have a result of our own.

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Once again, it is important to stress that this section is in no way intended as any kind of criticism of any scientists' actions. Quest believed from the beginning that Weber was mistaken and acted on that belief as he thought proper. Only the most superficial reading of this paper would lead to the conclusion that Quest's actions were any less scientifically 'heroic' than Weber's. It is tempting to cast Weber in the role of uniquely maltreated 'hero' because he has lost the battle for (hf) gravity waves, but these observations are intended to be entirely neutral to such considerations. It should also be noted that Quest had prepared a strategy should it prove that high fluxes of gravity waves were found: he can thus claim to be less closed-minded than the f6llowing would suggest from a quick reading. With these qualifications in mind, Quest's actions and attitudes (as perceived by himself and others) can be further documented. Quest's attitude to the debate can be clearly seen in the way he presented his experiments, in his publicizing of the computer error and the four hour error in the face of Peters' (their discoverer's) willingness to keep them quiet, and in his writing of a damning Letter in a popular physics journal claiming that
The Weber group has published no credible evidence at all for their claim of detection of gravitational radiation.

Regarding Weber's errors Peters remarked:


As regards the... conference, Quest forced my hand. I went to the... conference not intending to mention the computer error unless Weber made a misstatement... But when I got there Quest presented me with a copy of his remarks already written up, and since I was heading off the session... I didn't get any lunch that day, putting in to what I was going to say, what happened, in what I felt was an accurate way, without being emotional... that was the first public announcement.

Another scientist commented:


... I felt that was a very inflammatory issue. It was clearly a case where Weber has tripped himself up because of his data analysis and I felt that it spoke for itself, and that those few people who knew about it were enough. But Quest did not feel that way and he went after Weber...and I just stood on the sidelines covering my eyes because I'm not really interested in that kind of thing, because that's not science.

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Another scientist said that he was tempted to disregard Quest's experimental results because Quest embarked on this as a sort of a holy crusade. He thought that Quest had been rather 'vindictive', had a reputation for vindictiveness, and 'could have been more polite'. Another remarked that Quest was 'a dangerous man. Some of the best scientists in the business have told me: "Quest is a tough cookie".' And another commented:
[Quest and his group] are so obnoxious, and so firm in their belief, that only their approach is the right one and that everyone else is wrong, that I immediately discount their veracity on the basis of self delusion.

Quest's own attitude has already been indicated by his quoted remarks regarding the purpose of his experiment, but some more documentation might be of interest. After completing work and publishing the report on their 'tiny' antenna, the Quest group built a second antenna of greater size and sensitivity but small enough to utilize the same peripheral equipment (vacuum chamber, etc.). I was interested in their reasons for going ahead with this if they considered that their first antenna, though small, was large enough to do the job of legitimizing their disproof of Weber's results. Quest himself answered simply in terms of maximum utilization of available equipment - the new experiment cost next to nothing and pushed the upper bound of possible gravity waves down still further. However, another of Quest's group answered:
... well we knew what was going to happen. We knew that Weber was building a bigger one and we just felt that we hadn't been convincing enough with our small antenna. We just had to get a step ahead of Weber and increase our sensitivity too. At that point it was not doing physics any longer. It's not clear that it was ever physics, but it certainly wasn't by then. If we were looking for gravity waves we would have adopted an entirely different approach. [For example, an experiment of sufficient sensitivity to find the theoretically predicted radiation]... there's just no point in building a detector of the [type]... that Weber has. You're just not going to detect anything... and so there is no point in building one, other than the fact that there's someone out there publishing results in Physical Review Letters... it was pretty clear that [another named group] were never going to come out with a firm conclusion... so we just went ahead and did it... We knew perfectly well what was going on, and it was just a question of getting a firm enough result so that we could publish in a reputable journal, and try to end it that way.

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The last phrase in the above quotation is highly significant. Quest's group had circulated a paper by Irving Langmuir'3to other scientists and to Weber himself. This paper was quoted to me also. The Langmuir paper deals with several cases of 'pathological science' - 'the science of things that aren't so' - and Quest believed that Weber's work was typical of this genre. He tried to persuade Weber and others of the similarities. Most of the cases cited by Langmuir dragged on, taking many years to settle, and, as a member of the Quest group put it, 'we just wanted to see if it was possible to stop it immediately without having it drag on for 20 years.' They were particularly worried because, though they knew that Weber's work was incorrect, they could see that this knowledge was not general - indeed, quite the opposite. To quote again:
Furthermore, Weber was pushing very hard. He was giving an endless number of talks... and... we had some graduate students - I forget which university they were from - come around to look at the apparatus... They were of the very firm opinion that gravity waves had been detected, and were an established fact of life, and we just felt something had to be done to stop it... It was just getting out of hand. If we had written an ordinary paper, that just said we had a look and we didn't find, it would have just sunk without trace.

In sum, it can be said with some degree of certainty that Quest and his group set out to kill Weber's findings in the shortest possible time. There is no reason to believe that they had anything but the most honourable motives for these actions but they pursued their aim in a more vigorous way than some scientists considered proper. In at least one or two cases their vigour was counter-productive leading other scientists to distrust their findings. They did their experiment with the intention of developing a position from which they could more effectively destroy Weber's findings. They would not have bothered to carry out any experimental work if it hadn't been that they 'looked at what some other people were planning to do and decided that there wasn't anybody who was going to make this confrontation.' Thus, Quest acted as though he did not think that the simple presentation of results with only a low key comment would be sufficient to destroy the credibility of Weber's results. In other words, he acted as one might expect a scientist to act who realized that simple evidence and arguments are not sufficient to settle unambiguously the existential status of a phenomenon. There is no

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reason to think that Quest was unsuccessful in his aims and, in the terms of the metaphor, he may be credited with encouraging and persuading scientists to ignore the joints and hinges and see a solid ship of no gravity waves built from the stock of findings, reasons and arguments available to them. These, in themselves, could be interpreted in other ways. It is Weber, of course, who had the greatest stake in drawing attention to the weaknesses in the hope of showing how the bottle could still be emptied to make room for his own ship - high fluxes of gravity waves. The next section deals with Weber's defence of his own work.

Weber's Defence Against His Critics Not surprisingly, Weber himself believed that all the arguments and evidence against him contained fatal flaws. Taking points (a) to (d) in turn, I will now discuss Weber's replies to his critics. Regarding the computer error Weber, while admitting to this mistake, insisted that it was unimportant. In a technical report he wrote:
A copy of [a] tape together with an unpublished list of coincidences was sent to Peters...Peters discovered a program error and incorrect values in the unpublished list of coincidences. Without further processing this tape, he reached the incorrect conclusion that the zero delay excess was one per day. This incorrect information was widely disseminated by him and Quest. After all corrections are applied the zero delay excess is 8 per day. Subsequently, Peters reported a zero delay excess of 6 per day for that tape.

In other written reports, and in interview, Weber insisted that the significant issue was that his programming had been independently checked by several others, who reached reasonable agreement with the above analysis after 14 months' 'correspondence'. Thus he remarked:
There are also issues relating to the computer programming. Our computer programs have been carefully checked by three independent groups. There was initially an error which was significant but not dominant. To the best of my knowledge the other groups have not had their computer programs checked in this way.

He claimed that Peters's mistake in his re-analysis of the data was to estimate the mean height of chance coincidence from a section of

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the delay histogram (see Appendix) which was too close to the centre and which, therefore, overestimated the background noise by including in it some of the signal. As regards the four-hour error, Weber remarked that there was a 2.6 standard deviation effect with the right time and also a 2.6 standard deviation effect with the wrong time, but that 'this doesn't meet the standards of modern particle physics and we never claimed it to be a positive result.' Regarding the accusation of statistical massage, Weber has replied by giving fuller details of his processing procedure in technical reports, and by showing that changes 'over a large range' in the parameters used to extract the signal from noise leave a clear signal in at least one batch of data. In a reply to Quest's Letter in the popular physics journal, Weber remarked that 'Computing errors have been an important factor in the politics but not in the physics of our experiment.' Weber insisted that loss of signal strength and character, and failure to improve signal-to-noise ratio over a period, are both explicable. He had recently observed periods when no signal at all could be picked up, and remarked to me:
People like 'Robinson', for instance, regard a published event rate [like that we published in 1969] as a claim that it is a law of nature. It is nothing of the sort. It's an observed event rate... We see this more and more in astronomy: for instance all the X-ray sources are very highly variable on a time scale of months, which is what we observe from our sources - large variability on a time scale of months.

Changes in the strength and character of the signal can then be attributed to changes in the source of the radiation. Regarding the signal-to-noise ratio, Weber pointed out that though huge improvements had been made in the sensitivity of his detector, these had all
improved the sensitivity for short pulses. But there's every indication that the pulses we see are not short and as soon as you say they are not short there's no reason to believe that the signal-to-noise ratio should be any better now than it was a few years ago... We can build detectors and carry out certain noise measurements on them and know what their specifications are, but unless the characteristics of the source are known, you don't know what to expect.

This remark is quite clear. One cannot make systematic im-

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provements in signal-to-noise ratio if one doesn't know the characteristics of the signal. The improvements that had been carried out over the years may have been informed by false assumptions in this respect. Weber did not consider that any of the other experiments constituted serious challenges to his work. In 1973 he was quoted in a popular physics journal as follows:
More than ten groups of physicists worldwide are now doing research of high quality... It is most unusual that at this time, January 1973, no one has repeated the 1969... experiments with similar or improved instrumentation and data processing. Other experimental groups have either employed smaller detectors, instrumentation with more noise, substantially different data processing or very different quality factors.

In 1975 his position was broadly the same as that expressed in the above quotation, except that his criticisms of the King experiment were more complicated. In 1973 Weber was holding on to the hope that King would produce results that would confirm his own. King's experiment was intended to be an exact copy of Weber's, and though in 1972 Weber would not commit himself to the statement that it was being done 'to his satisfaction', this experiment was the only one which he would agree could be described as the same as his own. He said:
...the King machines will be very similar, I think, to the ones we built here. I have had extensive contact with both groups. I have seen the King machine and I was very favourably impressed with it.

What is more, in August 1974 Weber was to write in a technical report that 'On the whole, our results are in fair agreement with the observations of the King group.' By October 1975 Weber claimed he was 'not terribly optimistic about the King group', giving me certain (confidential) reasons for his belief that they were not keen to discover gravity waves. Also, by this time the King group had published a paper which claimed to find no disturbance in their antennae which should be attributed to external signals. But they did find coincidences between two detectors over a sixteen day period at a significance level of 3.6 standard deviations. They claimed that this result should not be attributed to gravity waves but to an expectable statistical oddity. Critics thought the same. But Weber (and Weber's one sympathizer) noted the 'positive'

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King group findings and claimed that they backed up the Weber results. Thus there was disagreement over the supportive status of the King experiment. The Weber viewpoint can be maintained if it is assumed that the source might be variable, or that the King apparatus functioned properly for only those sixteen days. If the matter could be left there it would make my own analysis easier: however, the issue is confused by a second criticism levelled at the King group by Weber. The King group used a different signal processing algorithm to Weber - the 'linear' rather than the 'quadratic' - for all but a short period of their experimentation. For this reason Weber felt that their experiment was not a proper replication of his own - except for that short period. Even then he thought that the period was too short to count as a test: they should have run for at least a year with the quadratic algorithm. The problem is that the sixteen days of data in which the King group found a significant result were initially processed with the linear algorithm. When processed with Weber's quadratic algorithm, so they reported, the effect disappeared completely. Thus it did seem that Weber wanted to claim both that the King group found a positive result and that they should have run with the quadratic algorithm - while the King group suggest that the positive result that they reported would completely disappear if that algorithm were used. Weber did seem to argue at cross purposes here. Discussion It may be that the last point represents a genuine flaw in Weber's defence of his position. Perhaps, on the other hand, if I were to discuss it with him further he could explain the rationale behind the apparent conflict. Fortunately it does not seem to matter at all as far as the existence of (hf) gravity waves is concerned. No respondent suggested to me that it was this particular crucial flaw in Weber's reasoning that led him to disbelieve the Weber claims. In- nodeed, the apparent discrepancy is a 'discovery' of my own one else mentioned it. Nor would they need to, for there is quite enough in the earlier part of the story to suggest a sceptical view even though Weber had a technical answer for every other point. The problem is - in Gellner's terms14 - how 'charitable' to be in the interpretation of systems of belief.

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Ernest Gellner, writing about the interpretation of the belief systems of primitive tribes, has argued that the anthropologist may make them seem coherent and rational, or incoherent and irrational, according to how charitable his interpretation is.'5 This is a problem that confronts the sociologist (and historian) of science and the working scientist equally. In this case the charitable interpretation allows all Weber's defences and lets the 'ship-of-nogravity-waves' out of the bottle again. The uncharitable interpretation is that championed by Quest and his group. Since, as we have seen, the evidence in this case was not inviolable, scientists' conclusions regarding the existence of (hf) gravity waves rested on the degree of charity invested in their interpretations of events. I have already argued this, in different terms, when I discussed Quest's role in the dispute (see above, p. 45). Since we are dealing with more or less charitable interpretations, it matters not whether Weber really tripped himself up on some occasion or not. All that matters is whether he was perceived (interpreted) as doing so. Thus effort expended in trying to decide whether Weber was 'really' behaving consistently or not is misplaced. Weber's thought processes are not relevant to the dispute. 'Hypothetical-Weber' is the crucial individual in establishing the permeability of the dispute to different interpretations and in drawing attention to the social processes which determined the outcome of the debate. Advantage is only to be gained - in this regard - by talking to the real Weber because the scientist who is deeply involved in the debate is likely to be more ingenious in showing the permeability of the debate than is a sociologist at constructing an 'H-Weber'.16But if the real scientist makes an occasional slip, or mistake, this only matters to the outcome of the debate if it is widely noticed by his peers and his peers are not prepared to find a charitable interpretation themselves or to excuse the slip. Thus Weber's apparent slip, since it was of no importance to his peers, is of no concern to this analysis. We can see, then, that the question of charitability in anthropology has a parallel in scientific disputes. In anthropology, lack of charity in interpretation implies a defence of the anthropologist's conception of rational behaviour and a licence to change primitive tribes in a direction which finds favour in 'Western eyes'. In science, too, lack of charity implies a defence of the status quo and a licence to expel anomalous findings from the body of scientific knowledge. Charitable interpretations imply the opposite. In this paper I have tried to show the possibility and

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scope of charitable interpretations in the debate over the existence of (hf) gravity waves and then I have tried to show one of the ways in which the credibility of charitable interpretations was reduced by Quest. To uncover the scope for charity, and to interpret the actions of the 'victorious' side as less 'charitable' - rather than more 'rational' or 'correct' - than those of the 'defeated' party, requires a suspension of the normal mode of receiving scientific knowledge. The existence of (hf) gravity waves is now literally incredible. My claim is not that sociology can bring them back, but that their demise was a social (and political) process. Where Weber (see above, p. 50) distinguished between the physics and politics of experiment, I have tried to show that they are not so easily distinguishable.'7 To do this requires that, at least for the purpose of constructing the account, a relativistic attitude is taken to the scientific phenomenon under investigation. To press the account forward requires that it be taken that the phenomenon itself does not dictate the outcome of the debate, otherwise the failure of the defeated party - the incredibility of the discredited phenomenon - will seem so natural as not to require an explanation at all. The appropriate attitude for conducting this kind of inquiry is to assume that 'the natural world in no way constrains what is believed to be'.'8 I hope that the detailed empirical work found in this paper, and in other papers in the same tradition,'9 will bear out the claims made for the relativistic approach and encourage its adoption as a methodological prescription, even by those to whom it is epistemologically distasteful.20

Collins: Gravitational Radiation

55 * APPENDIX

Techniques and Innovations in the Search for (hf) Gravity Waves

In
i

Figure 1 Signals as Peaks above Threshold

Figure 2 Signals as Sudden Changes in Energy

Even the most well isolated detector will produce a 'noisy' output because of thermal noise in the aluminium alloy bar. Some method of extracting signal from noise has to be used. In the early days Weber counted each peak above a predetermined threshold as signifying a wave pulse (Figure 1). An alternative is to look for sudden changes in the energy of the bar, irrespective of whether or not a threshold is crossed (Figure 2). The latter seems to be a more efficient method. Weber's early analyses of his output were done by 'eyeball'. This was a widely distrusted aspect of his design, though it can be defended. (After all, the eye is much better at pattern recognition than is a computer.) All the later experiments used a computer to do a 'hands off' analysis of data.

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I
I I

A
I II
I II I II II r r~~I I I I

~~~~~~~i~i
I
I

I I I

I I I I I

I I

III~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ r~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I

i I

I I

I I

Figure 3 Signals as Coincidences from Two Detectors

A major innovation was the comparison of output from two (or more) isolated antennae. Antennae A and B produce output traces that are compared (Figure 3). Only coincident peaks (arrowed) count as genuine gravity waves. There is still the problem that a few coincident peaks will occur because of coincident peaks of noise in the two detectors. These are known as 'accidentals'. Accidentals and genuine peaks can be separated with a 'delay histogram' analysis.

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A
-2 ' 2,

--1

^^^^A^_---

.-2 1. A._

_': . ::
B

2 _w_.

3\

------

I-----

signal

--

---------

noise

-4

-3 -2

-1
relative

0
time

Figure 4 Signal Extracted from Noise by Delay Histogram The delay histogram (Figure 4) is constructed by taking the output from antenna A and comparing it with output from B when that output is displaced in time by varying amounts. When the time displacement is large, the coincident peaks on the outputs should be the product of noise alone. An estimate of the number of accidentals can thus be obtained from the height of those histogram bins which are far from the centre (zero time displacement) of the delay histogram. The signal is then represented by the height of the central bin less the height of the background accidentals. Since the time resolution of bar antennae is not perfect, signals will spread slightly in time, so that bins near to the centre of the delay histogram should register above the noise level.

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12 (24?) hours

signal , i size ,

absolute time

Figure 5 Periodicity in Signal

If the excess signal over noise is determined for each hour of the day and night, and the hourly totals are aggregated for each hour over a period of weeks or months, a periodicity may be noticed. The histogram in Figure 5 shows the results of such an exercise and reveals a periodicity with about a 12 hour cycle. In the early days, Weber claimed to find a periodicity with about a 24 hour cycle. He reasoned that if gravity waves come from one point in space (for example, a point where there are a lot of stars - such as the centre of the Galaxy) then, as the Earth rotates, an antenna fixed to its surface will be in a disposition that is most efficient for detecting radiation from that direction once per Earth rotation - that is, about once every 24 hours. It was then pointed out that since the Earth is virtually transparent to gravitational radiation the efficient disposition would be attained twice in each rotation (once on each side). Later Weber claimed that the periodicity had, in fact, about a 12 hour cycle.

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~\

~centre of galaxy

July 1st - 12 midnight earth > 12noon. April 1st -6am

October 1st
-

A
V I
sun

6pm 6am

<(

6pm

January 1st --12noon

12midnight

Figure 6 The Sidereal Correlation But if the centre of the Galaxy is the source of the radiation, rather than the Sun, the phase of the periodicity should change during the year (Figure 6). (In other words, the astronomical day is nearer 23 hours and 56 minutes.) Thus if the disposition of the antenna (represented by the same straight line on the surface of the Earth) is most efficient at 12 noon and 12 midnight on 1 January, it should be most efficient at 6.00 am and 6.00 pm on 1 April, noon and midnight again on 1 July, and 6 and 6 again on 1 October. This phase shift is the 'sidereal correlation'.

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An earlier version of this paper was presented at a Conference on 'New Perspectives in the History and Sociology of Scientific Knowledge', jointly sponsored by the British Society for the History of Science and the British Sociological Association Sociology of Science Study Group, at the Universityof Bath, UK, 27-29 March 1980. The research was supported by (UK) SSRC grant HR 3452/2. I am grateful to all those scientists who gave up time to talk to me about their fascinating research in physics. 1. See for example Barry Barnes, Scientific Knowledge and Sociological Theory (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1974); David Bloor, Knowledge and Social Imagery (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1976); H. M. Collins and G. Cox, 'Recovering Relativity: Did Prophecy Fail?', Social Studies of Science, Vol. 6 (1976), 423-44. 2. Readily available studies include H. M. Collins, 'Upon the Replication of Scientific Findings: A Discussion Illuminated by the Experiences of Researchers into Parapsychology', Proceedings of the 4S/ISA Conference on Social Studies of Science, Cornell University, November 1976 (unpublished mimeo: copies available from the author, University of Bath, UK); Collins and T. J. Pinch, 'The Construction of the Paranormal: Nothing Unscientific is Happening', in R. Wallis (ed.), On the Margins of Science: The Social Construction of Rejected Knowledge (Keele, Staffs.: University of Keele, Sociological Review Monograph No. 27, 1979), 237-70; B. Harvey, 'The Effects of Social Context on the Process of Scientific Investigation: Experimental Tests of Quantum Mechanics', in K. Knorr, R. Krohn and R. D. Whitley (eds), The Social Process of Scientific Investigation, Sociology of the Sciences Yearbook, Vol. 4 (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1980), 139-63; Harvey, 'Plausibility and the Evaluation of Knowledge: A Case-Study in Experimental Quantum Mechanics', Social Studies of Science, Vol. 11 (1981), 95-130; A. R. Pickering, 'The Hunting of the Quark', Isis, Vol. 72, No. 262 (June 1981), in press; Pickering, 'Constraints on Controversy: The Case of the Magnetic Monopole', Social Studies of Science, Vol. 11 (1981), 63-93; T. J. Pinch, 'Normal Explanations of the Paranormal: The Demarcation Problem and Fraud in Parapsychology', Social Studies of Science, Vol. 9 (1979), 329-48; Pinch, 'The Sun-Set: The Presentation of Certainty in Scientific Life', Social Studies of Science, Vol. 11 (1981), 131-58; S. Shapin, 'The Politics of Observation: Cerebral Anatomy and Social Interests in the Edinburgh Phrenology Disputes', in Wallis (ed.), op. cit., 139-78; G. D. L. Travis, 'On the Construction of Creativity: The "Memory Transfer" Phenomenon and the Importance of Being Earnest', in Knorr et al. (eds), op. cit., 165-93; Travis, 'Replicating Replication: Aspects of the Social Construction of Learning in Planarian Worms', Social Studies of Science, Vol. 11 (1981), 11-32; B. Wynne, 'C. G. Barkla and the J Phenomenon: A Case Study in the Treatment of Deviance in Physics', Social Studies of Science, Vol. 6 (1976), 307-47. 3. H. M. Collins, 'The Seven Sexes: A Study in the Sociology of a Phenomenon, or the Replication of Experiments in Physics', Sociology, Vol. 9 (1975), 205-24. 4. See also Collins, 'Upon the Replication...', op. cit. note 2. 5. For a relevant application of the concept of tacit knowledge see H. M.

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Collins, 'The TEA Set: Tacit Knowledge and Scientific Networks', Science Studies, Vol. 4 (1974), 165-86. 6. See also Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar, Laboratory Life (Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage, 1979). 7. The distinction between 'scientific' and 'non-scientific' action is not one that can be maintained, within the relativistic approach, as anything other than a description of the style or location of action. Within this new approach the distinction has no epistemological basis. Elsewhere, the distinction has been discussed in terms of 'Constructive' and 'Contingent' forums of action - see Collins and Pinch, 'The Construction of the Paranormal...', op. cit. note 2. For the distinction discussed as ideology see M. J. Mulkay, 'Norms and Ideology in Science', Social Science Information, Vol. 15 (1976), 637-56. 8. Ernest Gellner, 'Concepts and Society', in Bryan Wilson (ed.), Rationality (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1970), 18-49. 9. Other than Weber the proper names of all scientists given in the text are pseudonyms. 10. I. Langmuir, edited by R. N. Hall, 'Pathological Science' (Schenectady, NY: General Electric R. and D. Center Report No. 68-C-035, 1968). See also John Ziman, 'Some Pathologies of the Scientific Life', The Advancement of Science, Vol. 27, No. 131 (September 1970), 7-16. 11. No member of the King group could be interviewed in 1972. 12. The King group experiment was common to all, however. 13. Langmuir, op. cit. note 10. 14. Op. cit. note 8. 15. Gellner went on to argue that charity goes too far when all interpretation ends in a rational reconstruction - but that is not the argument of this paper. 16. In this case of overt disagreement among scientists the relevant arguments are presented 'ready-made' by the scientist actors. For this methodological reason controversy is a good location for sociological fieldwork. For a case where the arguments were successfully constructed by the sociologist see Harvey, 'Plausibility...', op. cit. note 2. 17. Other 'political' acts essayed by scientists in attempting to bring about one conclusion or the other to this debate included: (a) Writing 'round robin' letters attempting to gather a list of signatures endorsing one position or another with the intention of publishing such a list. (b) Writing strongly worded papers for submission to journals where either referees or editors persuaded the author to moderate the tone. (c) Putting pressure on editors of journals either to accept, or refuse to accept, certain particular papers or certain classes of paper in the future. (d) Acting so as to influence the funding of particular projects. (e) Attempting to persuade others that their work was a variety of 'pathological science' (see above, p. 48, and op. cit. note 10). (A means of defence to this ploy is to cite counter cases, where results which were eventually to be accepted, were either ignored, disbelieved or proved difficult to replicate. In this connection two cases were cited by different scientists - the 'Compton Effect' and the discovery of non-conservation of parity in weak interactions. Interestingly, in the latter case, evidence for which was ignored for at least 20 years, one of the eventual co-discoverers was Quest!).

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Writing letters to scientists' heads of department, overall bosses, and so on, in an attempt to constrain the actions of those scientists. (g) Using sources of 'inside information' to discover the details of an experimenter's work, unknown to the scientist in question. (h) Making use of the popular press to publicize particular points. This list, of course, includes nothing of the flavour of performances and antagonisms in conferences, articles, letters and conversations. For an excellent study of the influence of 'large-P' Politics on a scientific controversy see Shapin, 'The Politics of Observation...', op. cit. note 2. 18. 'Occasionally, existing work leaves the feeling that reality has nothing to do with what is socially constructed or negotiated to count as natural knowledge, but we may safely assume that this impression is an accidental by-product of overenthusiastic sociological analysis, and that sociologists as a whole would acknowledge that the world in some way constrains what is believed to be' (Barnes, op. cit. note 1, vii). For discussion of this claim, see Collins and Cox, op. cit. note 1; John Law, 'Prophecy Failed (for the Actors)!: A Note on "Recovering Relativity" ', Social Studies of Science, Vol. 7 (1977), 367-72; and Collins and Cox, 'Relativity Revisited: Mrs Keech - a Suitable Case for Special Treatment?', ibid., 372-80. 19. See the works cited in notes 2, 3, 6 and 7. 20. For defences of relativism as an epistemological position, see the works cited in note 1.

H. M. Collins is Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Bath and Convenor of the Sociology of Science Study Group of the British Sociological Association. He is the author of a number of papers in the area of sociology of scientific knowledge, most using case material from physics and from parapsychology. A book - Frames of Meaning: The Social Construction of ExtraordinaryScience (co-authored by Trevor Pinch) examining physicists' investigations into psychokinesis will be published in 1981. Author's address: School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Bath, Claverton Down, Bath BA2 7AY, UK.