Physics

Adventures in Ethics and Science

Category archives for Physics

Dr. Free-Ride: So tell me about that device of yours? How did you make it and what does it do? Elder offspring: There is a cut piece of a drinking straw. You also need two pieces of tin foil and a long string. Dr. Free-Ride: That’s really aluminum foil, isn’t it? Elder offspring: They call…

Over at Starts with a Bang, Ethan Siegel expressed exasperation that Nature and New Scientist are paying attention to (and lending too much credibility to) an astronomical theory Ethan views as a non-starter, Modified Netwonian Dynamics (or MOND): [W]hy is Nature making a big deal out of a paper like this? Why are magazines like…

Eugenie Samuel Reich is a reporter whose work in the Boston Globe, Nature, and New Scientist will be well-known to those with an interest in scientific conduct (and misconduct). In Plastic Fantastic: How the Biggest Fraud in Physics Shook the Scientific World, she turns her skills as an investigative reporter to writing a book-length exploration…

Plastic Fantastic: How the Biggest Fraud in Physics Shook the Scientific World by Eugenie Samuel Reich New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2009 The scientific enterprise is built on trust and accountability. Scientists are accountable both to the world they are trying to describe and to their fellow scientists, with whom they are working to build a…

Recently, Steinn brought our attention to some of the difficulties involved in getting a scientific journal to publish a “Comment” on an article. He drew on a document (PDF) by Prof. Rick Trebino of the Georgia Institute of Technology School of Physics detailing (in 123 numbered steps) his own difficulties in advancing what is supposed…

Over at Cosmic Variance, Julianne Dalcanton describes a strategy for scientific communication that raises some interesting ethical issues: Suppose you (and perhaps a competing team) had an incredibly exciting discovery that you wrote up and submitted to Nature. Now suppose that you (and the competing team) simultaneously posted your (competing) papers to the ArXiv preprint…

There’s an interesting article in the Telegraph by Eugenie Samuel Reich looking back at the curious case of Jan Hendrik Schön. In the late ’90s and early ’00s, the Bell Labs physicist was producing a string of impressive discoveries — most of which, it turns out, were fabrications. Reich (who has published a book about…

This morning, I came upon the younger Free-Ride playing a game. Younger offspring: I’m playing “launch the bear”. Dr. Free-Ride: Oh, really?

Data paparazzi.

In a comment on another post, Blatnoi asks for my take on a recent news item in Nature: An Italian-led research group’s closely held data have been outed by paparazzi physicists, who photographed conference slides and then used the data in their own publications. For weeks, the physics community has been buzzing with the latest…

Go to Cosmic Variance at once to read Julianne Dalcanton’s musings on why spherical jerks (not the word she uses) are preferable to the asymmetric ones: No one is surprised when a known, calibrated asshole acts up. We all just adjust the gain on our emotional response and carry on. I’ve been quite fond of…