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Measuring Nothing, Repeatedly

Null experiments in physics
Allan Franklin, Ronald Laymon


There have been many recent discussions of the replication crisis in psychology and other social sciences. This has been attributed, in part, to the fact that researchers hesitate to submit null results and journals fail to publish such results. In this book, Allan Franklin and Ronald Laymon analyze what constitutes a null result and present evidence, spanning a 400-year history, that null results play significant roles in physics. They begin with Galileo's experiments on falling bodies and conclude with tests of the weak equivalence principle in general relativity, the search for physics beyond the Standard Model, and the search for neutrinoless double beta decay, all in the 21st century.

As these case studies make evident, null results have refuted theories, confirmed theories, provided evidence for potential new theories to explain, introduced new experimental techniques, corrected previous incorrect or misinterpreted results, and have been used to explore previously unstudied phenomena. What makes these many roles possible is the development of increasingly more accurate replications of a zero value result and the value of these replications for the effective treatment of systematic uncertainty. The book concludes with a brief analysis of certain fundamental differences between physics and social psychology in the role played by replication where these differences explain the absence of a replication crisis in physics.

About Editors

Allan Franklin is professor of physics emeritus at the University of Colorado. He began his career as an experimental high energy physicist and later changed his research area to history and philosophy of science, particularly on the roles of experiment. He is the author of eleven books including Shifting Standards: Experiments in Particle Physics in the Twentieth CenturyWhat Makes a Good Experiment?: Reasons and Roles in Science, and Is It the 'Same' Result? Replication in Physics.

Ronald Laymon is professor of philosophy emeritus at The Ohio State University where he specialized in the history and philosophy of science. In 1995 he took advantage of an early retirement option and completed a law degree at the University of Chicago School of Law in 1997. Now retired from the full time practice of law, Laymon does consulting work for a biotech, intellectual property firm that facilitates the open-source creation of therapeutic technologies.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction

I.            Falling Bodies and the Universality of Free Fall   

Chapter 2. Galileo and Free Fall

Chapter 3. Newton's Pendulum Experiment and the Replications by Bessel and Potter

                3.1 Newton's Pendulum Experiment

                3.2 The Experiments of Bessel and Potter

Chapter 4. The Eötvös Torsional Pendulum

Chapter 5. The Fifth Force and Eötvös Redux

5.1 The Rise of the Fifth Force

                5.2 It's Fall

                5.3 Tests of the Weak Equivalence Principle

Chapter 6. Do Falling Bodies Move South?

II.            Is There An Ether?

Chapter 7. The Michelson-Morley Experiments of 1881 and 1887

                7.1 The Experiments

                7.2 Reaction to the Michelson-Morley Null Result

                7.3 Early Replications by Morley and Dayton Miller

                7.4 Einstein and Beyond

                7.5 Replications by Kennedy, Illingworth, Joos and Others

Chapter 8. Dayton Miller and the "Cosmic" Solution

                8.1 Miller's 1933 Paper

                8.2 Shankland's 1955 Reanalysis of Dayton Miller's Data

                8.3 Roberts' 2006 Reanalysis of Dayton Miller's Data

      III.  "The Search for…

                                Chapter 9. … Physics Beyond the Standard Model"

                                                9.1 Search for Supersymmetry in Multijet Events

                                                9.2 Search for Top Squarks and Dark Matter Particles

                                                9.3 Discussion

                                Chapter 10. …Neutrinoless Double Beta Decay

                                                 10.1 The Problem

10.2 The Early Experiments

10.3 The Critics

10.4 The Second Generation Experiments

10.5 Discussion

                                Chapter 11. Conclusion

                                                11.1 How Do We Know It is a Null Result?

                                                                a) The Appraisal of Systematic and Statistical Uncertainty

                                                                b) Sensitivity, Calibration, and Surrogate Signals

                                                                c) Idealization and Approximation

                                                                d) Sensitivity with Respect to Data Analysis

                                                11.2 The Roles of Theory

                                                                a) Theories of the Phenomena

                                                                b) Theories of the Apparatus

                                                11.3 Replication in Physics and the Social Sciences


Paperback ISBN: 9780750330121

Ebook ISBN: 9781643277370

DOI: 10.1088/2053-2571/ab3918

Publisher: Morgan & Claypool Publishers


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