In "Shifting Standards, " Allan Franklin provides an overview of
notable experiments in particle physics. Using papers published in
"Physical Review, " the journal of the American Physical Society,
as his basis, Franklin details the experiments themselves, their
data collection, the events witnessed, and the interpretation of
results. From these papers, he distills the dramatic changes to
particle physics experimentation from 1894 through 2009.
Franklin develops a framework for his analysis, viewing each
example according to exclusion and selection of data; possible
experimenter bias; details of the experimental apparatus; size of
the data set, apparatus, and number of authors; rates of data
taking along with analysis and reduction; distinction between ideal
and actual experiments; historical accounts of previous
experiments; and personal comments and style.
From Millikan's tabletop oil-drop experiment to the Compact Muon
Solenoid apparatus measuring approximately 4,000 cubic meters (not
including accelerators) and employing over 2,000 authors,
Franklin's study follows the decade-by-decade evolution of scale
and standards in particle physics experimentation. As he shows,
where once there were only one or two collaborators, now it
literally takes a village. Similar changes are seen in data
collection: in 1909 Millikan's data set took 175 oil drops, of
which he used 23 to determine the value of e, the charge of the
electron; in contrast, the 1988-1992 E791 experiment using the
Collider Detector at Fermilab, investigating the hadroproduction of
charm quarks, recorded 20 billion events. As we also see, data
collection took a quantum leap in the 1950s with the use of
computers. Events are now recorded at rates as of a few hundred per
second, and analysis rates have progressed similarly.
Employing his epistemology of experimentation, Franklin
deconstructs each example to view the arguments offered and the
correctness of the results. Overall, he finds that despite the
metamorphosis of the process, the role of experimentation has
remained remarkably consistent through the years: to test theories
and provide factual basis for scientific knowledge, to encourage
new theories, and to reveal new phenomenon.
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