Article ID: CBB050506389

Coincidence and reproducibility in the EHT black hole experiment (2021)


This paper discusses some philosophical aspects related to the recent publication of the experimental results of the 2017 black hole experiment, namely the first image of the supermassive black hole at the center of galaxy M87. In this paper I present a philosophical analysis of the 2017 Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) black hole experiment. I first present Hacking's philosophy of experimentation. Hacking gives his taxonomy of elements of laboratory science and distinguishes a list of elements. I show that the EHT experiment conforms to major elements from Hacking's list. I then describe with the help of Galison's Philosophy of the Shadow how the EHT Collaboration created the famous black hole image. Galison outlines three stages for the reconstruction of the black hole image: Socio-Epistemology, Mechanical Objectivity, after which there is an additional Socio-Epistemology stage. I subsequently present my own interpretation of the reconstruction of the black hole image and I discuss model fitting to data. I suggest that the main method used by the EHT Collaboration to assure trust in the results of the EHT experiment is what philosophers call the Argument from Coincidence. I show that using this method for the above purpose is problematic. I present two versions of the Argument from Coincidence: Hacking's Coincidence and Cartwright's Reproducibility by which I analyse the EHT experiment. The same estimation of the mass of the black hole is reproduced in four different procedures. The EHT Collaboration concludes: the value we have converged upon is robust. I analyse the mass measurements of the black hole with the help of Cartwright's notion of robustness. I show that the EHT Collaboration construe Coincidence/Reproducibility as Technological Agnosticism and I contrast this interpretation with van Fraassen's scientific agnosticism.

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Authors & Contributors
Kragh, Helge S.
Fagan, Melinda Bonnie
Generali, Dario
Leudar, Ivan
Sharrock, Wes W.
Gähde, Ulrich
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Perspectives on Science
History of the Human Sciences
Annals of Science: The History of Science and Technology
Philosophia Naturalis
Endeavour: Review of the Progress of Science
University of Chicago Press
Palgrave Macmillan
University of Notre Dame
Oxford University Press
Philosophy of science
Experiments and experimentation
Models and modeling in science
Explanation; hypotheses; theories
Black holes (cosmology)
Hacking, Ian
Cartwright, Nancy
Crombie, Alistair Cameron
Popper, Karl Raimund
Einstein, Albert
Cohen, I. Bernard
Time Periods
21st century
20th century
20th century, late
17th century
19th century
18th century
School of Milan

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