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Prestige asymmetry in American physics : aspirations, applications, and the purloined letter effect.

Martin, Joseph D. (2017) 'Prestige asymmetry in American physics : aspirations, applications, and the purloined letter effect.', Science in context., 30 (4). pp. 475-506.

Abstract

Why do similar scientific enterprises garner unequal public approbation? High energy physics attracted considerable attention in the late-twentieth-century United States, whereas condensed matter physics – which occupied the greater proportion of US physicists – remained little known to the public, despite its relevance to ubiquitous consumer technologies. This paper supplements existing accounts of this much remarked-upon prestige asymmetry by showing that popular emphasis on the mundane technological offshoots of condensed matter physics and its focus on human-scale phenomena have rendered it more recondite than its better-known sibling field. News reports about high energy physics emphasize intellectual achievement; reporting on condensed matter physics focuses on technology. And whereas frontier-oriented rhetoric of high energy physics communicates ideals of human potential, discoveries that smack of the mundane highlight human limitations and fail to resonate with the widespread aspirational vision of science – a consequence I call “the purloined letter effect.”

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.
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Status:Peer-reviewed
Publisher Web site:https://doi.org/10.1017/S0269889717000242
Publisher statement:This article has been published in a revised form in Science in Context http://doi.org/10.1017/S0269889717000242. This version is published under a Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND. No commercial re-distribution or re-use allowed. Derivative works cannot be distributed. © copyright holder.
Date accepted:17 May 2017
Date deposited:04 October 2019
Date of first online publication:08 February 2018
Date first made open access:04 October 2019

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