What happens when disturbances in precision measurement instruments are indecipherable to physicists despite extensive review of the instruments and their outputs? How do physicists parse instrument outputs to discern sought-after signals from noise that originates from the surrounding natural and built environments, either masking or mimicking these desired signals? I argue that given the extreme sensitivity of the laser interferometers used by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) to detect minute length deformations caused by gravitational waves, physicists reconceptualized their traditional laboratory spaces to include the surrounding natural and built environments. Discerning signal from noise in instruments operating close to their low noise floors necessitate an epistemic shift that combines the laboratory with the surrounding natural and built environments beyond its walls through the epistemic space of the “expanded laboratory environment.”

You do not currently have access to this content.