Saturday, September 27, 2014

More Editorial On BICEP-2 Results

Anyone following the saga of the BICEP-2 results on the expansion of the early universe will have read many opinion pieces on it. Here is another one from The Economist, and strangely enough, it is quite well-written. I emphasis towards the end of the article on how science works:

Rowing back on a triumphant announcement about the first instants of creation may be a little embarrassing, but the saga is a useful reminder of how science works. There is no suggestion that anyone has behaved dishonourably. Admittedly, the BICEP team’s original press conference looks, with hindsight, seriously overconfident. More information-sharing between the various gravitational wave-hunters, all of whom guard their data jealously, might have helped tone down the triumphalism. But science, ideally, proceeds by exactly this sort of good-faith argument and honourable squabbling—until the weight of evidence forces one side to admit defeat.

This is where many in the general public don't fully understand. Reporting something and publishing something are merely the FIRST step in a tedious process of verification. The publication of something in peer-reviewed journals allows for others to scrutinize, verify, test, and duplicate the results, often in differing ways. Only when there is an independent agreement would something be considered to be valid or accepted.

How many other fields outside of science have that level of scrutiny and verification process?


1 comment:

Hamish J said...

I think it's safe to say that the Chao-Lin Kuo/Andre Linde video is an example of how science shouldn't be done!

"Let's just hope it is not a trick...", says Linde wisely when told of the BICEP2 discovery.