Friday, 30 January 2015

Friday wrap-up: Planck, HESS, exoplanets...

  • Today Planck has released a statement [edit: web site has been hidden, but luckily the internet keeps backups] [edit 2: paper is now available from here] about the combination analysis of BICEP2+KECK+Planck re: primordial gravitational waves. Be sure to click the "Expert" version for some plots. (English speakers try google translate). The bottom line is no significant non-zero measurement, with the tensor-to-scalar ratio r<0.13 at 95% C.L. It could just be dust.
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    No doubt we will hear more about it in the coming week(s).
  • Richard Dawid's book "String Theory and the Scientific Method" and surrounding ideas of post-empirical science continues to cause waves within the blogosphere. The argument seems to be that String Theory is likely correct because: (a) there are few viable alternatives, (b) the more it is studied the more it appears to hold together coherently, and (c) it is the extrapolation of a previous programme of study (the Standard Model) which already succeeded. But without experiment to ground it in reality, is it science? We can go back to May for a couple of interesting book reviews from two opposing sides: Woit and Motl.
  • Worth a look also are pieces on Helen Quinn at Symmetry Magazine, and Yitang Zhang (of bounded prime gaps fame) in the New Yorker.
  • Lastly, AndromedaBot is a twitter account which tweets excerpts from Hubble's largest photo (of Andromeda) every half-hour.