Science Down, Up, and Inside-Out

First, a couple of things you might like to read: There was a long-overdue article from the New York Times as to how, after eight years of cuts from the Bush administration during good economic times, followed by additional inevitable cuts during the Great Recession, formerly world-leading scientific research efforts in the United States are on the … Read more

Dark Matter: Now You See It, Now You Don’t

Two interesting claims about dark matter this week, and on the face of it, completely contradictory, but in fact, not obviously so. Before saying one word more, let me repeat my mantra — something that all physicists know but relatively few non-scientists appreciate — most claims of a radical new result turn out to be largely or completely wrong. This is not because physicists are stupid but because doing science at the forefront of knowledge involves using novel techniques that might have unknown pitfalls, and also because a single small mistake can create a fake effect (as we saw most recently with the OPERA neutrino speed measurement.)  And because nasty statistical accidents can play tricks on you.

Both claims that I’m about to describe use novel techniques, and their analyses have not been repeated by anyone else. At this point you should understand that both are tentative, and (based on the history of radical claims) the odds are against them. Both might be wrong. That said, both analyses look to me as though they’ve been reasonably well done, and if a mistake has been made, it will require someone far more expert in dark matter studies than I am to point it out.

So let me describe them in turn, to the best of my ability.

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Looking for Signs of Dark Matter at the Milky Way’s Center

There is going to be some amount of debate regarding dark matter in the next few weeks, so I’ve written an article on one of the best ways to go looking for new signs of dark matter out in space. The reason we are almost entirely convinced that the universe has lots of matter that … Read more

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