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About GeoffE

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  1. These gravitational lenses appear to be rather poorly figured. Geoff
  2. These clips are splendid! Kudos to Steve for posting the link. Geoff
  3. The degradation of the night sky. Geoff
  4. It was trying to deliver a message. Geoff
  5. I strongly suspect that the IDAS D1 works by sending all the suppressed light pollution to my skies. The positive correlation between IDAS D1 sales and light pollution in Chicago supports this hypothesis. Geoff
  6. Whatever bit of astro kit you decide on, get something nice for your girlfriend too. Geoff
  7. Exactly! We must nuke the Sun! I recommend launching at night to preserve the element of surprise. Geoff
  8. Bountiful paranoia makes me wonder if perhaps this was engineered in order to give American spy satellites a clear view. It wouldn't hurt to look skyward and smile for the camera (or indulge in some gesture that comes to mind ), Geoff
  9. I agree with crashtestdummy. The discovery of extremophiles on Earth and the pace at which new exoplanets (some of which may be Earthlike and within the Goldilocks zone) are being identified makes me confident that there are extraterrestrial beings in our galaxy who might consider human beings intelligent if they were willing to stretch the point. My cats have commanded me to protest the sarky comments about cats. Geoff
  10. I get the feeling that selling the kit is more gallant sacrifice than mere appeasement. But whatever the circumstances may be, I wish the seller better luck in the future. Geoff
  11. It's entirely possible that Yellowstone was sold to the UK. Such things are bound to happen during a government shutdown when no one is paying attention. I don't recall seeing Yellowstone on eBay, but I don't often browse the national park or volcano categories. Quite right, Nate. And while they're distracted, we should tap their geothermal energy and drain them of their vital force. Geoff
  12. Try as I might, I still can't detect screaming in the Wainwright paper. Your hearing is more sensitive than mine. And I don't quite see their claim as being wild. Perhaps it comes from the discovery of life in some of the most unexpected and inhospitable places. Extremophiles make me think that life is difficult to prevent. It may well be that sterility is the extraordinary condition. As for premature publication and other missteps by fellow scientists, it appears that I'm willing to tolerate a good deal more of this than most. Your point about the ubiquity of diatoms is well taken. The analysis of the diatom may settle the argument (at least temporarily). Extraterrestrial origin is a long shot to be sure, but I can't help hoping that they've got it right. Geoff
  13. I think symbiogenesis is a very important development in evolutionary theory and I admire the work of Lynn Margulis and others who are pursuing work in this area.GeoffGeoff
  14. Astrobiologist Louisa Preston at physicsfocus.org wrote, "I wonder how many of you are reading this already reacting the way I did, simply thinking… 'is that it? You floated a balloon in the atmosphere for less than 20 minutes and one diatom fossil later you are screaming aliens?!'” Wainwright et al. are not "screaming aliens." Like Plait, Preston is spinning her account to make it sound as if the Wainwright et al. paper is riddled with zealous rhetoric. This is not the case.Preston also condemns the Journal of Cosmology:"The paper was published in the Journal of Cosmology, an online freely available resource that is no stranger to controversial scientific claims. Its peer-review process has been called into question, and to be honest it has virtually no credibility within academia. The other red flag was that the research was conducted on July 31 2013, but the article was accepted for publication on August 9 2013. No scientist or journal in the world can pull off a turnaround time of 10 days, which raises eyebrows instantly as to the quality and accuracy of their findings."Critics keep repeating that bit about the Journal of Cosmology being "an online freely available resource" as if this is ought to make one suspicious. It may be news to many traditional academics, but online is the future, and free availability is what we should all be striving for insofar as restricted access to scholarship is not in the best interest of academe or humanity.The criticism of the Journal of Cosmology's peer review process is fair so long as it is understood that this criticism applies to the peer review process of all academic journals. Highly respected academic journals in every discipline have published papers that turned out to be incorrect and even fraudulent. Educational psychologist Sir Cyril Burt is a famous case in point. Evolutionary biologist Marc D. Hauser is another more recent example. The claim that a peer review can't be done in ten days time is nonsense. I've reviewed papers in my discipine within 24 hours of receipt. Turnaround time depends on the length and complexity of the manuscript, selection of reviewers who do not procrastinate, and is facilitated by the internet.Mike Wall (space.com) quotes Chris McKay (astrobiologist at NASA's Ames Research Center) who suggests that he would be convinced if analysis of the diatom shows that its biochemical makeup is inconsistent with Earth biochemistry. And Wainwright et al. plan to do just this sort of analysis. Wall goes on to say that astrobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuch feels that Wainwright et al. should have done this kind of analysis before publishing their paper. That's a fair criticism, and here we enter the realm of science reporting and human behaviour (scientists are, after all, human beings). The question is to what extent do we hold Wainwright et al. responsible for the popular media reaction to their publication. Their paper does not "scream aliens" but the authors can't control how others will react to their claim. My reaction was that the paper was very interesting and that the follow-up analysis would either make or break them. It would have been better (i.e., wise) had they postponed publication until the diatom was analyzed, but I quite understand the temptation. There is intense pressure in academe to be first--no one remembers who was second in any discovery. Finally, Ian O'Neill (news.discovery.com) doesn't add anything new to the debate. He criticizes Wainwright et al. for jumping to an alien origin conclusion based insufficient evidence and condemns the Journal of Cosmology.Wainwright et al. have gambled that the diatom analysis will support their claim. Again, I'm content to wait for their next report. The hyperbolic reaction to their paper (for or against) is not appropriate in my estimation.Geoff
  15. Phil Plait, self-appointed guardian of scientific virtue, has trashed the article by Wainwright et al. but are Plait's criticisms deserved?Owing to the participation of N. Chandra Wickramasinghe in Wainwright's research and because Wickramasinghe has been mistaken on some issues in the past, Plait automatically dismisses any claims made in the Wainwright et al. paper. Granted, Wickramasinghe has exhibited a predilection for finding diatoms in meteorites, but he has also published a substantial body of work in well-respected peer reviewed journals. Whatever one might think about Wickramasinghe's work, he is but one of five coauthors. Apparently, Plait's distrust of Wickramasinghe extends to all members of Wainwright's team.Plait discredits the Journal of Cosmology because it is an online publication and has published papers which do not meet Plait's standards. In my work, I've come across many papers in prestigious journals which I thought were abysmal examples of scientific research. I do not see that the Journal of Cosmology, which is peer reviewed, is worse than average in this regard. The peer review process is far from perfect. I would also point out that, like the Journal of Cosmology, Plait's blog is an online publication.Plait makes much of the identification of the diatom. The authors wrote: "On one stub was discovered part of a diatom which, we assume, is clear enough for experts on diatom taxonomy to precisely identify." They are clearly saying that the precise identification of the diatom by a diatom expert should be possible based on their photograph. The authors know they are looking at a diatom which they tentatively classify as "a Nitzschia species." In a rather sarky manner, Plait expresses doubt that the object is a diatom, and rebukes the authors for not getting a diatom expert to confirm that it is a diatom. Plait is just being thick.One gets the impression from Plait's complaints that the tone of the Wainwright et al. paper is reckless and adamant in its assertions. That is simply not so.I'm content to wait for follow-up research based on this initial finding.Geoff
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