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Study Concludes "Planet" Was Just Stellar Spots

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the waste-of-missiles dept.

Space 132

Kligat writes "Back in January, it was reported that the youngest planet ever to be discovered, about ten times the mass of Jupiter, was orbiting the eight- to ten-million-year-old star TW Hydrae. Now a Spanish research team has concluded that TW Hydrae b doesn't exist, and that cold spots on the star's surface actually produced the dip in brightness instead of a transiting planet. Not as cool as if a planet had actually been there, but refutations are science, too, right?"

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Damn! (4, Funny)

Chlorus (1146335) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732257)

And I had just bought real estate there too! Think they'll give me my money back if I ask nicely?

The other "bubble". (4, Funny)

sethstorm (512897) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732297)

Talk about a not-so-real estate bubble.

Re:Damn! (1)

ilovesymbian (1341639) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732403)

Just like you, I bought real estate there and built a house on TW Hydrae. But I couldn't pay my monthly mortgage and it was foreclosed.

Re:Damn! (4, Funny)

magarity (164372) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732439)

I had just bought real estate there
 
You think that sucks; a friend of mine just left on a one way colony transport.

Re:Damn! (1)

Chlorus (1146335) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732615)

Don't worry, by the time he gets there, humanity will have invented FTL travel and you can just stop him en route.

Re:Damn! (5, Funny)

laejoh (648921) | more than 6 years ago | (#24733301)

My friend is a telephone sanitizer as well, care to share the name of the holiday agency?

Re:Damn! (2, Funny)

needs2bfree (1256494) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732631)

First Pluto, now this!

Re:Damn! (1)

sethstorm (512897) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732815)

At least Pluto has proof of existence.

Re:Damn! (2, Funny)

drseuk (824707) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732973)

That's no planet!

Re:Damn! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24733659)

...it's a space station?

Real Estate Refund (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24733127)

I am DOCTOR RICHARDS OBAFEMI and I will be glad to assist you in getting your REFUND. In order to commence REFUND PROCEDURE please deposit the sum of $5000 (FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS US) demurrage fees to the account attached.

Your BROTHER IN GOD,
Dr. RICHARDS OBAFEMI

"but refutations are science, too, right?" (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24732259)

Not if what you are refuting is backed by "a consensus" and has the support of the political left.

Re:"but refutations are science, too, right?" (0, Troll)

sethstorm (512897) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732281)

What about if it's economic in nature, backed by right-wing think tanks, and allows for no dissent?

Welcome to the Church of Reagan, Mises and Hayek.

Re:"but refutations are science, too, right?" (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732309)

Then it's not science.... ?

Re:"but refutations are science, too, right?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24732327)

Both previous comments, are the reason American Science is decadent. The "American Century" lasts only 50 years.

Re:"but refutations are science, too, right?" (2, Informative)

retchdog (1319261) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732713)

Amusingly, Ludwig von Mises' younger brother Richard [wikipedia.org] was a real scientist with significant contributions in engineering and probability/statistics.

Re:"but refutations are science, too, right?" (1, Flamebait)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732917)

I had no idea those damn Democrats were so interested in propping up false extra-solar planets.

It's Science! (5, Insightful)

Sir Holo (531007) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732303)

This is all part of the process of science.

People are trying to figure out the unknown, and don't always get it right the first time.

The popular press may spin it differently for the layman, but this is how science works.

Re:It's Science! (4, Interesting)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732349)

So, have extrasolar sunspots been observed before?

I assume sunspots are far better understood than planetary formation, and that they're less interesting, but still... TFA gives no hint as to whether this is a first.

If this is a first, that's quite cool in its own right, even if there isn't a planet.

Re:It's Science! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24732469)

You beat me to this point.

It is very important to be able to see 'cool spots' on stars other than our sun. We don't even understand our solar cycle yet and seeing what goes on on other stars will help us understand our Sun and Earth.

If this is the first time that this has been observed there should be more hype on this subject. There are many, many people on earth that will take notice and attempt to repeat.

If this 'spot' is so huge that we can detect it - what would be the ramifications if our sun got the same sized spot?

Re:It's Science! (1)

g0dsp33d (849253) | more than 6 years ago | (#24735011)

If this 'spot' is so huge that we can detect it - what would be the ramifications if our sun got the same sized spot?

It could be dark for up to half of the day!

Re:It's Science! (3, Interesting)

neil.orourke (703459) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732525)

So, have extrasolar sunspots been observed before?

I assume sunspots are far better understood than planetary formation

Not necessarily so. The cause of sunspots is mostly understood, but this discovery is significant because it shows that starspots occur on stars with no known planets, thus providing the start of a refutation of the "Jupiter effect" in solar activity.

Re:It's Science! (3, Informative)

Americium (1343605) | more than 6 years ago | (#24733355)

Too bad we can't detect if there are Jupiter like planets around this star.

We can only detect Jupiter sized planets very close to the star, or something much bigger that is further away, nothing actually similar to Jupiter.

So no, it doesn't start a refutation at all. And this technique only can find planets that are in the same plane as our line of sight to that star, which considering how far away we are is an almost insignificant percent of that solar system.

Re:It's Science! (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24732535)

If only there was a free online encyclopedia we could consult... we could go to the "sun spot" article and see if there is a section about "starspots on other stars [wikipedia.org] ".

Re:It's Science! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24733499)

If only there was a free online encyclopedia we could consult... we could go to the "sun spot" article and see if there is a section about "starspots on other stars [wikipedia.org] ".

Well duh!

The correct way to do this is the hallowed Usenet technique:

If you don't know something, post - someone will answer with the correct answer.

Much easier than researching the question yourself, doing so difficult stuff like, say, opening your manual and read, or type something into a Wikipedia or Google search (and read again - it's a conspiracy I tell you!) ...

Re:It's Science! (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24732725)

Young stars are notorious for having star spots. They are much more active than the sun, having generally larger sunspots and flares. Stars younger than a few million years have large cold spots, similar to the sun but bigger, as well as hot spots. The hot spots come from material streaming in from the accretion disk that surrounds the star, gets trapped in the magnetic field lines of the star (like those of a dipole magnet) and fall onto the star. When this material hits the surface of this star it creates a shock front as it decelerates and heats up to a very high temperature (~10,000 K). So, yes sunspots are common around stars like TW Hya.

The active surface actually makes this type of measurement (radial velocity search for planets) very difficult for the exact reason they found in this paper. Older stars have weaker sunspots that wouldn't be confused with planets. Also the spectral lines used in the radial velocity measurements are not stable enough to get a very precise measurement.

This was a tough measurement and I don't think many astronomers were surprised that it turned out not to be a planet.

Re:It's Science! (4, Funny)

bishiraver (707931) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732357)

Science: it works, bitches.

Transcript (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24733199)

Scientist 1: "OMG! There's a tear in the cosmic fabric of space-time! It's swallowing galaxies, heading right for us, and we're all going to DIE!"

Scientist 2: "Would you chill out? It was just a hair on the eyepiece. Look again."

Scientist 1: "Oh. Right. Well, that's enough science for this morning. I think I'm going to break for lunch, now..."

Re:It's Science! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24732429)

This is all part of the process of science.

People are trying to figure out the unknown, and don't always get it right the first time.

The popular press may spin it differently for the layman, but this is how science works.

your shits all retarted.

Re:It's Science! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24732573)

you're shit's all retarted.

fixed.

Re:It's Science! (0, Offtopic)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732621)

Pfft... All Your Shit's Are Belong To 'Tards.

And on a serious note, it is "Your", your way is: "You Are Shit Is All Retarded." but that kinda works with some help: "You Are Shit Foo! You Is Like All 'Tarded Mofo"

They were wrong! (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732567)

That's -LIFE-. People take their best shot at mastering the unknown, namely, the future, and if they get it right, they are heros, and if they get it wrong, they are goats. Baseball players, bankers, drillers, salesman, farmers, all either have to guess the future correctly, or, they pay the price... hell, we all have to, or we pay the price. Why should scientists be treated any differently?

Re:It's Science! (2, Informative)

friendofthenite (1226310) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732583)

I don't think you can pin the blame purely on the press. People working in this field can make it clear when their findings are based partly on assumptions rather than proven science. Getting overexcited and announcing discoveries that turn out to be false can have quite a serious impact on the scientific community's reputation.

Re:It's Science! (1)

Jens Egon (947467) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732847)

I don't think you can pin the blame purely on the press. People working in this field can make it clear when their findings are based partly on assumptions rather than proven science. Getting overexcited and announcing discoveries that turn out to be false can have quite a serious impact on the scientific community's reputation.

Thus ruining all arguments along the line of "we know from science that ..."

Is that really so bad?

Who knows, Joe Public might even discover the scientific process.

Re:It's Science! (1)

friendofthenite (1226310) | more than 6 years ago | (#24733025)

It wouldn't stop any discussions if people simply made clear the extent to which their research is based on guesswork. Episodes like this tend to indicate that the researchers involved don't really have a great enough appreciation for their methods' limitations.

It's baseball! (-1, Offtopic)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732605)

Charlie Manuel, manager of the Phillies, yanks out home run hitter Pat Burrel for pinch hitter Tso Taguchi, because Taguchi is said to be a better fielder and base runner. But.. Pat has worked on his field, made a number of great plays in outfield, hits 30 home runs, and Taguchi is batting like .150, and just gets a pop fly and, fails to get on base again.

Therefor, Charlie Manuel is a godamned moron, and if the Phillies blow this game against the Dodgers in the same way they blew the season by dropping behind the Mets, I hope they fire his sorry ass. But, if he somehow turns it around, and gets the Phillies into the world series, he's the finest man I ever knew and I hope they make a saint of him.

Your scientists should be thankful they are not "stupid jocks playing baseball."

"Booooo!!!! Fire the guy... this guy shouldn't be a university.. he ought to be doing showing the moon through a 4" Meade at the local middle school... if he could find the moon. retard"

We should probably invite the original scientists to come to Philadelphia, so we can throw snowballs at them and boo them, the same way we booed Santa Clause.

Re:It's Science! (2, Insightful)

NoobixCube (1133473) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732657)

Exactly. Without debate and opposition, science is no better than religion.

Re:It's Science! (2, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#24733259)

Yes, but a debate must include facts and observations, not just opinion.

Re:It's Science! (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 6 years ago | (#24734317)

Well, it can contain substantial amounts of extrapolation, conjencture, unproven models and such ranging from fairly solid through opinion to complete guesswork. The difference is that scientists don't desperately try to hold on to ideas that contradict observation. Once you have a few experiments that confirms the behavior/existance of a phenomen, then is it is implicit that this is something the models have to account for or at least recognize as a discrepancy between the model and reality that is still work in progress. Religion on the other hand have resisted pretty much everything that's not in the first two pages of the Bible.

Even if we presume a God, omnipotent and all that, you have to ask which is more likely:
1. God's creation is as God makes it appear to us
2. God's creation is as God told us second-hand in a book

I can understand taking the Bible as the primary source of God's words. But taking the book as the primary source on Creation above Creation itself, well... to put it in a very mundane way "If the map doesn't match the terrain, the map is wrong." I'd say that applies in this case too since God is on both sides of the argument, but then religious logic has never been my strong side.

Re:It's Science! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24732905)

Lets see you fuckers laughing and being blase when the LHC fucks up the planet .... in the name of science of course.
After all, "Hawking Radiation" will stop anything bad happening.

Scientists .... arrogant motherfuckers playing god more like

Ever heard of the fermi paradox .... yeah, every previous civilization had scientists so fucking arrogant that they build an LHC or similar.

Stupid cunts.

Re:It's Science! (1)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 6 years ago | (#24733353)

Yea! I spoke to someone from one of these previous civilizations and he warned me about the LHC. He spoke to me and said something like this:

"You'll be sooooweeeeee!"

That convinced me that the LHC is a bad idea. I don't know what sowee feels, like, but I sure as hell don't want to find out!

Re:It's Science! (3, Insightful)

urcreepyneighbor (1171755) | more than 6 years ago | (#24733083)

The popular press may spin it differently for the layman, but this is how science works.

It's best to ignore the popular press.

Re:It's Science! (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 6 years ago | (#24733307)

Yeah, yeah, science at work, and it's all preaching to the choir here, but it'd be good if the researchers actually be conservative in the reports of their finding, especially in those fields where evidence is so circumstantial like cosmology, medical research, etc., lest people think scientists and salespeople are all the same.

yeah right (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24732331)

just provide evidence that offsets fanbois about apple, linux, global warming or the democratic party on here and find out how much refuting anything will get you modded down by a bunch of faggot bitches.

Downgraded Pluto, now downgrade TW Hydrae (-1, Offtopic)

ilovesymbian (1341639) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732347)

What is the criteria for a planet to be called a planet? They keep downgrading every "planet". Can't they study the stars/planets, analyze and make a final decision? Or do they just want to make a statement every now and then to be in the evening news?

Re:Downgraded Pluto, now downgrade TW Hydrae (1)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 6 years ago | (#24733369)

Yea, how dare they downgrade something from "exists" to "doesn't exist".

I mean, seriously, I've a good mind to go there and tell them: I don't exist, you insensitive clods!

What tipped them off? (1)

sleeponthemic (1253494) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732355)

Interesting that they should investigate this, I wonder whether this could implicate other planets discovered or if this was clearly questionable from the beginning.

Re:What tipped them off? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732411)

Interesting that they should investigate this, I wonder whether this could implicate other planets discovered or if this was clearly questionable from the beginning.

I could have sworn there was a case in the mid 70's when they thought they detected an extra-solar planet that turned out to be false. But I cannot find any reference to it.
     

Re:What tipped them off? (4, Informative)

Rob Carr (780861) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732465)

In the 1940s, 61 Cygni was thought to have planets [wikipedia.org] a planet -- then several planets, then none, and now, at least one.It's another example of science correcting itself more than once!

Others were discovered from wobble (4, Insightful)

Zancarius (414244) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732557)

Interesting that they should investigate this, I wonder whether this could implicate other planets discovered or if this was clearly questionable from the beginning.

I doubt it, because most other measurements were based upon the apparent wobbling of the parent star, not direct observation. This one, AFAIK, was tied to an attempt to "see" the planet transition across the parent star. Actually, I was of the frame of mind to think this is almost as exciting (if not more so) than a planetary discovery. If we can detect "cold spots" on an alien star, there's all sorts of fascinating implications.

From the article:

Our model shows that a cold spot covering 7% of the stellar surface and located at a latitude of 54 deg can reproduce the reported RV variations.

Impressive! There's a lot we may be able to learn about our own sun by monitoring the daily happenings of other stars. Things like the frequency of solar maximums, sunspots, and so forth on other stars comparing them with our own would be one such course of study.

I don't RTFA (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24732379)

but could this mean that OUR planet is just a stellar spot?

Re:I don't RTFA (1, Insightful)

poopdeville (841677) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732681)

Very insightful. Also a little alarming -- if our planet is a stellar spot, global warming means it is disappearing.

Re:I don't RTFA (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24733013)

But our planet is not disappearing, therefore either our planet is not a stellar spot, or there is no global warming.

Re:I don't RTFA (1)

DMUTPeregrine (612791) | more than 6 years ago | (#24734253)

Or global warming has nothing whatsoever to do with the existence of the planet as a whole.

Broken Dreams (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732387)

There goes my vision of meeting a 3-breasted green space-babe who likes D&D. As Elton J. would say, it's just the clouds in my eyes.

Re:Broken Dreams (1)

Onyma (1018104) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732397)

... or the sun-spots.

Re:Broken Dreams (1)

weirdcrashingnoises (1151951) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732435)

maybe he spent to much time as a sun spotter? i can't imagine that staring all day at the sun could be very good for the eyes...

Re:Broken Dreams (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24732941)

i had that job for awhile, but I was on the night shift.

Yeah, well... (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732417)

... the tour bus was not scheduled to start for some years, so I guess I am not too terribly upset.

WTF? (5, Funny)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732501)

Frankly, I think the CS'ers (Cold Spotters) are just trying to debunk established scientific facts with fantastic claims that are based in conjecture. All of us Transitional Planetists need to make sure these clowns don't teach this shit in our schools!

This is where I sit back and watch the establishment piss themselves to mod me down first.

Re:WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24732739)

...

(/Morpheus on)
  You think that's funny you're posting?
(/Morpheus)

Re:WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24732969)

You fail grammar. Morpheus did not.

"You think that's air you're breathing?" is grammatically correct (although it would be better with "do" and "that" added for clarity - e.g. "Do you think that's air that you're breathing?"). "You think that's funny you're posting" is in no way capable of being correct. You could correct it to the somewhat archaic sounding, but nevertheless correct, "You think that's funny? Your posting." (making the "Your posting" a clarification to the question, and taking advantage of the fact that "posting" can be a noun meaning the same as "post"), or better, simply use a noun instead of an adjective, such as, "You think that's humour you're posting?".

Re:WTF? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24733023)

Welcome to the internet, Grandma. You'll catch on eventually.

Re:WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24733037)

"Do you think that's air that you're breathing?" could also be expanded further to have less implied words: "Do you think that that's air that you're breathing?". It sounds quite awkward with the word "that" in it three times in close succession, but it's the clearest when broken up. It can be annoying that "that" is often an optional word in English!

Re:WTF? (0, Offtopic)

urcreepyneighbor (1171755) | more than 6 years ago | (#24733039)

I have no clue what you just said, but I like your sig... so I wish I had mod points. :)

Re:WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24734683)

Real scientists don't particularly care about the "establishment". They cheer just as much when a much-followed theory gets legitimately torn down as when a new and fantastic theory gets proposed that happens to explain the evidence. It's only the media and cranks that think some magical scientific establishment has any real power, or that any kind of power could actually hold down a good scientific idea or interpretation for any significant period of time.

So, I don't know who is going to mod you down.

Still funny, though.

Refutations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24732523)

Not as cool as if a planet had actually been there, but refutations are science, too, right?

Wait, I thought we had a consensus on this planet issue. Somebody needs to pull this group's funding.

Just this week's science failure. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24732531)

I say this every time a science post like this is posted: modern science is a joke. What I hate the most is the very concept of theories. The idea that some half-assed guess gets passed around as an acceptable explanation until proven otherwise just strikes a nerve with me. I wish science would stick to black and white, "we know this" and "we don't know this". Stop this "we think this and that, have no real clue, but are going to pat ourselves on the back for pretending to know something we don't".

Re:Just this week's science failure. (1)

poopdeville (841677) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732629)

I wish science would stick to black and white, "we know this" and "we don't know this". Stop this "we think this and that, have no real clue, but are going to pat ourselves on the back for pretending to know something we don't".

There's very little that science can actually prove. For example, it is impossible to prove that the sun will rise tomorrow without extra-logical or metaphysical assumptions. Sure, we can appeal to Newtonian physics, but that doesn't avoid the problem, since Newtonian physics were developed through observation and abstraction. That is, Newtonian physics is a theory, and demonstrably not fact.

Re:Just this week's science failure. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24732741)

My grumblings just tell me that I need to get out of the IT field. Need to get into the arts, something that evades the way the technical mind works. The desire to be able to explain and understand *everything* just bothers me. There's no real reason why we should have to prove the Sun will come up tomorrow. People should just enjoy the sunshine and leave it at that.

I suppose what angers me the most is the never-ending crusade to "advance" society. Human beings have already proven they can't even take care of a single planet and its inhabitants (our own species let alone the rest of the animal kingdom). From where I stand, every step that society takes forward in fact seems like a step backward.

Sigh. I really do wonder how I wound up in IT with an anti-scientific mindset like mine.

Re:Just this week's science failure. (1, Offtopic)

ChromaticDragon (1034458) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732907)

Because TECH is not SCIENCE. These appear to be somewhat intersecting sets at best.

Furthermore, Computer Science is in its pure state much more akin to a branch of mathematics than anything remotely resembling a Science.

It's not hard at all to understand how you would up in IT with an anti-scientific mind. It's also not terribly hard to understand why a bunch of IT folk shaved their heads and committed mass suicide to attempt to hitch a ride on a comet given there isn't sufficient science to suggest that might actually work.

Sometimes I wonder if programming to many isn't more closely related to magic than science. And indeed, there are many aspects of IT work that seem much more art than science.

Re:Just this week's science failure. (5, Informative)

YttriumOxide (837412) | more than 6 years ago | (#24733177)

Your post fundamentally disturbs me... and for a number of reasons.

I say this every time a science post like this is posted: modern science is a joke. What I hate the most is the very concept of theories.

Theories are pretty much entirely what science is about - so, if you have a problem with theories, you have a problem with ALL science, not just "modern science"

The idea that some half-assed guess gets passed around as an acceptable explanation until proven otherwise just strikes a nerve with me. I wish science would stick to black and white, "we know this" and "we don't know this".

Science has never been "black and white" and never will be. If you want that level of certainty, you'll find religion a few doors down the hall.

Theories are also not "half-assed guesses" - they're "best guesses" based on the results of experimentation (note that in some sciences direct experimentation isn't possible, so instead, precise modelling from the available evidence can also be used - this includes most of astronomy and historical things such as large timescale geology and evolution (both geology and evolution on short time scale, we've got experimental science already)).

If you walk in to the room, and I look at you, I can form a hypothesis, almost immediately, based on visual evidence, that you are human. If I then ran some tests based on my hypothesis and they agreed that with the hypothesis, then I'd have a working theory that you're human. I'd probably be right, however I can never know for sure - maybe you're an alien that just happens to be "human enough" that all of the tests I did would pass you as human. Now, I will work on the idea that you're human based on this theory. If however, a few weeks later, I get access to a new kind of DNA test, and for some reason decide to test you again, and find out you're NOT human, then the scientific method has NOT failed. I've determined you're not human, but I ALSO know with a lot more certainty how close to human you are (enough to pass all my initial tests).

That can relate back to the topic at hand by saying that we now know a lot more about HOW spots on a distant sun can LOOK like planets.

Stop this "we think this and that, have no real clue, but are going to pat ourselves on the back for pretending to know something we don't".

I wonder if perhaps you're just not familiar with what makes a theory compared to a hypothesis. Self-congratulations because of a hypothesis, would be bad, but self-congratulations because of a theory are definitely in order if it's interesting enough.

Science doesn't claim to know anything. Scientists will happily pat themselves on the back for a new theory, but anyone who then calls it "fact" is being intellectually dishonest (or perhaps just lazy, which is actually fine if they're not doing it in information that they're actively disseminating). Imagine, after my discovery that you're an alien, I throw a bit of a party because my theory now points to there being alien life on Earth. That party is pretty well justified I think, and some self-congratulation is definitely in order (if I'd thrown a party just after you walked in for looking at you and saying, "yep, that's probably a human" (or even, "yep, that's a probably an alien"), that'd be pretty stupid as I hadn't done any tests to try to confirm it). Then however, a few weeks after that, it turns out that some humans can have the strange DNA traits I found in you. I've gone from thinking you're human, to thinking you're an alien, to it turning out you're probably human after all. I'll say, "oops, looks like my theory was incomplete - sorry for the false alarm everyone!" and that should be fine. Even though I found out you're not an alien, I now know more about what I'm looking for next time, and also I've just learned something new about humans, so it's still a good thing. At this point, I assume you're human, even though I've changed my mind after my initial tests. I still could be wrong (maybe you are an alien after all), but it DOESN'T MATTER. What matters is that I understand much more than I did before.

Science doesn't search for truth and answers, science searches for understanding. There's a subtle, but important difference. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it may or may not be a duck, but whether it is or isn't, you understand a lot more about duck-like behaviour in the process.

If I jump out my window, I don't KNOW that I'll plummet 5 storeys to my death on the pavement below, but a very significant body of science tells me that it's extremely likely, so doing so is probably a bad idea!

Re:Just this week's science failure. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24733437)

Modern science? Ha ha ha ha. All science is theories and nothing but theories. Hell pretty much every single scientist of the past was wrong in absolute terms. At any given time for every theory there were probably ten previous ones it disproved and probably at least two of those were widely accepted.

Re:Just this week's science failure. (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 6 years ago | (#24734091)

Wrong room. Religion is down the hall.

Intelligent Design (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24732593)

Finally, conclusive proof that our lord God, in all his wisdom, would not allow another planet to corrupt His grand design. It is good, and by God's grace that the lies of these heretical scientists are exposed.

They see things in little more than fairy tales, shadows on a star, and believe with all their fibre that something exists that doesn't.

Our Lord God, in all his wisdom, would never allow another planet, not in the 5,000 years since creation itself has He ever done anything so looney.

Re:Intelligent Design (1)

scdeimos (632778) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732715)

Our Lord God, in all his wisdom, would never allow another planet, not in the 5,000 years since creation itself has He ever done anything so looney.

Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto. Oh, wait... not Pluto. :)

Using up your mainstream interest (2, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732595)

The exo-planet scientists are bumbling [quantumg.net] their way into obscurity. The public does not understand science. They don't understand small discoveries. They don't understand "backwards" discoveries like this one. Currently there is some interest in inferring that planets may exist around other stars, but it is quickly becoming a passing interest and the media attention is quickly turning from awe to skepticism (and not the good kind of skepticism required for science). It's like the 60s when inference of planetary atmospheres using starlight was proposed.. the interest was strong but no-one actually did the experiment for so long that when probes were proposed to go and directly measure the atmosphere of Venus the results of starlight interferometry were completely ignored.. and that was in the scientific community, which has a much longer attention span than the mainstream.
 

Re:Using up your mainstream interest (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 6 years ago | (#24734723)

Apart from the science and all the religious/philsophical questions, what does it mean for the general public in practise? With technology that's at least something that might end up in practical use but the knowledge that there might be lumps of rock (or gas or whatever) around other stars doesn't have any more impact than there being stars in the sky. Show me that there are Earth-like planets out there. Not approximately maybe sorta like in some aspect but as in "we could live there". Show me that we have the potential to go out among the stars and colonize other worlds and I'll get excited. And even if we can do that, maybe we could start with Mars mmkey? Either that or you have to show me planets that are really Earth-like with water, atmosphere, magnetic field and all the things we don't have on Mars. Show me something that's usable to humans, because we're not doing much with 8 out of the 9 planets in this system (or is that 7 out of 8 now?).

Of course. (1)

dapho (939695) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732651)

Well, refutation *is* the foundation of science, after all.

Re:Of course. (1)

Edward Teach (11577) | more than 6 years ago | (#24733525)

Not if the subject is Anthropogenic Global Warming. But then again, that is more of a religion.

Switching to another channel, I've got sunspots. (1)

tuxicle (996538) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732787)

Maybe the extraterrestrial Richter is lying to Cohagen again...

Makes me wonder... (0, Flamebait)

boxless (35756) | more than 6 years ago | (#24732861)

How many other 'facts' about things in the universe might merely be tainted observations?

So many times I read the most fantastical things astronmers have discovered a billion light-years away, and I think, how do they really know that? When there's that much distance, couldn't there be something out there fooling with their observation?

Seems like it does happen.

and I don't believe it is just the public mis-interpreting something that the scientists said was 'probable'. A lot of these guys pass off their discoveries as facts.

Re:Makes me wonder... (1)

Orne (144925) | more than 6 years ago | (#24733071)

Throwing a log on the fire, the Electric Universe people believe that "red-shift" in a galaxy is the result of one cluster being pushed out as a plasma ejection from a larger galaxy, one blue-shifts as it is pushed closer to us, and one red-shifts as it travels away, and that redshifting is not doppler-effect related [thunderbolts.info] .

Gravity Universe people use red-shift as the basis of measuring the age of the universe, the Big Bang, tthe need for dark energy, etc etc. That, plus luminocity, is the basis of estimating the age/distance from us.

It would be interesting if the EU people were right, and we just had an 80 year interlude of bad astronomy.

Re:Makes me wonder... (4, Insightful)

YttriumOxide (837412) | more than 6 years ago | (#24733277)

How many other 'facts' about things in the universe might merely be tainted observations?

Likely, several. But that doesn't lessen the value of the work at all. If something appears to work in a particular way, it probably does. If it turns out it doesn't, then the last body of evidence isn't just "thrown away" - it's just tweaked a little more - the previous assumptions, even if wrong, can still serve a useful purpose for explaining things.

Right now, we're pretty certain that there's a black hole at the centre of most (or maybe all) galaxies. We might be wrong. There might be a large, as yet unknown, type of gravity source there that is NOT a black hole. If that turns out to be the case though, it's not a bad thing for science - since every model so far works nicely with a black hole in that position, it will continue to work with a black hole in that position even if there isn't one. Just as Newtonian physics is wrong, but still serves as a very useful set of mathematics for most situations.

So many times I read the most fantastical things astronmers have discovered a billion light-years away, and I think, how do they really know that? When there's that much distance, couldn't there be something out there fooling with their observation?

Yes, there could - which is why we do lots of experiments regarding the kinds of things which may mess up observations as well. Could there be other things? Absolutely. Could that mean we're wrong about a lot of stuff we're observing? Yes, it could. Would that be catastrophic to science? Not at all - we'd have a lot of new things to study! We can build up a very accurate but completely incorrect model of the universe and as long as it's valid from our frame of reference, it can be useful for doing things.

Imagine if it turns out that MOND is probably correct - it doesn't automatically mean all the research in to dark matter has been wasted - a lot of that research could be used as "test cases" for MOND, to help "prove" it. If any of our information about dark matter gave results that could NOT be explained by MOND, we'd have to concede that either the observations are wrong (and then explain how), or that MOND is wrong. Either way, we enhance our understanding, which is good.

and I don't believe it is just the public mis-interpreting something that the scientists said was 'probable'. A lot of these guys pass off their discoveries as facts.

Anyone who does so is being dishonest - that's a problem of the people explaining the science, not of the science itself. That said though, if anyone ever tells me something is "fact", I take it to mean, "all current evidence points towards this being the case and we can't imagine any realistic way that this could not be the case". So, even if some scientists are being dishonest and saying something is fact, then it's STILL the public's misunderstanding of science that is at least partly to blame if they get all upset when new data points to a different answer. I myself am dishonest in this exact way whenever I tell someone that "gravity pulls you down towards the earth", or "We evolved from simpler life over a LONG period of time". I am presenting these theories as facts, because any alternative is completely inconceivable to me, and it's just quicker than explaining, "Given all the available evidence, it appears as if, from your reference frame, gravity will pull you towards the earth". For less well entrenched theories, I tend to avoid such strong statements, and prefer the "longer" explanation, but the meaning should be considered pretty much the same. If clarification is needed, then you should ask how strong the evidence is that points to this theory being correct.

Re:Makes me wonder... (4, Insightful)

daver00 (1336845) | more than 6 years ago | (#24733813)

What I want to know is this: At what point in the history of Slashdot did it become necessary to explain and defend the fundamental philosophies of science?

Seems this place has suffered along with digg when every 12 year old and their Wii were granted internet acess...?

Re:Makes me wonder... (1)

YttriumOxide (837412) | more than 6 years ago | (#24734019)

Unfortunately, I couldn't agree more... it was with a heavy heart that I wrote that post. :-(

Re:Makes me wonder... (1)

Ginger Unicorn (952287) | more than 6 years ago | (#24734667)

the "12 year old" has a five digit slashdot ID, which is even more disheartening

Re:Makes me wonder... (1)

arkane1234 (457605) | more than 6 years ago | (#24733345)

Well, as everyone knows there are no 'facts' in science unless it's an in-your-face thing like "water is wet" or "the temperature of the sun is xyz kelvin".
Hypothesis and Theory make up everything.

Re:Makes me wonder... (2, Insightful)

JetScootr (319545) | more than 6 years ago | (#24734779)

how do they really know that?
How do we know there are such things as negative numbers? Cuz 5 - 8 has to equal something. Then we find a use for the newly invented "negatives", and find that it just works. What about imaginary numbers? The new negatives have to have a 'square root', and the square root of -1 has to equal something. And so on. Eventually, the preponderance of what works with 'negatives' and 'imaginaries' and all that other stuff leads to acceptance.
I don't believe it is just the public mis-interpreting something that the scientists said was 'probable'. A lot of these guys pass off their discoveries as facts.
Please give an example.
A few years back, a scientist produced findings on meteorite ALH94001 that suggested life on Mars. I watched the press release live, since he was the friend of a friend and was tipped it was coming up.
A publication involved in peer-reviewing the article about it was going to break embargo and release early, forcing Dr. McKay to release before he was ready.
Throughout the press release, he kept saying, "This rock passes all current tests for proving the existence of microfossils in earth rocks. It may be life, or we may have to change or add to the tests". Over and over; he said he was using new equipment that could see things better than before, and differently than before; he said he was putting his findings out there so that other scientists could improve the science. He was careful not to tout it as "fact".
Of course, that's not what the non-scientific media heard or reported. As a result of ALH94001, tests were improved, new things were learned about microfossilization, formation of nanoscale structures, etc.
Realize that science is an economy where the currency is reputation, not cash. It cannot be sold or transferred to another; it can be lost forever; it is seldom lost and regained. Every scientist knows that brightest minds in her/his field will be microanalyzing his/her work. This keeps one humble.

67comet (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24732999)

If that's one thing I love about science, is that; you better be right, because there are 50 other people out there working on your project to prove its a fallacy.

(Didn't Galileo about get put to death for proving some overbearing theology was wrong?) =(

"... refutations are science, too?" (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 6 years ago | (#24733045)

Inseparably so! You can't have science or Scientific Method without falsifiability; anything else would just be... a religion.

I know, I know... the question was just rhetorical preaching to the choir, but the answer bears repeating nonetheless. There's still a few billion humans who haven't grokked it yet. 8-/

Re:"... refutations are science, too?" (1)

gsslay (807818) | more than 6 years ago | (#24734569)

Unfortunately those few billion humans think that is what's wrong with science and what makes religion so great. Seems that people prefer irrefutable certainties, even when they're wrong.

"We are not alone" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24733103)

Does anybody want either a "Georgia Bigfoot" or "TW Hydrae b" t-shirt in men's large? Both shirts say "We are not alone" in front and look pretty cool. Five dollars takes the pair of them, or best offer.

That's no planet... (1)

Arthur Grumbine (1086397) | more than 6 years ago | (#24733129)

...it's just a bunch of astros as obsessed with sensational headlines as everyone else.
R.I.P.
Science Reporting With Proper Perspective
(i.e. "Dip in brightness that MAY have been caused by an orbiting planet, but more likely was caused by one of the following more common phenomenon:...")
January, 2008

In all seriousness, though, reporting true science to the masses...just doesn't work. The masses (myself included) simply cannot understand the complexity of the data/system/science well enough to receive it properly. So "Reporting of Science with Proper Perspective" can't have died...because it never existed.

Some corrections to the original submission (5, Informative)

Einer2 (665985) | more than 6 years ago | (#24733295)

The original discovery was a radial velocity detection, not a transit detection. The "planet" wouldn't have transited because it was thought to have an almost face-on orbit, with an inclination close to that of the protoplanetary disk surrounding TW Hya. The star spots cause an apparent RV "wobble" because they reduce the flux from a single piece of the star's surface. As the star rotates, the missing flux shows up first in the blueshifted component (the side of the star coming toward us) and then in the redshifted component (the side of the star moving away). You can often identify this effect by measuring the time-dependent shape of the spectral line. Another good test (which these authors also used) is to measure radial velocities in the near-infrared, because spots have less contrast (and therefore lower RV variation) at redder wavelengths.

Also, for whatever it's worth, there have been rumors floating around since the original announcement that several groups have photometric data showing the variations in stellar flux due to these spots. The period of this variability was supposed to be consistent to the "planet's" period, a very strong argument that it was a rotation/spot effect.

Popper-esque (3, Insightful)

harley3k (1109381) | more than 6 years ago | (#24733715)

Karl Popper would be proud...

In a related story... (1)

BinBoy (164798) | more than 6 years ago | (#24734077)

All we are is dust in the wind.

Still pretty interesting ... (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 6 years ago | (#24734351)

... that we can pick up the "sun spots" of stars that are lightyears away.

That explains it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24734797)

I thought I felt a disturbance in the force.

"refutations are science, too, right?" (1)

Swampash (1131503) | more than 6 years ago | (#24734959)

Refutations are one of the MOST important parts of science. Proving something incorrect is far more useful than suggesting that something might be correct.

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