Sunday, February 01, 2015

Watford Half and half-correct science

Ran the Watford Half Marathon today - 5 mins slower than last year but I have had a cold for about 70 days until 10 days ago so training has been down. Met charming Marathon Mona running for the Lullaby Trust.

The detection of gravity waves from inflation that was hailed as a great triumph last year turns out to be in all probability an artefact of galactic dust. It is one of the serious problems of much of modern experimental physics that the observations require such an enormous amount of information processing and statistical treatment that it is very easy for some kind of error to creep in when a result gives something that is inherently credible. This is of course why it took ages before people at CERN were willing to confirm that they had found the Higgs.

A frightening amount of what is published in the scientific literature is almost certainly wrong because of publication bias and the general statistical illiteracy of many reviewers. In principle experiments can be duplicated but often they are not. This is not, of course, to decry science but to recognise its inevitable limitations.

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