Are We Alone – Off to the Traces: Lisa Kaltenegger

by Gary Niederhoff on October 26, 2010

Part 1 of Off to the Traces, featuring Lisa Kaltenegger, astronomer, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, on the discovery of Gliese 581g.
(TRT 8:08)

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar johnny anderson October 26, 2010 at 4:04 pm

could it be that there is liquid something, maybe wate that was found to have a warm spot where it should not have been, in the boundary between night and day at ninety degrees, jus wondering for this cause and effect.

avatar Steve Bergman November 8, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Events surrounding the unconfirmed exoplanet Gliese 581 provide an opportunity to exercise skeptical thinking in a situation where the players are respected, and are not intentionally trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes, but are making questionable claims, nonetheless.

Have a look at 42:09 of the 2010-09-29 NSF announcement of Gliese 581g:

Steven Vogt, lead for the team which claimed discovery of Gliese 581g says he’s personally 100% sure that the planet has life.

Oops! That signaled it was time to get another team in there quick to try to replicate the experimental results. Dr. Vogt is obviously a very “optimistic” fellow. Probably, the excitement of the potential discovery caused Steven Vogt, the human being, to temporarily forget to be Steven Vogt, the scientist. And the NSF really should have waited for confirmation before making an announcement. Instead, they announced the planet to the public as fact, and proceed to encourage wild speculation from there.

Contrast this with the conservative and deliberate procedures followed by William Borucki and his Kepler team, where getting them to commit to any sort of statement is like pulling teeth.

I wish more scientists were like Borucki. It would be a good thing for the public’s confidence in science.

-Steve Bergman

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