A statistical inference

I could never accept findings based almost exclusively on mathematics. It ain’t ignorance that causes all the trouble in this world. It’s the things people know that ain’t so.
Edwin Armstrong-inventor

A few days ago, I posted on the discovery of a planet, Gliese 581, in another solar system. https://stlouisooz.wordpress.com/2010/10/01/habitable-hmm/ There was a lot of hype at the time about the possibility of it supporting life. I pointed out that its distance (twenty light-years) mass, gravity, tidal lock, red sun and orbit time did not add up to some place we would want to visit.

Guess what? It disappeared http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/10/12/supposed-new-planet-20-light-years-away-has-been-undiscovered/#more-26298. Now they do not know if it exists or not. It came into being as a statistical inference made from data intermingled with a lot of static.

Such is the state of the scientific community. With each teensy new datum in any scientific field, there must be a massive news release about the impact on our lives—even when it cannot possibly have ANY impact. DDT, chemicals in plastic water and baby bottles, the ozone hole, acid rain, artificial sweeteners, insecticides, fertilizers, and the list goes on forever: all were nothing but overblown statistical inferences. Once the static was removed, they meant nothing—although the greens are still pushing hard on some of them since global warming has stalled.

I don’t know if it’s because everyone wants their fifteen minutes of fame or because they hope to gain more funding, but it has gotten silly. Perhaps the time has come to place news releases a little farther down on the priority list after an anomaly appears on a graph; maybe somewhere after testing and verifying. Wow, waiting until after the data are verified before publishing, what a radical idea.

Published in: on October 13, 2010 at 12:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

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