Skip to comments.Irreproducible astronomy
Posted on 04/05/2018 8:06:13 PM PDT by MtnClimber
A combination of data-churning telescopes and proprietary algorithms has led to a slate of opaque research that has some astronomers concerned.
When astronomer Kai Polsterers laptop was stolen, the thieves made off with more than hardware. The laptop contained Polsterers only copy of a collection of thousands of stars and galaxies, a sample that a computer algorithm had randomly selected from a data set consisting of millions of celestial objects. Because Polsterer could not re-create what the algorithm had done, he could not exactly reproduce his data set for a work-in-progress journal article. And without a data set, nobody could exactly reproduce his results.
Irreproducibility and the black box nature of machine learning plague many fields of science, from Earth observation to drug discovery. But astronomy represents a notable case study because the quantity of data is burgeoning at an unprecedented rate. The installation of new data-churning telescopes, combined with marked improvements in pattern-finding algorithms, has led astronomers to turn to sophisticated software to do the data-crunching they cant do manually......
Astronomy data pipeline
In the 1960s, a career as a radio astronomer encompassed a gig in radio engineering. Those scientists were intimately acquainted with all aspects of data collection, from the specific components of a given telescope to the statistical techniques used to make sense of the data it produced. But as radio astronomy (and other divisions of astronomy) became more complex, researchers became more specialized; scientists who understand the full data value chain have become increasingly rare.
Today, algorithms play a central role at every stage of an astronomy observing run. By the time astronomers receive a data set from an observatory, software has already removed signal interference and reduced the mass of information into something manageable. Then researchers slice and dice the data with their own algorithms.
(Excerpt) Read more at physicstoday.scitation.org ...
They need to have archives of unprocessed data so any one can try their own processing to evaluate the data in a way they prefer. Let the debate not include data that was processed before anyone else could process it.
Backup drives are cheap. A set of data out of millions of choices is irreplaceable.
Being a fan of sci-fi audiobooks, sucks to hear that, but the guy should’ve known to back up everything regularly to multiple sources. His laptop could’ve crashed instead of being stolen, and there’s no guarantee of the data being recoverable (BleachBit not withstanding).
Lesson of the day
ALWAYS BACK UP YOUR COMPUTER
It never ceases to amaze that people who are so brilliant can be so utterly stupid. I’m paranoid about data loss and have multiple backup strategies...and that’s only for family photos, music, videos, movies...not the secrets to the universe.
And that laptop was the only source for Polsterer’s data?
Sorry. I'm skeptical.
Sounds to me like Polsterer’s journal article was way overdue, or else he was afraid his paper might be rejected.
I mean, is it even possible to turn off a university linked computer without seeing a reminder to back up your work?
Change every occurrence of the word “astronomy” in this article with “climate science,” and such a publication would only be viewed as sarcasm/satire.
This approach should be the gold standard for any discipline to qualify as a science. 1) Present the Hypothesis. 2) Openly describe the methods and materials. 3) Publish the results, and the conclusions based on the work. 4) all supporting data, filters, and algorithms must be made openly available before any paper is accepted for publication.
(That would end the careers of the “Warm Mongers.”)
He should have backed up to a interstellar cloud server.
Yesterday you reported on a judge who asked a California activist how the last ice age started.
The snowflake was stuck for an answer. They lost the case.
Isn't the answer obvious?
The last inter-glacial civilization was successful in their fight against Global Warming!
He couldn’t recreate what the algorithm had done? Sounds like smoke and mirrors and phony algorithms.
Obviously not very smart if he didn't back up key data he had on his laptop.
You are right that we are stupid but I can explain. We are always pushing on to the next thing. Protecting the data and making backups is not interesting. It is rather a tedious extra step that does not satisfy the intellect at all. "I know I need to do that, and I'll get to it, but first..."
Everyone is assuming that this poor guy didn’t back up his work and it got stolen. I think this is a dog ate my homework ploy. His numbers weren’t adding up and they didn’t support his hypothesis. Of course he’s not going to get published with that. Solution: conveniently have your laptop stolen with the only copy of your formulas and data.
Lot of truth in what you say. Boring, mundane tasks don’t stimulate the fertile mind and lots of daily chores fall into the same category...doing the dishes, cleaning the toilet, bathing, brushing the teeth, changing your shirt, cleaning out the cat litter box...
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