Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Science in a faster world

Two weeks ago I was at a dark matter conference in Stockholm. One thing that was presented was some new and very preliminary results from a space-borne antimatter telescope called PAMELA: they seem to see an excess of positrons (that's anti-electrons) at high energies compared to the expectations from standard processes. This is interesting, because it could be a signature of dark matter particles annihilating. There was some discussion about possible explanations. Afterwards I tried to make sense of my notes, but I'm not sure that I know what they mean and so I'm waiting for the official results to be published. The speaker from the PAMELA collaboration has not even made his slides available on the conference web site.

Now I learn that some scientists are really in a rush to make something of the preliminary data. There is a preprint on the arXiv with some plots and discussions about a dark matter model, the whole thing based on data points from PAMELA taken from digital photos of the slides shown at the conference. Umm.

This is really "pushing the polite boundaries" as Universe Today states it. The data is not officially released yet. I'm just thinking that this is a way to possibly look like a fool in front of the people who are now taking a careful look at the data before releasing -- but it's also a way of making sure that your paper gets talked about, of course. I'm just astonished.

Some links: little thing from Nature, the official PAMELA web site.

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