Science is Wrong!

Some recent headlines appear to suggest science is a sham, or, at least, that many practitioners of the scientific method can’t tell their xxx from a hole in the ground. OK, the second part of the previous sentence might be correct, scientists are not without foibles. Science and scientists are not infallible.

“That’s the way it is” – as Walter Cronkite would say. And that’s why good science publications have peer review committees – to verify the veracity of papers submitted for publication. They are not infallible either.

There are situations where scientific judgements are made based on experimental models. Models are developed based on the best information available. That information is dependent on technology and as technology improves the models get refined, or sometimes even discarded. Science is malleable, not rigid.

One hundred+ years ago for example, most astronomers saw our Milky Way galaxy as THE UNIVERSE. Some suggested the Milky Way was but one of many “island universes”, so a great debate ensued. Dubbed ‘The Distance Scale of the Universe’, Howard Shapley (Milky Way is the universe) and Heber Curtis (Milky Way is one of many “universes”) presented arguments supporting their respective positions. However, the question wasn’t resolved until a few years later. Edwin Hubble, using a newly found Cepheid Variable star in M31, the Andromeda galaxy, was able to measure its distance from Earth. Holy Cxxp! M31 is 2.5 million light years from us, definitely not inside the Milky Way as previously believed. The Milky Way as the Universe model was discarded and a new, much larger model developed. Astronomers use this model today.

Another model, that of galaxy formation, used for many decades, has recently been challenged, by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The current model does not predict the existence of galaxies in the early universe (less than a billion years after the big bang). JWST recently imaged what appear to be galaxies, huge galaxies, from 500-700 million years after the big bang. Unheard of! News headlines proclaim, “Astrophysics is in Trouble”! No, not so much. As we did a hundred years ago, the existing model might have to be updated or even scrapped and a new model developed. Thank you JWST, new and better technology.

Not Astronomy:  Recently a column claimed the use of masks during virus outbreaks is worthless.  This “assessment” was based on mask mandate population studies compiled by the Cochrane group. The column author conflates mask usage with mask mandate in his assessment. The Cochrane report compiled studies of mask mandate effectiveness in reducing incidence and/or deaths from influenza and COVID-19. The Cochrane authors qualified their conclusion of little effectiveness by expressing a low to moderate quality of the result. Why the qualification? They could not ascertain how many individuals actually wore masks during the mandate. Yet the column author ignores this qualification and condemns CDC mask recommendations as wrong science. Really?

What’s in the Sky?

Full Moon on March 7th. Called the Worm Moon, Eagle Moon, Goose Moon, Crow Moon, Sugar Moon, Wind Strong Moon, Sore Eyes Moon.