Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How is Science Done?

We live in extraordinary times. We know that our Universe began with a Big Bang 13.76 billion years ago, plus or minus 0.11 billion years (~1% precision!). We have learned that we really don't know what ~96% of the Universe is made of (i.e., "dark matter" and "dark energy"). We have very strong observational evidence that not only does our own Milky Way Galaxy harbor a supermassive black hole, but that every galaxy has one. Big puzzles remain as to how they grow to their large masses, and why some black holes are active and some are dormant. These scientific results are all a consequence of the scientific method, exemplify how progress is made and our knowledge advanced.

But do all members of our society and media truly understand how science is done and its importance? Indeed, in the last blog entry, we talked about a Physics department in trouble at UNC-W and the need for more physicists. In an intriguing article published online today and making its way around the internet, an astronomer who was part of the team that recently found evidence for a "diamond planet" calls into question whether our society truly understands how science is done and the consequences it has for us. If you have not already read it, I encourage you to do so. You can find the article here.