The uncertainty of science: Though it appears that no results will have to be abandoned, the scientists who published some of the very first results from the Webb Space Telescope have been scrambling to adjust and revise their papers because the telescope is only now getting fully calibrated.
“This caused a little bit of panic,” says Nathan Adams, an astronomer at the University of Manchester, UK, who, along with his colleagues, pointed out the problem in a 9 August update to a preprint they had posted in late July3. “For those including myself who had written a paper within the first two weeks, it was a bit of — ‘Oh no, is everything that we’ve done wrong, does it all need to go in the bin?’”
To try to standardize all the measurements, the STScI is working through a detailed plan to point Webb at several types of well-understood star, and observe them with every detector in every mode for every instrument on the telescope4. “It just takes a while,” says Karl Gordon, an astronomer at the STScI who helps lead the effort.
In the meantime, astronomers have been reworking manuscripts that describe distant galaxies on the basis of Webb data. “Everyone’s gone back over and had a second look, and it’s not as bad as we thought,” Adams says. Many of the most exciting distant-galaxy candidates still seem to be at or near the distance originally estimated. But other preliminary studies, such as those that draw conclusions about the early Universe by comparing large numbers of faint galaxies, might not stand the test of time. Other fields of research, such as planetary studies, are not affected as much because they depend less on these preliminary brightness measurements.
Overall, it does not appear the more precise calibrations will change much of signficance, since most of the earliest observations were simply that, observations, not theoretical. Because the distance estimates remain largely unchanged however the theorists are left with the same conundrum: The age and apparent nature of the most distant objects does not seem to fit with what the theories had predicted Webb would see.
Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!
From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space
, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.
does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.
“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.
All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.
Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.