A thoroughly sporadic column from astronomer Mike Brown on space and science, planets and dwarf planets, the sun, the moon, the stars, and the joys and frustrations of search, discovery, and life. With a family in tow. Or towing. Or perhaps in mutual orbit.



P.S. on the problem with science

I should have, of course, provided the two papers in question so you can decide for yourself. I can't quite do that. I can give you the link to my paper, here:

http://www.gps.caltech.edu/~mbrown/papers/ps/vimsclouds_final.pdf

And I can even provide you with a link to their paper:
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v459/n7247/full/nature08014.html

But it's possible that you can't read theirs. (but wait: read the comments below; people found all of the parts of this article posted online in various locations, so you're in luck!) Why not? Because, even after $1B of taxpayer money going to send Cassini to Titan and get these results, the copyright to the paper is now owned by Nature. And they say you're not allowed to read it unless you subscribe or pay. If you are logged in from an academic institution, you probably will get access from their subscription. But if you're elsewhere you are simply out of luck. Seems a bit crazy, huh?

If you do get the two papers, be sure to check out the supplementary information in the Nature paper: that is where all of the important details (like where there are and are not clouds) lie. At first glance the two papers look more or less like they say there are clouds in the same spots. It helps that the figures are all really really small so details are hard to discern. But when you blow them up and look carefully things just don't match up nearly as well as two papers using exactly the same data should.

10 comments:

  1. the top link is failing..crashed my IE, other PDF are fine.

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  2. Their paper looks to be on arxiv as well: http://arxiv.org/abs/0907.0606

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  3. Nature supplementary information is not paywalled. Direct (pdf) supplementary link is here:
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v459/n7247/extref/nature08014-s1.pdf

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  4. Why are over there so many clouds on Titan also in wider latitudes? How it is on Titan these some years, so it could be after two, three years on Earth. Pavel Smutny

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  5. Why are over there so many clouds on Titan in wider latitudes during these years? Titan due to its atmosphere resembles to Earth.
    How it is on Titan these years so it could be after two, three years on Earth.
    Pavel Smutny

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  6. Maybe their both correct, in different universes. String theory solves everything!

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  7. Dr. Brown:

    Man, I love your honesty. Any chance of you leading a taxpayer revolt that prohibits scientists from Cassini, or any other taxpayer funded project, from publishing any paper in a for-profit magazine like Nature? We're in the Great Depression II. The taxpayers should be able to read, for free over the Internet, any paper that uses data from a taxpayer funded exploration! Great Blog, Rob from Ellicott City, Maryland

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  8. Those results (concernig weather conditions in various latitudes on Titan) are very valuable. Weather, global climate is changing over there on Titan really unprecedently last years!
    I'll try to devote to this topic more on senmut.webs.com too.
    Pavel Smutny

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  9. I also don't like the idea of having to pay to read the results of taxpayer-funded research. On the other hand, the journals have to have a way of making money, or peer-review publishing won't be viable.

    I'd like to suggest a time limit for exclusive rights. Maybe three months after the paper is published, or six months after it's accepted for review, whichever comes first?

    I don't know how long the review process takes, so the review period may have to be extended. In any case, the publisher gets paid by those who want the results NOW, and curious laymen like me can wait a few more months until it's free.

    N. Kalanaga

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  10. Nature has been an ass about this forever, it seems. However, now that they apparently do allow arxiv preprints BEFORE their papers are published, it's not as big a deal as before (at least I THINK that's their current M.O.)
    A bigger questions is: if you publish a paper that you KNOW to be wrong, why isn't that academic misconduct? Why shouldn't those authors face misconduct hearings at their own institutions AND by Nature? This doesn't seem to be JUST a difference of opinion, but something much more important.

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