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Space Science

Teenager Makes Discovery About Galaxy Distribution 247

Janek Kozicki writes "It has been long thought that dwarf galaxies orbiting Andromeda galaxy (M31), or any other galaxy for that matter, are distributed more or less randomly around the host galaxy. It seemed so obvious in fact that nobody took time to check this assumption. Until a 15-year-old student, Neil Ibata, working with his father at the astronomic observatory, wanted to check it out. It turned out that dwarf galaxies tend to be placed on a plane around M31. The finding has been published in Nature. Local press (especially in France) is ecstatic that a finding by a 15-year-old got published in Nature. However, there's another more important point: what other obvious things didn't we really bother to check?"
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Teenager Makes Discovery About Galaxy Distribution

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 06, 2013 @08:04PM (#42499367)

    Raises curiosity: how much work is done by this 15-old boy and how much is actually done by his father?

    One of 16 authors. His dad is the lead author. Not a solo effort.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 06, 2013 @08:07PM (#42499391)

    I imagine about the same ratio as famous professors and the grad-students working under them... Don't underestimate the ideas and work that can be done by underlings. Only in this case, the underling gets the credit, in the other case, usually not so much...

    Grad students who do the work are usually lead authors on their papers.

  • by Kergan ( 780543 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @08:08PM (#42499395)

    According to the French press (who actually interviewed the kid, rather than reported second hand information), he worked as an interm in his father's lab. His father assigned him stuff so as to give him the opportunity to learn how to code.

    By the kid's own admittance in those interviews, his primary interest was to learn to code; and he actually puts forward that he did. It's only later that his father and the latter's colleagues highlighted the importance of his program's findings, and they put his name forward in their article (rightly so) for having programmed the tool needed to show their hunch.

    Anyway, not discounting how bright the kid might be (because he seems to be, even though he admittedly found it necessary to ask his math teacher for information on vectors), but can we please keep a cool head with respect to what actually happened? As in, a kiddo got an internship through his father and coded stuff requested by his father, and landed his name in a scientific article courtesy of his father for having written said article?

  • by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @08:31PM (#42499535) Homepage Journal

    ...what other obvious things we didn't really bother to check?

    Well, let's see here:


    1) Sovereign debt is not like ordinary debt, so it's OK for the US to have a large deficit
    2) A little inflation is good (but we can't tell you what the best value actually is)


    1) Depression is a disease, and not a consequence of another disorder (as "fever" is)
    2) Depression meds actually work
    3) Obesity can be fixed by a) diet, b) exercise, or c) eating less
    4) Every medical study that hasn't been replicated at least once []


    1) Seeing a psychiatrist has more benefit than not seeing one
    2) Every study which hasn't been replicated at least once [] (More info [])

    Social sciences:

    1) Every study which hasn't been replicated at least once

    Physics, Chemistry, other "hard" sciences:

    Nothing, really. Most everything of note has been replicated and confirmed by independent experimenters.

  • by Mandrel ( 765308 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @10:18PM (#42500141)

    Because the dwarf galaxies shouldn't be constrained to the galactic plane any more than globular clusters which are randomly disbursed. This suggests that there my be an unknown process that brings dwarf galaxies to the galaxy's equator... perhaps inflow of intragalactic gas or dark matter.. Makes for a interesting study.

    The paper found that the plane of dwarf galaxies around Andromeda wasn't aligned to Andromeda's equator, but (intriguingly) was approximately the plane formed by the line between Andromeda and the Milky Way and the axis of rotation of the Milky Way.

Heuristics are bug ridden by definition. If they didn't have bugs, then they'd be algorithms.