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Theoretical Evidence For a Ninth Planet Beyond Pluto May Be Premature ( 176

An anonymous reader writes: Earlier today, the team of Pluto-killer Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin announced that they had found evidence of a ninth planet in our Solar System beyond the orbit of Pluto, larger and more massive than even Earth. However, a closer inspection of the work shows that they predict a few things that haven't been observed, including a population of Kuiper belt objects with large inclinations and retrograde orbits, long-period Kuiper belt objects with opposite ecliptic latitudes and longitudes, and infrared data showing the emission from such an outer world. There are many good reasons to be skeptical, and not conclude that there's a ninth planet without more (and better) evidence.
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Theoretical Evidence For a Ninth Planet Beyond Pluto May Be Premature

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  • Skeptical (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Skeptical1 ( 823232 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @09:17AM (#51343041)
    Of course there are good reasons to be skeptical. It's just the way to be. Nothing to do with this article.
    • by I'm New Around Here ( 1154723 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @09:32AM (#51343101)

      But they seemed so sure of it.

      I even got chewed out in that last posting because someone had a hardon about the new defining characteristics of planets.

  • by Rob Lister ( 4174831 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @09:18AM (#51343043)
    Honk, dammit.
  • by Rob MacDonald ( 3394145 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @09:20AM (#51343055)
    Hold on now.... Are you telling me mathematical calculations and theories that do not line up with what we observe doesn't count as evidence? I'm shocked. SHOCKED
  • by Kazymyr ( 190114 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @09:22AM (#51343061) Journal

    Oh well. Article will go unread.

  • I'm Skeptical (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Thursday January 21, 2016 @09:23AM (#51343065) Homepage Journal

    I'm Skeptical that it's ever going to be worth following a Forbes link.

    • Re:I'm Skeptical (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rob Lister ( 4174831 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @09:34AM (#51343105)
      I do not get why so many articles here are sourced at Forbes when almost everyone here can't see them.
      • Re:I'm Skeptical (Score:5, Insightful)

        by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @10:25AM (#51343337) Homepage Journal

        Maybe it's to force people to turn off their ad-blockers, so that when they come back to Slashdot they'll see ads... if so, well played DICE, well played...

        That said, even when I turn off my ad blocker, I can't read Forbes, so I never bother trying any more anyway.

      • Re:I'm Skeptical (Score:5, Interesting)

        by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @12:16PM (#51344155)

        I do not get why so many articles here are sourced at Forbes when almost everyone here can't see them.

        They are all submitted and posted by one person. Look at starts with a bang's profile. One single post on slashdot, but some 300 story submission attempts of which all are to his personal blog on Forbes, and of which a sadly high number is being accepted.

        • by coastwalker ( 307620 ) <<acoastwalker> <at> <>> on Thursday January 21, 2016 @02:58PM (#51345429) Homepage

          To be fair Starts With a Bang was one of the best astronomy blogs on the internet when Nathan effectively ran it for free. It is unfortunate that having moved into a more commercial setting he happens to be publishing it on Forbes. That is one good reason why his articles are featured on this site.

          However a significant number of readers, myself included, do not like sharing data with Forbes advertising partners and can no longer read his good quality journalism. YMMV.

          • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @06:22PM (#51346933)

            To be fair Starts With a Bang was one of the best astronomy blogs on the internet when Nathan effectively ran it for free.

            There's nothing to be fair, the vast majority of his articles are clickbait and borderline pseudo-science existential crap debunked by several theories which are conveniently ignored when he tries to prove sometimes no point at all.

            Occasionally he posts something interesting and relevant.

            In the past he also occasionally posted on slashdot. But the flavour wore off when he posted EVERY SINGLE ONE OF HIS BLOGS on here. That's no longer doing astronomy blogs a good service, that's using Slashdot as a personal advertising platform. Guess what, if we're interested in EVERYTHING he has to write then we'd be following his damn blog.

            That is all. People occasionally write crap, that's tolerable. People using a technology site as a personal clickbait advertising platform is definitely not. He is a clickwhore, and that's as fair as a comment can get.

    • by danbert8 ( 1024253 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @10:12AM (#51343275)

      I don't remember if it was Forbes, but yesterday there was a link to the 25 happiest companies. The first one opened with title, a sentence of text, a huge picture, and plenty of space for ads I presume... Fuck that, I'm not clicking and loading a new damn page 25 times to read a bullet list. Sounds like something Forbes would do.

  • by gtall ( 79522 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @09:43AM (#51343145)

    What would "theoretical evidence" actually be. Evidence which is not like real evidence because it is theoretical. Evidence for a particular theory? That seems plausible but if so, it should be stated as "theory evidence".

    • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @10:02AM (#51343225) Homepage

      Just what I came to say. And how would it be premature? It's just evidence.

    • by shaitand ( 626655 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @12:08PM (#51344063) Journal
      Perhaps it would just be better if no longer give a distinction to words planet and theory and instead just treat them as exact synonyms to body and hypothesis.

      Back in third grade when we learned the scientific method I don't remember a "theory" step in there anywhere. If anything calling something a theory only serves to create the illusion of factuality which is a rather ironic thing to do to the product of skepticism and rational inquiry. A still valid hypothesis should be used as the best tool we have so far but we should never drop skepticism. We wouldn't want to look back in ten thousand years and be the idiots who dropped skepticism of models which concern billions of years worth of data were unshakable after less than a century or two of inquiry.
  • I blame the media (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @09:49AM (#51343177)

    Every time some scientist comes out with even the most untested hypothesis, the media starts touting it as some great new discovery. The headlines were "New Planet Found!" when there should have been no headlines at all (not until it can be verified by many other astronomers).

    • by shaitand ( 626655 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @12:11PM (#51344091) Journal
      I didn't see those headlines. I saw scientists think that there may be a potential 9th planet.

      I suspect it's as much that readers lack reading comprehension and gloss right over words like "may" and "potential" as that the headlines are bad.
      • by TheDarkMaster ( 1292526 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @03:11PM (#51345543)
        It's normal. I have ample evidence that most humans have serious problems in correctly interpreting ideas expressed in a given text. And add to this the fact that they also have difficulty thinking outside of extremes (binary thinking).
        • by shaitand ( 626655 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @04:16PM (#51346069) Journal
          It is a shame because it leads to opinions like that this should not have been reported on. I believe a team of credible experts in this area having reached this hypothesis and feeling it is a likely enough possibility that they are looking for funding to spend their time investigating it for the next few months or years is interesting news to many people who wouldn't be reading or have access to the actual peer reviewed articles. This includes many with the means to fund taking such research further.

          Provided they've accurately said this is a possibility which they have not yet confirmed I see nothing wrong with that. The article on Slashdot the other day indicated they had not yet found or confirmed any such planet, only that it was consistent with the data they've reviewed so far but said it with an optimistic tone. This article says the same but with a negative tone. If they are hoping it gets the attention of someone who can fund the research, they aren't misleading anyone. If they claimed they were already there then what would they be needing funding for? Investigating further is going to cost a great deal of time and money.
    • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @12:15PM (#51344139)

      I blame startswithabang. After all what could get more clicks than posting some article about being sceptical about something that was in the media only a little while earlier.

    • by Suffering Bastard ( 194752 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @01:25PM (#51344685)
      First the media garners eyeballs and clickballs by saying "NEW PLANET FOUND!", then a day later they garner even more eyeballs and clickballs by saying "NEW PLANET THEORY DEBUNKED!". Keeps the headlines percolating.
  • No no no (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 21, 2016 @10:05AM (#51343233)

    This post, and the post yesterday covering the Caltech announcement, are great examples of what's wrong with science reporting these days. The story yesterday should have been titled "Caltech Researchers Find Evidence That Might Indicate A Ninth Planet"; it isn't proven, and while the researchers like their model, even they don't claim it's a done deal. However it makes better headlines to make it seem more certain, so yesterday's slashdot headline actually said "Caltech Astronomers Say a Ninth Planet Lurks Beyond Pluto".

    Of course that idiocy leads to today's ridiculous headline. It's a fucking theory. It hasn't been proven. Of course it is fucking premature to talk about it like it's established fact, which dumb-ass journos did, not actual scientists. The evidence isn't fucking premature; the evidence is what it is - a model, a theory, observations. The paper is published, anyone is free to look at the theory, examine the predictions made, and show where it stands up or falls down; that's the scientific process, you fucking morons.

  • ridiculous (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ken D ( 100098 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @10:17AM (#51343297)

    The 'blogger' complains that the authors predict things that have not yet been observed, but that is exactly the point. A proposal that only explained things that are known is awfully convenient and cannot be confirmed or disproven by new observations.

  • by nucrash ( 549705 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @10:21AM (#51343315)

    Ethan's a pretty good guy and friends of friends of mine. I have been following their circles has been entertaining over the years. Every one of them has their points and almost all of them should be taken into consideration when "finding" a new planet.

    There is a large community of astrophysicists who want Pluto reclassified as a planet. Mike Brown being the Pluto killer, finding a new planet only adds to the frustration.

    Yet we know there to be a difference between sensational findings and actual findings.

    Two years ago someone claimed they found a large object in the Kuiper Belt. Mike Brown tried to discredit them and failed. As more eyes start to look at where this gravametric distortion exists, the scientific community will validate the existence of the object.

    Meanwhile, I am going to watch this conversation between geniuses try and not devolve into name calling.

  • by yodleboy ( 982200 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @10:40AM (#51343425)
    As i understood it, the primary reason for classifying Pluto as a "dwarf planet" was size. If there were 2000 similar sized bodies in the Kuiper Belt, then they felt obligated to say "there are 2009 planets in the solar system". Of course this was decision was made BEFORE New Horizons, so if Pluto was just another smallish hunk of ice and rock then I guess it makes some sense (still think it was silly). Now, we know that Pluto is a hell of a lot more than that, and is a more active planet than expected. It's time to bring it back as #9 and maybe when we get to the Kuiper Belt to actually get a look, we can rethink the terminology...
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @10:59AM (#51343565) Homepage

    It's just a large frozen Mass relay. Or better yet maybe a sleeping reaper!

  • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @12:14PM (#51344135)

    It appears as though StartsWithABang is posting articles anonymously now. How quaint.

    We still know it's you oh click-whoring leech.

  • by oh_my_080980980 ( 773867 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @01:19PM (#51344637)
    I begin to wonder if this science guy for Forbes is a douche bag. Seriously read the Cal Tech article "Caltech Researchers Find Evidence of a Real Ninth Planet" []

    Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown even state: "Now we can go and find this planet..."

    So yes the researches are actually skeptical of their own work, we don't need some douche bag trying to make themselves look important.
  • by AndyKron ( 937105 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @01:20PM (#51344639)
    I refuse to turn off AdBlocker for Forbes.
  • by Bearhouse ( 1034238 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @03:00PM (#51345435)

    This is the kind of tripe that's sinking /.
    Yesterday, journos spin a "hey maybe there's something interesting here" announcement into an "OMG another planet" gush...
    Today, we are supposed to click though to the dreadful Forbes site to find out...that more data is required....
    Fuck me, who'd have thought it! Of course, the scientific method is so passé these days.

    It reminds me of the tabloid that published a story (with picture) about the "amazing discovery of a WW2 bomber found on the Moon"
    Did the ensuing ridicule and debunking faze them in the slightest? Nope.
    They followed-up with "WW2 bomber on Moon disappears"...

    Important news for nerds, ladies and gentlemen, get it while it's hot...

  • by DarthVain ( 724186 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @03:07PM (#51345515)

    Looking at a scale depiction of our solar system and possible orbits, if true, it is only really true for very large definitions of "solar system". It apparently ranges from 400AU to 1100AU on a 15,000 year period. To be blunt, even at its closest, it's way fscking out there... It is interesting none the less I suppose.

    • by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @08:11PM (#51347557)

      The solar system extends to the end of the Oort Cloud which is about 100,000 AU away from the Sun. That's much, much farther than this object.

      If this object is as big as they think it is (assuming it exists, of course) then it could have observable effects on objects in the Oort Cloud and the Kupier Belt, which is very important to the solar system.

      More to the point, it makes certain planetary formation models make a lot more sense which is certainly worth considering this to be a part of the Solar System, even if it was very far away. In those formation models, this planet actually formed between Jupiter and Saturn and was ejected from that position by the larger planets' gravity, and is thus a real, if obscure member of the solar system, just like Pete Best was a real, but obscure member of the Beatles who also had to leave early on.

  • by glwtta ( 532858 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @06:53PM (#51347145) Homepage
    Soo... "non-evidence evidence"?

"Don't tell me I'm burning the candle at both ends -- tell me where to get more wax!!"