Science this week

Start of a new term this past week, too busy to post much! So, a quick summary:

  • A new collection of Science Blogs, sponsored by the revamped Science-as-lifestyle magazine Seed has gone live. In addition to PZ Myers’ wonderful and oft-cited evolution blog, Pharyngula, the site hosts blogs by cognitive scientists, physicists and science writers which could easily take up the time I’m meant to be spending reading papers in my own field…
  • Last week saw the January meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington, DC. Those of us hoping for new results from the WMAP CMB Experiment were disappointed (again), having to contend with rumor and speculation about the nearly-two-year delay since their expected new results.
  • But other astronomers have been busy. Disappointing but not unexpected news came that CSL-1, a pair of objects thought to have perhaps been a single galaxy lensed by a cosmic string, seems, after Hubble Space Telescope observations, to be just a couple of interacting galaxies. Confirmation of a cosmic string in the local universe would have given us an important clue about the fundamental physics of the Universe: possibly the signature of a so-called “phase transition” in the early Universe, or, more speculatively, of the existence of astrophysically-sized superstrings, one of the fundamental constituents of the Universe in String (or “M”) Theory. Strangely, I haven’t been able to find any primary sources for this result, just emails flying around and a blog post from Mark at Cosmic Variance.
  • I’ve managed to speed up my Markov-Chain-Monte-Carlo code (written in Python, my new favorite computer language) by a couple of orders of magnitude. Perhaps one shouldn’t admit to having a favorite computer language? Exciting results soon, I hope.