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January 26, 2011

NASA Press Conference: We Found a Galaxy Formed Only 500 Million Years After the Big Bang

Here's the link... yes, it seems to be an even earlier galaxy found with the Hubble.

The other thing I don't like about these press conferences is that science doesn't really work the way it suggests -- they are making an announcement as if there is some definite timely event that just happened, and thus the "news" of the press conference. But in fact, they probably saw this object a half year ago, postulated it was quite old a month after that, began to take educated guesses about its age, etc.

What I mean is that this is a process that is ongoing. It's not even proven yet. Based on how they're talking, they're saying it's consistent with what they believe about just-after-the-big-bang objects, but that's a far cry from "settled fact."

Then again, in science, there really is a settled fact per se. There are theories and hypotheses with increasing (or decreasing) levels of confidence and acceptance. There's not really some discreet moment where you can say, like a sports team, that some theory "won" and another was "defeated."

So this is kind of interesting but I find the "news" format of the "discovery" sort of deceptive. I think it's probably more accurate to say "We found an interesting object which we currently hypothesize to be extraordinarily old."

Correction: 500 million years post big-bang, not billion, as I headlined it.


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posted by Ace at 01:19 PM

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