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June 15th, 2010

It’s always exciting when the exoplanets rise to the fore of the national discourse.

This morning’s New York Times has a very interesting article about the Kepler Mission’s proprietary data policy. In April, NASA granted the Kepler team an additional window, through February 2011, in which photometry for 400 particularly interesting stars is to be kept out of the public domain.

The article contains all the elements of exoplanetary intrigue that foreshadow traffic spikes for oklo.org in the months ahead. From the P.I., Bill Borucki:

“If I sent you 0’s and 1’s it would be useless… If we say ‘Yes, they are small planets — you can be sure they are.'”

From Ohio State’s Scott Gaudi:

“They need help,” he said, “If they were more open they would be able to get more science out…”

Delicious mention of formal non-disclosure agreements. Big-picture discussions of the meaning of data ownership in the context of federally funded research. 12,000 “suspicious dips” painstakingly distilled to 750 planetary candidates — a near-doubling, in one fell swoop, of the galactic planetary census.

And the oklo.org take? The astronomical enterprise is sometimes an excellent sandbox, a model, for understanding real-world problems. As an interested outsider, I definitely relish the challenges posed by a high-profile data set released under partial duress — a collection of both the ones and the zeroes, where the redactions can speak volumes.

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  1. nhermis
    June 16th, 2010 at 07:39 | #1

    Love the verbiage in the second to last paragraph. And you are right, I am salivating at the hint of data! lol

  2. June 16th, 2010 at 11:13 | #2

    The recent CoRoT announcement at least had rather more solid detections. Nice to see another analogue of HD 149026b in the planet candidates list.

  3. June 16th, 2010 at 18:56 | #3

    “Some day it will be built.”

    This is getting close to being exciting. Surely the Kepler team deserves first shot a t the glory of getting what will be a defining moment in human scientific history, no matter what the results say. But space is just so mind bogglingly huge that they will still need help from the computer dorks with the little “super-computers.”

    (Cripes, my new i7 would have been considered a miracle back in the dark ages of the 80’s)

    I can’t wait for them to make their big discovery just so us little guys can have a go at that bottomless pit of data. We can wait another year..

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