Supposed new planet 20-light years away has been undiscovered

This artist's conception shows the inner four planets of the Gliese 581 system and their host star, a red dwarf star only 20 light-years away from Earth. The large planet in the foreground is the newly discovered GJ 581g, an Earth-size planet that orbits in the star's habitable zone. Artwork by Lynette Cook.

Another case of putting the cart before the horse when it comes to grandiose claims of scientific discovery?   According to a social networker at a Torino astrophysics conference, purported Earth-like planet Gliese 581(g) may no longer exist.  However, before we consider the possibility that Nero used the Red Matter and imploded the planet a la Vulcan, it is suggested that additional data and some further analysis puts the entire planet’s existence into question.

From Dynamics of Cats (Scienceblogs.com):

IAU 276 The Astrophysics of Planetary Systems: Formation, Structure, and Dynamical Evolution just got underway in Torino, Italy (good week to be in Italy – meeting in Sardinia also, Wish I Was There).Ray Jay reports on social networks:

‎”We cannot confirm it [Gliese 581g] in our HARPS data” – Francesco Pepe (Geneva team) at IAU 276 in Torino.”

This is interesting, but not totally surprising.

It will be very interesting to see the HARPS paper, and how this shakes out.

Gliese 581g could still be there, it could be in the orbit reported, but this needs some more work.

PS: additional oral reports from the meeting.

HARPS statement is stronger than “we don’t see it” – they find that if they force a solution they get a negative signal appearing, implying the planet is not there, not just that they are not sensitive to it.

50% more data since 2008 published series.

Oh well, this will affect probably zero percent of the Earth’s population, yet the story made a pretty good press release and provided some excitement in preparation for the Torino conference.  Even yesterday, DiscoveryNews is considering the possibility of “intelligent life” on this planet…whoa!

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, there may be a new kid on the liveable planet block, Gliese 581g. This is the first exoplanet that has the potential to have a solid surface and that is in the habitable zone around its star where liquid water can exist. We all immediately thought, “could there be life?” and one SETI researcher claims to have a possible signal.

Can anyone come up with some parallels to climate science and the urge to run to the press?

I have one, as Carl Wunsch succinctly reacts to a request for a press quote about the new Phil Jones’ climate cooling paper in Nature last month:

“The problem in climate science is that things are hyped, then they’re picked up and exaggerated, sometimes by these crazy bloggers, and you get senators and congressmen talking about it on the floor of the House and Senate.”

“The wider community is trying to make climate science go faster than it can. Science has a natural rhythm, and you can’t make people think faster or more effectively by saying “you’ve got to know the answer by next week.” Things get re-thought, people find bugs in the research. We can hope for breakthroughs, but it will probably take years to realize that they’ve happened. When I get calls from the press, it starts to make me uneasy, since the best they’ll get is a comment from off the top of my head. When I get a request for a comment from a colleague, I take the paper home, skim it, put it aside, read it again, think about it. And even then, sometimes there are papers I didn’t quite appreciate. So these instant off the top of the head reactions don’t do the science any good and don’t do the public any good.”

I wonder who are those “crazy bloggers“? 

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66 thoughts on “Supposed new planet 20-light years away has been undiscovered

  1. Jumping to conclusions is never a good idea. But it seems to be the latest fad. Blame it on the 24/7 news cycle, and one-upmanship. People used to have a thing called “patience”.

  2. it’s still 100% certainty that that planet, through its existance, would contain a branch of the carnegie institute.

  3. Too bad Jones, Mann and others don’t have the integrity to make their data public so follow-up analysis can be done.
    Mann, I think, has. Though it was like pulling teeth.

  4. Any chance of deleting the link to Climate Progress so that more idiots like me don’t flatter their traffic stats by inadvertently visiting their *****y site?
    REPLY: That’s up to Ryan for keeping the link in the last line. – Anthony

  5. “We’ve been discovered! Quick Kataal! the Cloaking device!”
    Then a few weeks later, The Klingon Battle Fleet covers the face of the full moon…
    AGW become the least of our worries. They take AlGore Hostage, as they think he’s some sort of religious profit, er, Prophet…
    “Ah Commander Khor, there is an old earth tale by a writer”O Henry, called the
    “Ransom of Red Chief’…”

  6. Perhaps Marvin the Maritian used his Explosive Space Modulator on it because it was obstructing his view of Venus.

  7. I just saw that a scientist made a claim that he received an alien life signal from Gliese 581g. Personally, I don’t believe you can make any definitive statement about something which you have no pictures of and it would take 20 years to get to if you traveled at the speed of light.
    http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/10/11/scientist-claims-strange-signal-comes-alien-planet/?test=latestnews
    From the article (and the most interesting part):

    “I know the scientist, and when he first announced it, I asked him for the details, and he wouldn’t send them to me,” astronomer and SETI pioneer Frank Drake told SPACE.com. “I’m very suspicious.”

    Hmm … What does that sound like?

  8. Perfect, when we screw this planet it will only take us 20 years to move to this new planet. Oh yeah first we have to figure out how to travel at THE SPEED OF LIGHT!!!

  9. Maybe the little green men cloaked their planet when they noticed us snooping around.
    Seriously though, a habitable, life-containing planet only 20 light years away would push us humans into exploring it in not too distant future. I doubt anyone remembers the name of whoever discovered the first exoplanet, but I think whoever discovers the first habitable exoplanet will become a legend, especially if that person names it after himself. It’s no wonder that some of these people are trying to cut corners just to be that first.

  10. I have just had the same nasty experience as David S and was appalled to read the article about Hal Lewis.

  11. “So these instant off the top of the head reactions don’t do the science any good and don’t do the public any good.”
    A general prudential rule ought to apply. “A comment should not be made if it doesn’t improve upon silence.”

  12. Better that we discover the error now rather than after we spend bazillions sending a probe there to investigate.
    Better we discover the errors in climate science now before we spend bazillions trying to decrease atmospheric CO2, and find expensive alternatives to fossil fuels.
    That’s my comparison.

  13. I wondered about this when it was first announced. The trouble seems to be in how precise they have to be to separate signal from noise. That is also the trouble with AGW. It is one thing to say it is getting warmer, it is something else entirely to say it is due to humans using CO2, it is very hard to separate the Co2 signal from the natural climate change noise. AGW suffers from another problem too, and that is that they try to predict the future with models, and they don’t acknowledge that there are many questions about those models.

  14. elmer says:
    October 12, 2010 at 12:38 pm
    “Perfect, when we screw this planet it will only take us 20 years to move to this new planet.”
    ________
    Can I suggest that we need to send the climatiologists, carbon traders, green investment bankers & enlightened politicians on the first rockets so the new planet can be set-up correctly for when the rest of us arrive. We will have to act quickly to get the second batch of rockets ready before our planet drowns/fries but should we not show up, at least the Pioneers will be safe in the knowledge that they have saved mankind.
    😉

  15. Unless science is reproducible and verifiable it can just become a belief system for people. When science is only based upon authority it can be just as deceiving as any religion. This is the danger. This is also a flaw that many current scientists and science educators fail to grasp.
    What is especially egregious are science educators in schools, on the news, in blogs, in private communications, or in public espousing a scientific fact and not allowing basic questions to be asked such as prove it or what is the evidence they have. When a science proponent or educator says that the science is X and in the same breath asks us to take it on his authority or gets all defensive when asked basic questions about it, then there is a serious problem with that scientist. It’s more than just a failure to communicate, it’s a failure on the part of the scientist or proponent of an alleged scientific fact or set of facts to comprehend their wayward behavior in the context of the scientific method and the overall philosophy and attitude of science.
    There is also the risk that those in science fail to have their slice of science have the highest standards of hard evidence. They let their bias in and then claim that their science is settled or proven without feeling the need to provide the proofs along with the hard evidence and ability to verify it. Authority replaces hard edged vetting by those auditing with the scientific method.
    Authority based science isn’t science, it’s authoritarianism and as such is highly suspect.
    Question everything claimed.
    “Nullis in verba. Take no one’s word for it.” – Motto of the Royal Society
    “I’m trying to find out NOT how Nature could be, but how Nature IS.” – Richard Feynman
    “The improver of natural knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority, as such. For him, scepticism is the highest of duties; blind faith the one unpardonable sin.” – Thomas Henry Huxley
    In my approach to learning science and promoting the use of the scientific method in all aspects of life where any claims about the objective reality of Nature are made I find it’s always important to remember the philosophy of science and that I apply the scientific method lest I fool myself with a lack of evidence as Feynman warned:
    “We’ve learned from experience that the truth will come out. Other experimenters will repeat your experiment and find out whether you were wrong or right. Nature’s phenomena will agree or they’ll disagree with your theory. And, although you may gain some temporary fame and excitement, you will not gain a good reputation as a scientist if you haven’t tried to be very careful in this kind of work. And it’s this type of integrity, this kind of care not to fool yourself, that is missing to a large extent in much of the research in cargo cult science. ” – Richard Feynman
    http://pathstoknowledge.net/2010/02/19/cargo-cult-science-a-lesson-from-richard-feynman-for-scientists-of-today-to-learn
    Climate of DOOM now 65% Less Doomy peer review study says. See what have we been telling ya all doomsayers, not as bad as you’ve been claiming… now if you could still provide the actual hard evidence for the remaining 45% of soothed doom we’d all get along just fine.

  16. What bugs me is that someone reports a spike in a scope and before you know it an artist has drawn a photo realistic impression of what the “planet” looks like. Full of terrain detail, rivers etc… Based on what? Purely and only his imagination and too much Star Trek.

  17. Also, in climate science nothing can be “undiscovered”. Every new finding has to be interwoven into the old story like some scientific AIDS quilt…

  18. If an alien planet had been discovered 75 years ago, there’d probably have been speculation along the lines of whether an alien civilisation would have overcome the rise of totalitarianism.
    If an alien planet had been discovered 25 years ago, there’d probably have been speculation along the lines of whether an alien civilisation would have solved the problem of nuclear war.
    Now we’ll probably have speculation as to whether the hypothetical Gliesans will have beaten their addiction to fossil fuels and made their transition to a low-carbon economy.
    If we discover another alien world in 50 years’ time, the speculation will probably be about how their civilisation will have avoided being wiped out by ice ages.

  19. pesadia says:
    October 12, 2010 at 12:43 pm
    I have just had the same nasty experience as David S
    The TV cable guy?

  20. So we go from planet, to habitable zone planet, to Earthlike planet, to 100% chance of life, to signals from the planet, to planet does not exist all within the space of one month.
    What a waste of time, money, and other resources.
    First of all, considering its orbital period (well under 80 days to orbit the star), the planet would be tidally locked to the star. Imagine if Earth had one side constantly facing the sun and one side constantly in darkness. There probably wouldn’t be much life here even though the “average” temperature would probably be about the same that it is now.
    Second, if the planet had no magnetic field, it probably had no atmosphere. No atmosphere means no liquid water on the surface no matter what the temperature.
    It is my personal suspicion that all of this hype was generated because someone’s research grant was at an end and they needed a new one.

  21. Wow – that was quick. Only a few weeks between the planet’s discovery and its annihilation because of (its) global warming.
    It just goes to show that AGW is even more dangerous than we thought.

  22. The more likely explanation is that what was detected was a large sunspot on Gliese 581, which has now disappeared. This sort of report has happened before.
    But the phenomenon of running to the press before any sort of peer review of the data is an out-of-control firestorm through science and has got to be quenched before it takes down science itself in the public perception.
    This leads me to “John A’s Scientific Rule of Thumb”: The stronger and more decisive the press release, the less likely that the scientific report’s conclusions are true.

  23. I went to a colloquium on Monday given by the chair of “The Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey.”
    He spent the first half of the 75 minute presentation explaining the process especially the independence of the subcommittees. The last half dealt with the programs themselves. One of the things mentioned was that GJ 581g was tidally locked and therefore less likely to support life During the Q&A someone asked how we knew this. He apologized for this not being his field and therefore not being able to answer the question in detail, but indicated as he understood it measurements somewhat supported that theory.
    During the first part of the talk he indicated that programs which had been proposed burt not started were not automatically grand-fathered in. When asked what he
    would like to see from the next decade. He replied that he would like to have something discovered which was totally unsuspected, and have the people of that time look back with hindsight and wonder, “How could they have missed that! All the signs were there.”
    Much of the talk was about how imperfect our knowledge is in so many areas of astronomy and astrophysics.

  24. John A says:
    October 12, 2010 at 2:10 pm
    “The stronger and more decisive the press release…….”
    _______
    Careful there John A. It was press & release that got he 10:10 mob into trouble.

  25. The whole planet was just a statistical inference anyway. I’m not surprised by this and I doubt the original discoverers will be. The people who claimed its existence did acknowledge that there could be some errors in their data and more work needed to be done. I think they aired sufficient caution. The problem I think is the gap between how the media and the public perceive science and what is actually going on in science.

  26. elmer says: {October 12, 2010 at 12:38 pm}
    “Perfect, when we screw this planet it will only take us 20 years to move to this new planet. Oh yeah first we have to figure out how to travel at THE SPEED OF LIGHT!!!”
    Don’t forget that we would also have to figure out how to stop while going the speed of light.

  27. Interesting.
    Not only is there no empirical evidence of water on the surface, and not only is there no empirical evidence of it residing in the habitable zone, and not only is there on empirical evidence that it is of the correct size for life to exist, turns out that there is no empirical evidence that it exists at all!
    Sound strangely like climate science?

  28. The undiscovered planet is yet another proof that people who report on science, not to mention some scientists, have no clue how science works. All of them view science as a scavenger hunt in a giant hotel where you open door after door until The Truth jumps out at you. They assume that The Truth will be wholly and fully recognized by the lucky fool who happens to open the right door. Because it is The Truth, don’t ya’ know?

  29. This type of story also pulls the heart-strings of scientists who yearn for a different, better planet than our own. This is fun: Space.com linkie

    “I would say the detection was less than comfortably secure, even in the original Vogt et al. paper – the paper was carefully worded, as opposed to what was in some media reports,” said Ray Jayawardhana, a University of Toronto astronomer who was not involved in either study. “Of course, it’s not easy to definitively rule out something, but the HARPS evidence is at least raising some doubts.”

    Nothing like “carefully” parsing your statements in the literature and then going willy-nilly with the press release. I’ve seen this a few times in the climate literature…

  30. Well easy come; easy go.
    If you believe in Drake’s equation, then you would think that there was an infinite amount of intelligent life planets out there.
    Well lets say up to but not including 12 times the number of stars in the universe; that’s a lot of planets to be making tours of the earth.
    I assume that everybody is familar with the fourth grade science question on “Are YOU Smarter than a Fifth Grader ?”
    And the question is:- “Why is the sky black instead of white ?” With a near infinity of bright stars, the sky should be white shouldn’t it (talking night sky here) ? Something to do with those ever increasing number of stars with magnitude, not keeping up with their rate of separation from us.
    So you see infinity times zero can still come out closer to zero than to infinity; so none of those infinite number of inteligences out there might be close enough to ever get to know.
    There’s one little problem that Drake’s equation doesn’t address; well it really doesn’t address anything really does it; it gives no experimentally observed values for even one of its many factors; let alone for all of them; and then there are all of those missing factors that aren’t even a part of Drake’s equation.
    They are well known to biologists though; well biological chemists. The statistical improbabilities of the spontaneous occurrence of the many steps in the chemical synthesis starting from the primordial soup and ending up with even DNA; let alone something that probably looks more like a lobster, than a human.
    Many of the chemical synthesis steps that are necessary to get to the building blocks of life (as we know it) are also known to be energetically disadvantaged when it comes to the probability of occurrence. And the ones that are energetically favored in the synthesis are known in some critical cases to lead to dead ends, and not to living materials.
    I believe I am correct in saying that all of chemical and biological science with its many ingenious and intricate synthesis processes; has so far never succeeded in the synthesis from basic materials of some of the essential ingredients of a living self replicating and evolving molecule. So you multiply Drake’s set of infinities, with biological chemistry’s set of near zeros; and there’s no reason to believe that you get a one, rather than a zero.
    At least we know that Carl Sagan went to his eternity having never obtained one single binary digit of scientific evidence of life originating outside of a thin shell about +/- 20 km thick about mean sea level on planet earth. What a waste.
    But then we have a planet of dreamers who are sure that we will encounter more advanced intelligent life; that already have solved the great problems that plague us. Which is very nice for us; because then we don’t have to work on solving them for ourselves; something smarter will come along and help us out. Well you see, if they are smarter than us; why the hell would they do something as dumb as helping idiots like us to work out our problems. They can’t wait for us to blow ourselves to Kingdom come; or deliberately shut down all the life preserving phenomena on the planet; like food and energy. I’m sure that those outer zone folks have solved a lot of problems; I’d bet that they solved Fermat’s Last Theorem; just like we did (no not me). I’ll also bet, that just like us; they have not yet discovered Fermat’s proof of Fermat’s last theorem; because we sure as hell haven’t; and its an incontrovertible certainty that Fermat never came up with the crazy proof that we have (which I think is still considered a proof).
    Well the Aztecs believed that tearing the living heart out of their victims and eating it; would cause the gods to keep the maize coming, and life would be great. And there are plenty of Aztecs still living among us today (some very nice pretty ones too). So we haven’t really come very far have we.
    So Nyet on Gliese 581; it was really nice not knowing you !!

  31. I think we should find intelligent life on earth before speculating about intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.

  32. Speculation is lots of fun, and with government grants available to fund it, pays well. More over, as the game is played now, speculation is not subject to falsification.
    Physical experimentation is difficult, and if not done over and over again, is and should be looked upon with skepticism, and is subject to falsification by more physical experimentation.
    Much nicer to have papers judged by a mutual admiration society rather than by skeptics.

  33. BFL says:
    October 12, 2010 at 1:31 pm
    “If Yale PHD Astronomer Flandern were correct: then it could be possible to travel many times faster than the speed of light, provided an electromagnetic gravity producing engine could be developed. In other words, as many in the minority observing the evidence believe, “they” have already done it.”
    My feelings exactly. To that end, I have been working on such a device, off and on, for the last 20 years. If ” they” can do it I can. Roman candle rocket science is a waste of time and money and is too dangerous. pg

  34. As I have been very interested in science of all disciplines for a large proportion of my 72 years I find it quite sad to see the manner in which the pursuit of excellence in scientific research is now being corrupted.
    There is now a quite rapidly declining respect for science amongst the general public who in today’s world, lavishly finance the science disciplines through their taxes.
    The utter corruption of much of what is claimed to be and passes for so called Climate Science has been the triggering point for this downward trend in the public’s respect for all science disciplines.
    The respect for science is steadily being whittled away as the public increasingly sees the open pursuit for power, wealth and prestige accompanied by a lack of integrity and accountability by a large proportion of those who today go under the label of “scientists” but whom are increasingly seen by the public as having their snouts very deep in the publicly funded trough.
    Unless there is a great house cleaning by the scientific profession itself and soon, respect for science of all types will continue to decline until the end result where publicly funded resources for science simply dries up with serious follow on consequences for science, scientists and the advancement of our society.
    A severe financially imposed limit on publicly funded resources for scientific research will discipline science in ways, sometimes very severe, that this current generation of scientists in all their hubris, will hardly be able to comprehend.
    The tax paying public at large are not stupid and they are slowly waking up to the fact that their hard earned monies are being splashed around in great quantities to fund some very, very shonky and at this stage completely unaccountable so called scientists and science.
    The “discovery” of this Earth type planet and all the accompanying media hoo haa and now the sudden “un-discovery” of that same planet is just another example of lavishly public funded research for what turns out to be little more than a platform for publicity seeking scientists, all of which just breeds even more cynicism in the public’s mind.
    The sheer hubris and in a lot of cases, the corruption and total lack of any accountability of so much of today’s science and scientists are steadily leading to science’s downfall as a respected profession.

  35. elmer says:
    October 12, 2010 at 12:38 pm
    Perfect, when we screw this planet it will only take us 20 years to move to this new planet. Oh yeah first we have to figure out how to travel at THE SPEED OF LIGHT!!!
    The Best Way To Travel
    (Mike Pinder) Moody Blues
    And you can fly
    High as a kite if you want to
    Faster than light if you want to
    Speeding through the universe
    Thinking is the best way to travel
    It’s all a dream
    Light passing by on the screen
    And there’s you and I on the beam
    Speeding through the universe
    Thinking is the best way to travel
    We ride the waves
    Distance is gone, will we find out?
    How life bean, will be find out?
    Speeding through the universe
    Thinking is the best way to travel
    And you can fly
    High as a kite if you want to
    Faster than light if you want to
    Speeding through the universe
    Thinking is the best way to travel
    Credit: http://www.bobspixels.com/kaibab.org/moodies/mxsearch.htm

  36. the fact that the original research was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the NASA Astrobiology Institute should have been a clue!
    Revkin had it as the “real deal” and more proof for “global warming”:
    1 Oct: NYT Dot Earth: Andrew C. Revkin: ‘Real Deal’ Planets, Near and Far
    Talk about timing. Months ago, Rory Barnes, an astronomer at the University of Washington with a talent for finding planets, agreed to give a plenary talk at the northwest sectional meeting of the American Physical Society on the subject of “The Hunt for Habitable Exoplanets.”…
    …Barnes, in an e-mail exchange last night, said he “had to rush through some quick changes,” adding that “I’m not complaining.”The reason, of course, was the news this week that other planet hunters had identified a planet, Gliese 581g, with attributes suitable for harboring life (as we know it)… I asked Barnes for his impressions of the planet and he said it looks like “the real deal.” Among the critical characteristics, of course, is greenhouse warming (yet another reminder that there really is such a phenomenon)…
    He said he’ll send a note describing the buzz about Gliese 581 from the meeting. In the meantime, here’s his detailed reaction to the findings:
    “My first impression of this discovery is that it is the real deal. There have been other planets that have flirted with potential habitability, but this one is a very good candidate. I see five issues for habitability: 1) greenhouse warming, 2) composition (water?), 3) internal energy, 4) stellar flaring, and 5) tidal effects. None of these appear to be obvious impediments to habitability.”
    1) Although it receives slightly less radiation from its host star than the Earth, that is not really an issue. The Earth needs about 20 degrees of greenhouse warming to reach the freezing point of water, whereas this planet requires about 50. A little more water, CO2 or methane than in the Earth’s atmosphere would take care of that, and that is entirely plausible…
    COMMENT BY MARKB: If Dot Earth reported a Kitten Up A Tree story, global warming would somehow be shoe-horned in. Such is the mind-set.
    http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/01/real-deal-planets-near-and-far/
    anyone attend the APS meeting who could give us a briefing on what went down?
    there were about 1,500 MSM reports on this non-existent planet and only one (UK Express) MSM print or broadcast report (blogs don’t count) on Hal Lewis’s resignation from the APS.
    could all those MSM reports in Sept re UFOs – Aliens Are Monitoring Our Nukes, Worry Ex-Air Force Officers, Malaysian astrophysicist Mazlan Othman to be appointed UN Alien Ambassador, UFO over Inner Mongolia airport have been planted to prepare for the gliese 581g announcement?
    LOL.

  37. @PG Sharrow:
    “To that end, I have been working on such a device, off and on, for the last 20 years. If ” they” can do it I can. Roman candle rocket science is a waste of time and money and is too dangerous.”
    Be very, very careful as all such work by government entities would be deeply classified and if they discovered that you were actually successful…. well you should remember K. Silkwood. The safest route would be immediately send out your discoveries to as many people as possible on the internet, so let us know.
    @ Gary Hladik :
    “I think we should find intelligent life on earth before speculating about intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.”
    There is an observation that an intense extraterrestrial interest developed in Earth about the time of all those multiple nuclear pop-offs and the theory goes that upon actually observing our historical humanistic tendency to warfare and imperialistic servitude, we have been warned that any attempts at proceeding beyond or own solar system would inevitably result in rather dire consequences.

  38. “John Endicott says:
    October 12, 2010 at 12:22 pm
    Perhaps Marvin the Maritian used his Explosive Space Modulator on it because it was obstructing his view of Venus.

    Or maybe..
    Perhaps Marvin the Maritian used his Explosive Space Modulator on it because it was obstructing his view of Uranus.
    My sense of humor is warped and ugly, I appologize somewhat. I still do not understand why there is not more work going into Alpha Centauri, I understand that its a Southern Hemisphere star, but I would think you would look close to home for habitable planets first, and then move out.
    I guess I realize there is a race to uncover easy to find planets, but to me it just seems silly that they spend so much time on a star 20 light years away when hello, there is a binary (trinary) star system five times closer that could actually have an effect on humanity on the future if a (habitable) planet is discovered there.

  39. It gets even better, someone has detected a signal from the same possible non-existent planet. Just like the mid-tropospheric signature for CO2 that isn’t there they have found a signal from a planet that isn’t there as well. Boy, you can’t make this stuff up.

  40. Is undiscovering a planet like uninviting a guest or speaker. If you don’t like what it looks like or where it is?

  41. Wow, from “Earth-like planet with water in the Goldilocks zone with 100% chance of life” to “alien signals” to “the planet may not exist at all” in the course of just a week or two. I’d say someone is pumping for funds. Rule number one: always hype something with a long time line so that funding will not run out until well after it no longer matters to you. Twenty lightyears is comfortably far enough away.

  42. Unless we can, somehow, invent faster than light travel, we’re stuck on Earth, until our Sun consumes it. (And a quote, maybe not accurate, from a good (IMO) film “Earth? That dump!”).

  43. From Science News
    Existence of habitable exoplanet questioned: Swiss team fails to confirm recent discovery of an extrasolar planet that might have right conditions for life
    “Other astronomers say that only time, and more studies, will tell if the first exoplanet in the habitable zone has truly been found or not. ‘I don’t know if we should be in such a hurry to say one way or the other,’ says MIT astronomer Sara Seager. ‘We will have consensus at some point; I don’t think we need to vote right now.’ ”
    http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/64308/title/Existence_of_habitable_exoplanet_questioned
    Science by consensus? How about that!

  44. Gliese has become the new Thule, sighted once, but never to be found again…
    I note only that there was a certain exoteric pressure in the mass media at the same time, without specifically mentioning UFOs, UN envoys and the Vatican position on baptising non-carbon-based life forms with the universal solvent in order to “save” them. Silly media.

  45. Back in the early-90s when exoplanets were not yet discovered (and the term “exoplanet” not yet coined) the first announced discovery had to be retracted when it turned out that the 182-day period of the orbit was just a measurement error due to the Earth’s own orbit around the sun. Very soon after that, however, solid evidence of exoplanets were discovered, and now we have a whole new field of astronomy.
    Simlarly, just because one group rushed to publish on Gliese 581(g) and another group has been unable to confirm it, that does not mean that science is all corrupt or that evidence for solid exoplanets will never be discovered. Science has many false starts when you start looking around in the weeds. If Gliese 581(g) is found to not exist, some other solid exoplanet will be found, and this is just science self correcting.
    Of course, similarly, that means that one scientist emotionally venting in an e-mail doesn’t destroy an entire branch of science, but that may be getting too far ahead for you all….

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