The Nobel Prizes recognize good scientific achievements, but in many ways the attention they get is disproportionate to their value, and presents a false view of how science really works.

Part of the problem instead is that the Nobel Prizes perpetuate the idea of a handful of Great Men (only two women have won the Nobel Prize in physics total since their establishment), toiling alone in their laboratories. The published papers cited in the Nobel literature belie that: many coauthors contribute to the majority of research now, and a single seminal (there’s that masculine imagery again) paper generally isn’t what establishes a research program as worthy of accolades. As a result, every Nobel Prize discussion seems to involve complaints about why some scientists were included, and some ignored. [Read more….]

A Nobel Prize curmudgeon speaks out

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The test rig for DECam, which I saw when I visited Fermilab in May.

I had the privilege of visiting Fermilab in May, as part of my research for my book-in-progress. While I was there, I got to see the test rig for the Dark Energy Camera (DECam), which looks like something from Stargate or the wormhole entrance from Contact. Unfortunately for me, the camera itself had already been shipped to Chile, but yesterday DECam released its first images to the public. Here’s my story, written for Ars Technica:

DECam is mounted on the Victor M. Blanco telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in Chile, where dark energy was first observed in 1998. As the name indicates, it is a camera, albeit a far more sensitive one than is available to consumers. The business end of the camera is a set of 62 charged-coupled devices (CCDs), yielding images of 570 megapixels. [Read more….]

The Dark Energy Camera takes its first images