New Scientist have just posted an exclusive (but not very exclusive, since the same info appears plenty of other places) article about a group who have criticised the results found at LIGO, the gravitational wave detector. There’s a fair amount of back and forth going round if you Google: some people think it’s blown out of all proportion, some people think there’s a valid criticism, etc, etc. Now I’m not a physicist, but I do have some alarm bells ringing.
Namely, some of the data (and the methods of analysis) have been kept secret. If that’s true, their results are unfalsifiable (and unconfirmable) because they use in-house techniques which they haven’t fully published and explained. That’s really, really bad science: if your discovery is genuine, you want people to be able to go through exactly the same steps and come up with the same (or at least very similar) answers. Ideally, anybody with access to the same apparatus and information should be able to do so, not just people in the know. Some data has been released, but apparently you need special training to understand how to handle it; I can’t find (on a casual Google, mind you!) anything about anyone having had the training and then confirming the result.
There’s not much doubt that gravitational waves exist, as far as I can tell: they’re predicted by theories that have so far stood the test of observation. But have they been detected and recorded, and was that detection precise and accurate? That seems to be awaiting full publication followed by independent confirmation. Looking at the consensus from scientists quoted in the articles, I’m going to guess the positive detection is going to be largely corroborated.