Planck and needles in haystacks

On the way to #astrohackny I learned that I can write usefully on the subway on my mobile phone, which possibly justifies its immense cost (in dollars and in valuable personal attention). At the meeting I pitched my proposal for foreground source separation in the Planck imaging. Price-Whelan pointed out that the incredibly flexible model I am proposing could be a model for absolutely anything in any domain. It is also massively degenerate. Undaunted, I proposed that we perform a first experiment using fake data. The idea is to generate data using a physical model and then fit it with this flexible data-driven model, and see what happens. We had various ideas about generating the data. I also spent some time interviewing Colin Hill (Columbia) about the Planck data analysis and data products.

At Columbia Pizza Lunch, there was much arguing about binary black holes, which is one of my favorite subjects. This paper (in Nature, so it is suspect out of the gate) gives indirect evidence of a binary quasar based on a very peculiar light curve. The authors looked at 250,000 quasars to find this beauty, which makes me wonder if the result is a fluke. A lot can happen when you take 250,000 draws from a stochastic process! Worth thinking about and checking.

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