Monday, December 1, 2014

Planck at Ferrara

There is a conference starting today in Ferrara on the final results from Planck.

Though actually these won't be the final results from Planck, since although all scientists in the Planck team have been scrambling like mad to prepare for this date, they haven't been able to get all their results ready for presentation yet. So the actual release of most of the data and the scientific papers is scheduled for later this month. December 22nd, in fact — for European scientists, almost the last working day of the year (Americans tend to have some conferences between Christmas and New Year) — so at least we will technically have the results in 2014.

Except even that isn't really it, because the actual Planck likelihood code will only be released in January 2015. Or at least, I'm pretty sure that's what the Planck website used to say: now it doesn't mention the likelihood code by name, referring instead to "a few of the derived products."

If you're confused, well, so am I. The likelihood code is one of the most important Planck products for anyone planning to actually use Planck data for their own research — to do so properly normally means re-running fits to the data for your favourite model, which means you need the likelihood code. (Of course, some people do take the short cut of simply quoting Planck constraints on parameters derived in other contexts, and this is not always wrong.) This means that having the final, correct version likelihood code is rather important even for Planck scientists themselves to be completely confident in the results they are presenting. So it would make more sense to me if the likelihood code were released at the same time as the rest of the data. Perhaps that is what is actually going to happen, I suppose we'll find out soon.

Incidentally, my information is that the "final, correct" version of the likelihood code was distributed for internal use within the Planck collaboration about 4 weeks ago or so. Considering that it is only after this happens that proper model comparison projects can begin, that obtaining parameter constraints for each model can take a surprisingly large amount of computing time, that the various Planck teams responsible for this step had scores of different models to investigate, that the "final, correct" version may well have undergone a subsequent revision, and that the process of drafting each paper at the end of the analysis must itself take a couple of weeks minimum ... I suppose I'm not very surprised that the date for data release has been pushed back.

There's some uncertainty about whether the videos from the conference will be made available, as a statement on the website saying this would happen has been removed. For those interested here is a Youtube channel purporting to provide video from the conference, but disappointingly it doesn't appear to actually work. 

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