I recently published a paper on turbulence in discs around young stars. The basic conclusion was that turbulence tends to inhibit, rather than promote, a potential planet formation process. However, rather than talk about the paper itself, I thought I would briefly highlight some of the background.
The paper was actually a response to an earlier paper, suggesting that turbulence could act to promote, rather than inhibit, this planet formation process. However, the authors of this earlier paper had essentially taken an analysis that is appropriate for star formation in galactic-scale discs and applied it to planet formation in disc around young stars. The problem, though, is that planet forming discs are not directly analogous to galactic-scale discs, even though a lot of the basic phyics is very similar. This is mostly what our paper was highlighting.
What was interesting, though, was that I was at a meeting with one of the authors of the other paper and mentioned their work in my talk. Impressively, they then publicly acknowledged that their analysis may not have been appropriate for planet forming discs, even though it is appropriate for discs in other contexts. One might argue that they should have avoided this in the first place. However, noone had really looked at turbulence in this context, so – ultimately – we’ve hopefully learned something about its role.
The other interesting aspect is that my co-author on this paper has been promoting a planet formation process that myself, and others, have suggested doesn’t really work, or – if it does – rarely operates. However, despite having a scientific dispute about one aspect of this topic, we were quite capable of working together on a related problem. What is partly motivating this, though, is a desire to try and resolve (as best we can) our scientific disputes.
Okay, I’m not all that sure what I’m trying to suggest by this post; maybe just an interesting story that highlights something of how science can work. Maybe I’ll finish by highlighting another interesting science story that I came across on Eli’s blog, but that originates here.
The basic argument is that the validity of some scientific theory (whatever those who support it might say) does not depend on how elegant/beautiful it appears to be. I agree; reality can be complicated. However, my corollary would be that once we have a good understanding of some system, it is often possible to develop elegant descriptions. The problem, which I may expand on in another post, is that these elegant descriptions are often – by their nature – simplifications. This means that sometimes people (especially on blogs) can claim to have falsified some theory because some data doesn’t exactly match what the theory appears to suggest. Essentially, it’s important to appreciate the complexity, even if the basics seem quite simple. I’ll stop there.