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From Cosmos to ChaosThe Science of Unpredictability$
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Peter Coles

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780198567622

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198567622.001.0001

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Lies, Damned Lies, and Astronomy

Lies, Damned Lies, and Astronomy

(p.31) 3 Lies, Damned Lies, and Astronomy
From Cosmos to Chaos

Peter Coles (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Astronomy is about using observational data to test hypotheses about the nature and behaviour of very distant objects, such as stars and galaxies. In these days of powerful telescopes and advanced instrumentation, the observations required to test astronomical theories are often extremely difficult to make, and consequently sometimes prone to sizeable errors and uncertainties. Sometimes these errors are simply noise, other times they are systematic, which is a much more difficult state of affairs. An example is when there is an uncertainty in the calibration of a reference source, which can lead to unknown errors in distances to astronomical objects. After Galileo, the development of statistics as a means of data analysis in natural philosophy was dominated by astronomers. This chapter examines the connections between statistics and astronomy, as well as the similarity between cosmology and forensic science.

Keywords:   statistics, astronomy, uncertainty, forensic science, cosmology

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