Quote of the Week, August 2, 2007

Some of the lively discussion at the end of the first “Statistical Challenges in Modern Astronomy” conference, at Penn State in 1991, was captured in the proceedings (“General Discussion: Working on the Interface Between Statstics and Astronomy, Terry Speed (Moderator)”, in SCMA I, editors Eric D. Feigelson and G. Jogesh Babu, 1992, Springer-Verlag, New York,p 505).
Portrait of Joe HorowitzJoseph Horowitz (Statistician):

…there should be serious collaboration between astronomers and statisticians. Statisticians should be involved from the beginning as real collaborators, not mere number crunchers. When I collaborate with anybody, astronomer or otherwise, I expect to be a full scientific equal and to get something out of it of value to statistics or mathematics, in addition to making a contribution to the collaborator’s field…

Portrait of Jasper Wall re-enacting his Apollo work Jasper Wall (Astrophysicist):

…I feel strongly that the knowledge of statistics needs to come very early in the process. It is no good downstream when the paper is written. It is not even much good when you have built the instrument, because we should disabuse statisticians of any impression that the data coming from astronomical instruments are nice, pure, and clean. Each instrument has its very own particular filter, each person using that instrument puts another filter on it and each method of data acquisition does something else yet again. I get more and more concerned particularly at the present time [1991] of data explosion (the observatory I work with is getting 700 MBy per night!). There is discussion of data compression, cleaning on-line, and other treatments even before the observing astronomer gets the data. The knowledge of statistics and the knowledge of what happens to the data need to come extremely early in the process.

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