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Thread: Possible error in research paper

  1. #1
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    Possible error in research paper

    Wish to ask for help from those here on what appears to be an error in a research paper I was reading.

    In the Abstract of the following article, the mass of LHS 1140b is said to be 6.98 ± 0.98 M-Earth. In Table 1 on page 11, however, two digits are reversed: 6.98 ± 0.89 M-Earth. Which value is the correct one?

    =========

    https://arxiv.org/pdf/1808.00485.pdf

    A second planet with an Earth-like composition orbiting the nearby M dwarf LHS 1140

    Kristo Ment, et al.(Submitted on 1 Aug 2018)

    LHS 1140 is a nearby mid-M dwarf known to host a temperate rocky super-Earth (LHS 1140 b) on a 24.737-day orbit. Based on photometric observations by MEarth and Spitzer as well as Doppler spectroscopy from HARPS, we report the discovery of an additional transiting rocky companion (LHS 1140 c) with a mass of 1.81 ± 0.39 M Earth and a radius of 1.282 ± 0.024 R Earth on a tighter, 3.77795-day orbit. We also obtain more precise estimates of the mass and radius of LHS 1140 b to be 6.98 ± 0.98 M Earth and 1.727 ± 0.032 R Earth. The mean densities of planets b and c are 7.5 ± 1.0 g/cm3 and 4.7 ± 1.1 g/cm3, respectively, both consistent with the Earth's ratio of iron to magnesium silicate. The orbital eccentricities of LHS 1140 b and c are consistent with circular orbits and constrained to be below 0.06 and 0.31, respectively, with 90% confidence. Because the orbits of the two planets are co-planar and because we know from previous analyses of Kepler data that compact systems of small planets orbiting M dwarfs are commonplace, a search for more transiting planets in the LHS 1140 system could be fruitful. LHS 1140 c is one of the few known nearby terrestrial planets whose atmosphere could be studied with the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope.
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  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    Wish to ask for help from those here on what appears to be an error in a research paper I was reading.

    In the Abstract of the following article, the mass of LHS 1140b is said to be 6.98 ± 0.98 M-Earth. In Table 1 on page 11, however, two digits are reversed: 6.98 ± 0.89 M-Earth. Which value is the correct one?

    =========

    https://arxiv.org/pdf/1808.00485.pdf

    A second planet with an Earth-like composition orbiting the nearby M dwarf LHS 1140

    Kristo Ment, et al.(Submitted on 1 Aug 2018)

    LHS 1140 is a nearby mid-M dwarf known to host a temperate rocky super-Earth (LHS 1140 b) on a 24.737-day orbit. Based on photometric observations by MEarth and Spitzer as well as Doppler spectroscopy from HARPS, we report the discovery of an additional transiting rocky companion (LHS 1140 c) with a mass of 1.81 ± 0.39 M Earth and a radius of 1.282 ± 0.024 R Earth on a tighter, 3.77795-day orbit. We also obtain more precise estimates of the mass and radius of LHS 1140 b to be 6.98 ± 0.98 M Earth and 1.727 ± 0.032 R Earth. The mean densities of planets b and c are 7.5 ± 1.0 g/cm3 and 4.7 ± 1.1 g/cm3, respectively, both consistent with the Earth's ratio of iron to magnesium silicate. The orbital eccentricities of LHS 1140 b and c are consistent with circular orbits and constrained to be below 0.06 and 0.31, respectively, with 90% confidence. Because the orbits of the two planets are co-planar and because we know from previous analyses of Kepler data that compact systems of small planets orbiting M dwarfs are commonplace, a search for more transiting planets in the LHS 1140 system could be fruitful. LHS 1140 c is one of the few known nearby terrestrial planets whose atmosphere could be studied with the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope.
    Unless the author could convince me otherwise, I would consider that to be an inconsequential discrepancy considering the magnitude of the uncertainty in the estimate of the planet's mass.

  3. #3
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    Another example of why I think pre-prints are a bad idea; there is a reason to have editors and proofreading.

    I think the only way to find out is ask the author. But, as Hornblower says, it really doesn't make much of a difference.
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  4. #4
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    I wouldn't know the first thing of how to derive the mass based on what information is in the paper. Perhaps asking one or more of the authors, if it's that crucial to you to resolve a 0.09 discrepancy.

    CJSF
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by CJSF View Post
    Perhaps asking one or more of the authors....
    Thank you, and thank you to Swift; that's a good idea. It can't hurt, and it always helps a professional to look good in print.
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
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  6. #6
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    You could look at the properties listed in Table 1 -- mass, radius, and density -- and see which value of the mass is consistent with the radius and density ...

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    Another example of why I think pre-prints are a bad idea; there is a reason to have editors and proofreading.

    I think the only way to find out is ask the author. But, as Hornblower says, it really doesn't make much of a difference.
    I think that one of the ideas behind pre-print servers is to get feedback on errors. I am sure that the corresponding author would be happy to have the error pointed out.
    As above, so below

  8. #8
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    yes, typos happen, I have had the same happen to me in an abstract and a table.
    although in the end, here it is hardly significant in the error bar.
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    Have already written to main author, waiting for response.

    Having been an editor for 17 years (in the past), it seems to me a good idea to let someone know of a math error in a research paper, even if it seems trivial, because -- if nothing else -- it is always good to look good in print. You want to look like you know what you are doing. Getting published in science is a big deal, right? Then someone ought to care if the paper's math is correct. Otherwise, why work in science at all? "Yes, my papers have errors in them, but it doesn't matter." I don't buy that.

    I mean, I completely get what literally everyone is saying here, but as it happens I work in statistics. If my math is wrong, I am out of a job. My take is a little different as a result.

    YMMV.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    Have already written to main author, waiting for response.
    Sure, errors (even inconsequential obvious typos) are to be corrected if possible (and not just in science), but why post here (and bringing it to the attention of the rest of the world and Google) instead of just shooting an email to the author in the first place?

    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    Having been an editor for 17 years (in the past), it seems to me a good idea to let someone know of a math error in a research paper, even if it seems trivial, because -- if nothing else -- it is always good to look good in print. You want to look like you know what you are doing. Getting published in science is a big deal, right? Then someone ought to care if the paper's math is correct. Otherwise, why work in science at all? "Yes, my papers have errors in them, but it doesn't matter." I don't buy that.

    I mean, I completely get what literally everyone is saying here, but as it happens I work in statistics. If my math is wrong, I am out of a job. My take is a little different as a result.

    YMMV.
    Then what is literally everyone saying that you so disagree with? I see most acknowledging that it is an error (although not a significant one), some even acknowledging that they may have made such mistakes themselves, but I don't see anyone saying that it shouldn't be fixed or that you're wrong to take action.
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  11. #11
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    I'd say it's pretty obviously not a maths error, but a transcriptional error. If I were a betting man, which I'm not, I'd predict that the correct figure is ± 0.89, and the ± 0.98 is a simple digit switch driven by the preceding "6.98", probably generated when someone was typing up the abstract while reading figures off the tables.

    If I were the author, I'd be glad to have the typo pointed out, but would experience a micro-irk at the suggestion it was a mathematical error.
    And I'd also experience another micro-irk to discover the typo had been immortalized in a forum post, rather than simply sorted out with an email to the corresponding author.

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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by slang View Post
    Sure, errors (even inconsequential obvious typos) are to be corrected if possible (and not just in science), but why post here (and bringing it to the attention of the rest of the world and Google) instead of just shooting an email to the author in the first place?
    I will accept your comments and no longer bring research paper errors to the attention of this board. My apologies. On to something else.
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    I will accept your comments and no longer bring research paper errors to the attention of this board. My apologies. On to something else.
    That's not what I think most of us meant! This was not bringing a research paper to the attention of the board for its own sake. It was specifically to ask which value we thought was correct and to point out a mistake. I cannot fathom why you would have such an overreaction to our comments. Take the (light) chastisement in stride and keep doing what you do - I find some of your paper relays interesting.

    CJSF
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    If you were incorrect
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by CJSF View Post
    That's not what I think most of us meant! This was not bringing a research paper to the attention of the board for its own sake. It was specifically to ask which value we thought was correct and to point out a mistake. I cannot fathom why you would have such an overreaction to our comments. Take the (light) chastisement in stride and keep doing what you do - I find some of your paper relays interesting.
    I don’t know what you’re worked up about. He didn’t say he wouldn’t bring up research papers here, just that he wouldn’t point out errors here. So I don’t see a problem...


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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I don’t know what you’re worked up about. He didn’t say he wouldn’t bring up research papers here, just that he wouldn’t point out errors here. So I don’t see a problem...


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    I must have missed the word "errors" somehow. I'm not worked up, I was slightly irritated.

    CJSF
    "Find a way to show what would happen
    If you were incorrect
    A fact is just a fantasy
    Unless it can be checked
    Make a test
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  16. #16
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    Got an emailed thank you from the paper's primary author, and the abstract will be corrected asap. The correct answer was 6.98 +/- 0.89 M_Earth.

    All done. Thank you!
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
    — Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883)

  17. #17
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    good!
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