Science papers sometimes contain strange folk art

I cannot resist. Every once in a while, I’ll show a bad graphic from the world of molecular biology to one of my classes, and I’ll try to extract the significant point from it…but I’ll also tell the class that this is one of those places where the stupid scientist ought to have walked over to the fine arts building and asked one of those hip young undergraduates to apply a little design sense to their work. However, that peculiar astrobiology paper had a doozy, and I just have to show it off. Behold. Figure 4.


So…are your eyes hurting as much as mine are? I don’t know what it is that figure is trying to tell me, but whatever it is, that clutter and eruption of primary colors isn’t helping.


  1. Glen Davidson says

    Wow, Axis of Evil?? What the heck?
    …and what’s with the GeoCentric stuff?

    That’s actually legit in cosmology. I had to Google it, because while I recognized the term, I had at best a hazy notion of what it was. Here’s one answer:

    ‘The Axis of Evil’: refers to the fact that the low-l anisotropies in the CMB data, revealed both by COBE and now WMAP, appear to be in alignment with each other more than is to be expected from a purely random distribution. Moreover the axis thus obtained may also be aligned with local geometry, that is, of the solar system and our galaxy.

    If you click on the link The Axis of Evil revisited ( and download the pdf document you will see whole sky diagrams showing these anisotropies.

    There has been a lot of discussion in this Forum about whether the ‘Axis’ is a real artefact or just a statistical fluke, the present paper seems to suggest that, after rechecking very carefully, it may be real.

    If it is real it may mean that the existing signal at low-l modes is partly or entirely due to local effects, in which case there is a significant loss of signal in the CMB anisotropy power spectrum from the largest primordial hotspots’.

    If the Axis actually exists it leaves two questions:

    1. What causes the alignment, Local Pancake Defeats Axis of Evil ( perhaps?


    2. What causes the loss of signal at the largest angles, perhaps the universe is topologically a soccer ball? Apparently not: Extending the WMAP Bound on the Size of the Universe (


    Of course, what it means is not certain. But it’s basically a whimsical term like “God particle.”

    Glen Davidson