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Hot Topics

  1. Jun 2, 2005 #1


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    What are the hot topics in astronomy and cosmology as measured by production of recent academic papers?

    I'm not looking for an exact number, just a relative ranking with some sense of order of magnitude. My motive is to get at the whole mainstream v. non-mainstream issue in a way that isn't skewed by people's personal inclinations one way or the other. I don't know any way to use the main search engines for academic papers to do that kind of search, and lack the expertise to do a good job of creating and assigning categories.
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  3. Jun 2, 2005 #2


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    whatever I say will be trumped by Spacetiger because the person who would know about the hot categories and how best to use the search engines is a graduate student like Spacetiger or a postdoc

    I only want to say that I think this is very interesting and hope you get some help.

    my experience with ARXIV search engine is that it is at least available and not particularly biased, that I can see, and you can experiment with it.
    that is already a lot.

    you basically key on words that occur in the ABSTRACT and you set the year for 2004 and you just try different words and see how many hits

    in this way by guess and gosh and trial and error you can arrive at some useful keywords that work in that particular search engine

    then you can go back to earlier years

    I never tried this with astro-ph
    I only tried it with gr-qc, and hep-th

    Knowing full well that Spacetiger will trump me, I will say one more thing which is that the SPIRES topcite reviews are very good for detecting hot research topics

    they list each year the papers that got the most citations by other papers, and at least in 2003 they do this in the astro category as well as hep.

    here is the general link to SPIRES "top 40" listings

    here is the link to the topcited 43 papers specifically in ASTRO-PH, in 2003
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2005
  4. Jun 2, 2005 #3


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    I don't think I can spare time to do a thorough search of the recent literature, but I can certainly give you my (admittedly biased) perception of what has been hot lately.

    1) Cosmology - This is obviously very broad, but measuring the fundamental parameters of the universe is at the top of the priority list of the astronomical community. There are countless routes one can take to do this, but I'll cover those more thoroughly in my cosmology thread.
    2) Extrasolar planets - Most of the current research being done is simply in finding planets, whether by radial velocities, eclipses, or microlensing. There is a lot of planning, however, with the hope that future missions will be able to take spectra and analyze the chemical composition and possible biological make-up of extrasolar planets.
    3) Infrared astronomy - Because of the recent launch of the Spitzer telescope and the planned launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, infrared astronomy has been experiencing a boom of late. This has relevance for a vast variety of fields, including AGN, protoplanetary disks, brown dwarfs, dust, and high-redshift cosmology.
    4) Neutrino astronomy - Ever since the discovery of neutrino oscillations and the detection of cosmic sources of neutrinos, there has been a lot of work going into designing and deploying neutrino detectors. We'd like to know more about their physics, but even more exciting is the possibility that they could become the next "photon", allowing us to probe parts of the universe that can't be reached by ordinary radiation.
    5) Galaxy Dynamics - The many recent large-scale surveys (like SDSS) have resulted in a wealth of data on the structure of both ours and other galaxies in the nearby universe. There is hope that the near future will see giant leaps in our understanding of galaxy dynamics and evolution.

    I'm sure there is much more and I mean no offense to people who work in areas outside of this, these are only the first things that popped into my head.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2005
  5. Jun 3, 2005 #4


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    Hot questions are interesting to me. Unfortunately, I don't see any. I get a jolt from observational evidence.
  6. Jun 3, 2005 #5


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    Just a hint: A look into the scientific objectives of the most important projects (telescopes and missions) may give you also a feeling about the "hot topics". For example, you can read in the web of the SKA that it will test "The origin and evolution of Cosmic Magnetism". By the way, the list of SpaceTiger is great.
  7. Jun 4, 2005 #6


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    hellfire's suggestion is an excellent one!

    The list of major missions (current and planned) and observatories (+instruments) isn't particularly long, and most (all?) have good summaries of their scientific objectives. Many also publish summaries of each 'season', in terms of agreed time/PI/objective allocation (and some also give PIR summaries too).

    Other, entirely subjective topics, to add to SpaceTiger's list:
    6) GRBs, esp nailing down the nature of the short-hard progenitors
    7) Gamma ray astronomy in general
    8) Astrobiology: this topic generates perhaps the most intense popular interest, and where you have this, you can get $research! Related to, but somewhat distinct from, exosolar planets, it is rather starved for data at this stage.
    9) High energy particle physics: the universe 'does' hep in a way that make Fermilab and CERN facilities look like baby toys. While it's difficult to point to exciting results in the last decade, if this community were to scoop the LHC wrt the LSSP (or nail down DM, or ...), you'd see a huge number of new PhDs, research grants, papers, ...
  8. Jun 4, 2005 #7


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    Nereid is too sensible. Just when I start to get all pie eyed and stare at the Hubble burning up in the atmosphere, she chimes in. Bummer. I'm still enraptured by the supernova survey.
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