Reading Papers that impact your own work.
I spent the entire day Friday reading papers. I can already imagine your groans of disapproval for such an exciting blog post idea, but in reality reading papers is a critical portion of research. Sometimes the papers you read really help you with your research, and other times they smash your hopes of making a new contribution. It's this horrible aspect that happened today and I thought I would spend a few minutes discussing where one can go from here.
Now that I've lured you in with the introduction, a little more background. At the 2010 AAS meeting in Washington, DC I presented a poster that shows the photometric variability of epsilon Aurigae and the periods present in the system as a function of time. The result is quite cool: not only does the system have multiple periods, but the periods are (generally) decreasing as time goes on. In my spare time over the last few months I have been collecting as much historical photometry on the system as possible and am finally to a state that I can continue with the work.
This morning I realized that my dissertation was going to be too one-sided (mostly in support of the post-AGB interpretation of the F-star) so I thought I should present the supergiant interpretation as impartially as possible. I wanted to know about supergiants near eps Aur in the HR diagram so I started a massive literature search. While looking at the references of one of the papers I noticed an interesting title that I had never seen before: "Period Analysis for the F Component of the Aurigae System Using Wavelets."
It appears I've been trumped. The abstract describes more or less what I was going to do. Sadly, I can't read the paper as it's written in Korean and Google Translate yields mostly gibberish (anyone interested in translating?). So, where do I go from here?
Well, even though I can't read the text, the figures and tables do their job well. They show me basically what the author has done and the data that was at their disposal. It appear they analyzed only V-band data and some historical visual data as well. This is good news for me as I have an additional 19 years of modern photometry (between the last two eclipses) and 10+ years of historic photometry in multiple filters (UBVRIJHKLL'M and some N). Given I have so much more data, it makes sense to proceed with the work and publish the results making sure I reference the earlier work and verify that their results match mine from similar time scales.
But what if things had been different, what if the papers used basically the same data set? Would I have continued? Probably not. I try to make sure my work contributes something not already well known about the system, or at least confirms or disproves an earlier controversial result.