I think a just-published paper begs for comment, even if I have no clue what’s going on, empirically speaking, besides presentation of a particularly elaborate way to waste hard-to-get research funds. In fact, the only thing I had to say when I came upon this was ‘WTF?’
You should all recall the discovery some years ago of a truly wonderful Upper Palaeolithic painted cave–La Grotte Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc in France. Well, apparently Hélène Valladas’s radiometric dating of the Chauvet Cave paintings didn’t convince some people of their antiquity. The publication, today, of the following proves that there’s less than meets the eye where some research is concerned.
For reasons known only to the authors, an elaborate admixture of hard-rock geology, arcane radiometric determination, some often very awkward Anglicized French words, and some breathtakingly convoluted argumentation resulted in the conclusion that the cave has been closed to humans since about 21 ka. Ta Da!
Who knows how much this all cost in time and treasure. All we know for sure is that this research was undertaken to shore what wasn’t in need of shoring up. The paintings have been dated at least 80 different times to well before 21 ka.
I have two questions for the editors of PNAS. ‘When are you going to get a real editor and real referees,’ and ‘When are you going to stop presenting superfluous research results?’