Journal Article

Cancelling out systematic uncertainties

Jorge Noreña, Licia Verde, Raul Jimenez, Carlos Peña-Garay and Cesar Gomez

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 419, issue 2, pages 1040-1050
Published in print January 2012 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online December 2011 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
Cancelling out systematic uncertainties

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We present a method to minimize, or even cancel out, the nuisance parameters affecting a measurement. Our approach is general and can be applied to any experiment or observation where systematic errors are a concern e.g. are larger than statistical errors. We compare it with the Bayesian technique used to deal with nuisance parameters: marginalization, and show how the method compares and improves by avoiding biases. We illustrate the method with several examples taken from the astrophysics and cosmology world: baryonic acoustic oscillations (BAOs), cosmic clocks, Type Ia supernova (SNIa) luminosity distance, neutrino oscillations and dark matter detection. By applying the method we not only recover some known results but also find some interesting new ones. For BAO experiments we show how to combine radial and angular BAO measurements in order to completely eliminate the dependence on the sound horizon at radiation drag. In the case of exploiting SNIa as standard candles we show how the uncertainty in the luminosity distance by a second parameter modelled as a metallicity dependence can be eliminated or greatly reduced. When using cosmic clocks to measure the expansion rate of the universe, we demonstrate how a particular combination of observables nearly removes the metallicity dependence of the galaxy on determining differential ages, thus removing the age–metallicity degeneracy in stellar populations. We hope that these findings will be useful in future surveys to obtain robust constraints on the dark energy equation of state.

Keywords: methods: statistical; cosmology: theory

Journal Article.  7670 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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