Cold Fury

Harshing your mellow since 9/01

Smarterer than you!

Gotta love this one.

NYU physicist Alan Sokal thought very little of the research performed by his colleagues in the social sciences. To prove his point, he wrote a paper that used plenty of trendy buzz words but made absolutely no sense. As he later explained, Dr. Sokal wanted to find out if a humanities journal would “publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions.”

It would. His paper, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” was published in the journal Social Text in 1996, and his hoax has earned him a place in scientific history.

Dr. Sokal inspired copycats. Several years later, according to an MIT news report, three students developed software that “randomly generates nonsensical computer-science papers, complete with realistic-looking graphs, figures, and citations.” One of the papers used terms like “Byzantine fault tolerance.” It was submitted to — and accepted by — a global computer science conference.

One would think that the world of scientific publishing would have learned from these hoaxes. Alas, that does not appear to be the case.

Just wait til you see what the latest one is. And yes, there’s a climate-change tie in, as there truly ought to be. In a nutshell: “After completing the paper, we read it carefully to ensure it didn’t say anything meaningful, and as neither one of us could determine what it is actually about, we deemed it a success.” Well done, fellas. DAMNED well done.

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1 thought on “Smarterer than you!

  1. …and this is brought to us by much of the same bunch who see global warming as “settled science”, I guess?

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