Skip to comments.Scientific conference falls for gibberish prank
Posted on 04/15/2005 6:40:12 AM PDT by bedolido
A bunch of computer-generated gibberish masquerading as an academic paper has been accepted at a scientific conference in a victory for pranksters at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Jeremy Stribling said that he and two fellow MIT graduate students questioned the standards of some academic conferences, so they wrote a computer program to generate research papers complete with nonsensical text, charts and diagrams.
The trio submitted two of the randomly assembled papers to the World Multiconference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics (WMSCI), scheduled to be held July 10-13 in Orlando, Florida.
To their surprise, one of the papers - "Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy" - was accepted for presentation.
The prank recalled a 1996 hoax in which New York University physicist Alan Sokal succeeded in getting an entire paper with a mix of truths, falsehoods, non sequiturs and otherwise meaningless mumbo-jumbo published in the journal Social Text.
Mr Stribling said he and his colleagues only learned about the Social Text affair after submitting their paper.
"Rooter" features such mind-bending gems as: "the model for our heuristic consists of four independent components: simulated annealing, active networks, flexible modalities, and the study of reinforcement learning" and "We implemented our scatter/gather I/O server in Simula-67, augmented with opportunistically pipelined extensions".
(Excerpt) Read more at abc.net.au ...
A computer program generated the research paper complete with nonsensical text, charts and diagrams. (AFP)
Sounds like some of the Lab reports I did for Thermodynamics Class.
World Multiconference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics (WMSCI). Just pronounce it as "Whimsy".
These guys have a guaranteed job with any pro-Kyoto, enviro-whacko group out there.
Just like the papers I wrote in college. ;)
In my college chemistry class, we constantly used S.W.A.G on test. Scientific Wild A$$ Guess.
Sounds like he has a job waiting for him at Microsoft. Maybe he'll do a better job writing help files.
"These guys have a guaranteed job with any pro-Kyoto, enviro-whacko group out there."
My thoughts exactly!
Who doesn't love a good geek-prank? It's deserving for those chin-stroking, head-nodding sychophants pretending to be above it all. It's funny how a bunch of multi-syllabic words placed in esoteric context can generate interest.
..they used the same term in Hydrology...in Engineering.
I guess the more educated you are, the easier you'll fall for a bunch of multisyllabic nonsense.
Hey, these guys were just trying to win the "Ward Churchill Medal of Academic Excellence"!
Well, that's not "quite" true. At most conferences I've been to, the "peer review" happens in real time with questions from the audience after the talk. In some cases, those "reviews" have been pretty damned scathing.
You make a good point, but the abstract is still unrefereed in the proceedings. Also, I've seen many graduate students, presenting for the first time, getting blistering attacks from some grumpy professor with a hot pepper up his @ss. At that point, the student's advisor, or more sympathetic audience member, will step in and correct the noise maker. At other conferences, I've seen industrial work criticized by an academics as to being not possible or goes against such and such principle. The author simply retorts that the process makes a selling product in wide use. If the process was impossible, how can we have a finished product. Some professors are out of touch with what happens in the real world, even in science.
Naked Came the Stranger was a novel that was designed to test just how low the standards of taste of the American public had sunk.
25 Newsday staff members each wrote a chapter of this novel. Their only requirements were that their chapters could contain no plot or character development, no social insight, and no verbal skill. Only one thing was required: a minimum of two sex scenes per chapter.
The resulting novel was attributed to a fictitious author (Penelope Ashe), who was played by the attractive sister-in-law of Mike McGrady, the columnist who conceived the idea for the hoax. McGrady's sister-in-law played her role to the fullest, appearing in interviews wearing low-cut dresses and bubbling about the joys of sexual liberation.
The American public predictably ate it up and sales of the book soared. The Newsday writers eventually began to feel guilty about all the money they were receiving from the farce, and confessed. But the resulting publicity only made the book sell even better.
Been there, seen that. But in defense of the academic guys (at least in my field of chemistry), many academics just don't have good "feel" for the really extreme conditions that modern chemical processes can bring to bear, displacing many reactions that ARE virtually impossible under normal lab conditions FAR from "normal equilibrium", and generating the conditions that the "industry guy" is describing.
At the smaller conferences, the quality control is provided by the organizer, as he/she usually selects or knows the speakers, but at the really big ones (like Pittcon for analytical chemists), in many cases the organizer knows only a few of the folks asking time to present, and has to basically trust the presenter that his talk will be germane to the subject area. Most of the time the process works well, but it "can" be "jobbed" just like these guys did.
That would be true of only some conference papers. I have worked on the editorial board of several different conferences and we had a rigorous peer review process and accepted only about 15% of the submitted papers. At some of those conferences, I would rate the peer review as more rigorous than some journals in the field.
Your point is welcome. I was speaking in generalities. There are some, not the majority, but some, that do peer review before presentation. At least in my personal experience (chemistry). out of curiosity, what area(s) did you serve on while on the editorial boards? I don't think the conference in question had peer review, or if it did, it wasn't very strong.
Great! It almost sounds as though the generation of the paper would be relevant to the conference, though.
""The trio submitted two of the randomly assembled papers to the World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics (WMSCI), scheduled to be held July 10-13 in Orlando, Florida.
To their surprise, one of the papers -- "Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy" -- was accepted for presentation.""
What could be more appropriate than a presentation about a computer generated paper at a conference on Cybernetics and informatics?
The paper is also linked by Art Caplan at http://blog.bioethics.net/