In the famous Alan Sokal hoax, now twenty years old, a physicist got a bogus, post-modern paper accepted by the pomo journal Social Text. Now the tables are turned—sort of. This time, as the Guardian reported yesterday, a non-physicist hoaxed a physics conference by submitting an abstract, immediately accepted, that was written almost completely by computer. It was complete gibberish, proving that nobody looked at the paper, and that the conference was probably just a garbage meeting designed to make money.
I didn’t know what iOS autocomplete was, but apparently it’s an Apple program that can be used to finish written text with stuff that’s generated by computer (correct me if I’m wrong). And a professor used it to write an entire paper. From the Guardian:
Christoph Bartneck, an associate professor at the Human Interface Technology laboratory at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, received an email inviting him to submit a paper to the International Conference on Atomic and Nuclear Physics in the US in November.
“Since I have practically no knowledge of nuclear physics I resorted to iOS autocomplete function to help me writing the paper,” he wrote in a blog post on Thursday. “I started a sentence with ‘atomic’ or ‘nuclear’ and then randomly hit the autocomplete suggestions.
“The atoms of a better universe will have the right for the same as you are the way we shall have to be a great place for a great time to enjoy the day you are a wonderful person to your great time to take the fun and take a great time and enjoy the great day you will be a wonderful time for your parents and kids,” is a sample sentence from the abstract.
It concludes: “Power is not a great place for a good time.”
Bartneck made a video, posted in his website, showing how he did it:
But wait! There’s more!
Bartneck illustrated the paper – titled, again through autocorrect, “Atomic Energy will have been made available to a single source” – with the first graphic on the Wikipedia entry for nuclear physics.
He submitted it under a fake identity: associate professor Iris Pear of the US, whose experience in atomic and nuclear physics was outlined in a biography using contradictory gender pronouns.
The nonsensical paper was accepted only three hours later, in an email asking Bartneck to confirm his slot for the “oral presentation” at the international conference.
“I know that iOS is a pretty good software, but reaching tenure has never been this close,” Bartneck commented in the blog post.
The conference itself, to be held in Georgia in mid-November (see link above), looks pretty dicey. For one thing, read its call for abstracts:
And, as the Guardian notes:
The International Conference on Atomic and Nuclear Physics. . . is organised by ConferenceSeries: “an amalgamation of Open Access Publications and worldwide international science conferences and events”, established in 2007.
It also has a $1099 speaker registration fee.
The Guardian describes what Bartneck wrote as a paper, but it’s actually an abstract of a paper, complete with a bogus diagram and a phony photo of the author. You can see it here, and I’ve put a screenshot below:
I get invitations all the time from bogus organizations that invite me to submit papers or give talks on forestry, molecular biology, immunology, and all sorts of things for which I have no credentials at all. There are a lot of organizations out there preying on scientists who, I guess, think that going to such meetings gives them professional credibility. And it must work, or why would these meetings and journals continue to exist?