Monday, August 01, 2005

Beyond Alan Sokal -- the randomly generated science paper!

In the grand tradition of hoaxes and spoofs, a field of excellence that holds a special place in the heart of this Masked Marauder and Automatic Professor, there has been an interesting breakthrough. Three graduate students at MIT submitted a paper to a computer science conference, one randomly generated by a computer program. Here are excerpts from The Chronicle of Higher Education story by Andrea L. Foster, "Students Whose Phony Paper Brought a Conference Invitation Are Stars of Their Own Video."

"Three Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate students attracted a flurry of media attention in April after a questionable academic conference accepted their randomly-generated, nonsensical paper. Now the students are stars of a lighthearted video they made when they went to the conference even though their invitations had been withdrawn.

"The three -- Jeremy A. Stribling, Maxwell Krohn, and Daniel Aguayo -- are computer-science students studying parallel and distributed operating systems. The organizer of the conference, called the Ninth World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics, and Informatics, had initially invited them to attend after accepting their phony paper, which was titled "Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy."

".... During their technical session, the students filmed themselves presenting three meaningless, jargon-laden papers written by the computer program they had created. For additional verisimilitude, the students assumed fake names and donned wigs and mustaches while each presenting one of the three papers. The papers were "Harnessing Byzantine Fault Tolerance Using Classical Theory," "Synthesizing Checksums and Lambda Calculus Using Jog," and "On the Study of the Ethernet.""

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Here's a site where you can download the video of the session, complete with a lachrymose musical soundtrack. The quality is right up there with the Yes Men satires. Alas, the link to the story is short term because the Chronicle requires subcriptions.

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