Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Fighting back

Alan Sokal, a professor of physics at New York University, was getting tired of wishy-washy post modernist thinking in journals. He decided to find out if he could get a paper published a paper full of nonsense if was crafted to sound good and to stroke the egos of the editors. It worked. A link to the article can be found here and a discussion of the affair can be found here. Here's a sample from the article:
There are many natural scientists, and especially physicists, who continue to reject the notion that the disciplines concerned with social and cultural criticism can have anything to contribute, except perhaps peripherally, to their research. Still less are they receptive to the idea that the very foundations of their worldview must be revised or rebuilt in the light of such criticism. Rather, they cling to the dogma imposed by the long post-Enlightenment hegemony over the Western intellectual outlook, which can be summarized briefly as follows: that there exists an external world, whose properties are independent of any individual human being and indeed of humanity as a whole; that these properties are encoded in ``eternal'' physical laws; and that human beings can obtain reliable, albeit imperfect and tentative, knowledge of these laws by hewing to the ``objective'' procedures and epistemological strictures prescribed by the (so-called) scientific method.
I got to this article through a Slashdot piece highlighting the acceptance of a randomly generated paper for presentation at a conference. In the spirit of scientific research, the source code for the random paper generator is available for download. Here's the abstract from the paper:
Many physicists would agree that, had it not been congestion control, the evaluation of web browsers might have occurred. In fact, few hackers worldwide would disagree with the essential unification of voice-over-IP and public private key pair. In order to solve this riddle, we confirm SMPs can be made stochastic, cacheable, and interposable.
Someone pointed to some drivel on the conference website:
Through WMSCI conferences, we are trying to relate the analytic thinking required in focused conference sessions, to the synthetic thinking, required for analogies generation, which calls for multi-focus domain and divergent thinking. We are trying to promote a synergic relation between analytically and synthetically oriented minds, as it is found between left and right brain hemispheres, by means of the corpus callosum. Then, WMSCI 2005 might be perceived as a research corpus callosum, trying to bridge analytically with synthetically oriented efforts, convergent with divergent thinkers and focused specialists with non-focused or multi-focused generalists.
Jargon juggling does not a wise man make.

Related to this is the Plain English group, lobbying for plain English in public infomation.