Thursday, February 5, 2009

Quiet Day

1. This is so true, I read academic journals, but I can only stay awake for the most riveting articles on topics that wildly excited me. Anything outside of that and I can't make it through.

/rant on
One topic that the article doesn't really cover is how boring writing leads to opaque and bad science. If academics write in this obscure, jargon-full, badly written manner it leads people a) not understand them and b) believe that all smart science writing is like that. Fraudsters and impostors can use that to gain undeserved status. I once had someone send me this academic paper in the sincere belief that it was worth reading. If you actually take the time to read it you realize that the author doesn't actually say anything, he just uses self-referential jargon to sound important. Take this sentence:

"The authors provide a simple, elegant model of scalar interactions, which accommodates
phenomena not heretofore accommodated, by describing how the fundamental processes of YBias Interactions [3] and optimal concomitant Angularity combine to operationalize the
autopoietic processes found in Self-Organizing Criticality [4] [SOC] as described by Bak etal."

I dare anyone who reads this post to argue that the person who wrote this had any desire to communicate anything. If you stare at it long enough and hold it upside down, then squint, and work through the whole thing (with it's brain-draining agony) you realize that if the author was using words that someone might actually be able to stay conscious long enough to finish reading them, what he wrote might be put as: "The authors provide a new description of physical interactions by describing the physical interactions." Then you realize that the author is either an idiot, a fraudster, or an amazing joker"

If I saw that, and did not have the curiosity, training, puzzlement, and rage driving me I might stare at it, try to understand it, and eventually give up thinking "wow, this really sounds very dry and academic, he MUST know what he's talking about."

The whole thing is 47 words long, 13 of which are either nonsense, jargon, or references to terms coined by the author in other "papers" which are miraculously "out of print" or "available on request".

/rant off

2. Hrrmm, attention James Inhofe, man-made projects might actually have an effect on natural processes

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