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Math Journal Accepts Nonsense Paper Generated by Computer Program

Don’t worry if the above title looks like a bunch of gibberish to you. The terms are all related to advanced mathematics, so you can’t be blamed for not really understanding it. Oh, and also, it’s randomly generated nonsense grammatically accurate sentences penned by a computer program that have no mathematical merit, so seriously, don’t feel bad if it doesn’t make sense to you. You know who should feel bad, though? The person at the open access math journal Advances in Pure Mathematics who accepted this paper for publication. That’s cause to feel significantly chagrinned.

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Every sentence in the paper was generated by the program Mathgen, which can assemble mathematics papers that are grammatically correct but have nothing to do with actual math. Instead, they are just a bunch of complicated sounding words strung together with the sort of formulas that look certain to summon forth monsters from beyond the veil of space and time. For example:

Advances in Pure Mathematics accepted the paper, which you can read the full PDF of here, in just ten short days. That’s a pretty quick turn around for a paper, especially one that, y’know, makes no sense and has no merit. The paper was submitted by a professor Marcie Rathke, who doesn’t exist at University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople, which also does not exist.
While Mathgen is the real author of the paper, invented references and all, Nate Eldredge is the man behind this pretty impressive academic troll. Eldredge is the author of Mathgen and a visiting assistant professor at Cornell University, who appears to be an actual person for all intents and purposes. You can read his acceptance letter over on his blog, which closes its requests for some revisions to the paper with this priceless gem.
Please revised your paper  and send it to us as soon as possible.

We’d love if this was just a funny story, but unfortunately, it’s not. This debacle will almost certainly go down as a significant black eye for open access publishing. Critics of open access journals, which we think are really awesome and important tools for exposing the general public to scientific research, have long complained that the standards of open access journals fall well short of the major players in the field, and stories like this are unlikely to silence those admonishments.

(via Slashdot)

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