Math journal accepts computer-generated nonsense paper


34 Responses to “Math journal accepts computer-generated nonsense paper”

  1. robcat2075 says:

    “accepting” in this case seems to be much less than the headline implies.  They are accepting it… to go on to the peer review stage, where we might presume it would have been recognized for what it was.  Do things still get published after peer review says it’s crap? Or would the “it’s crap” review not be noted at publication?

    • kraken17 says:

      My thoughts exactly. Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t see the significance of this if no qualified persons reviewed the paper.

    • MonkeyBoy says:


      The paper was accepted. Advances in Pure Mathematics is a money for resume padding scam journal, which makes this case different than the Sokal hoax.

      From the acceptance letter:

      Thank you for your contribution to the Advances in Pure Mathematics (APM). We are pleased to inform you that your manuscript: … has been accepted. Congratulations!

      Anyway, the manuscript has some flaws are required to be revised : …

  2. Philboyd Studge says:

    An infinite translated mathematics of tolerance and charity among artificial memory devices is ultimately binary. Stimulating rhetoric…absolute. The theater of noise is proof of our potential.

  3. Gutierrez says:

    If you have to pay the journal for a peer review or pay for publication the one being tricked about it being worthwhile is you.

  4. Bemopolis says:

    “On August 3, 2012, a certain Professor Marcie Rathke of the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople…”

    A fan of PDQ Bach, I see.

  5. Boundegar says:

    I just ran Mathgen, and the results look SO REAL (until you actually read it).  My paper even had numbered conjectures, and a nice long bibliography of other hypothetical papers.  Brilliant!

    • long says:

      The credibility appears to be, uh, variable at best…. I just ran it and the very first sentence was “It has long been known that the Riemann hypothesis holds [18, 14]“.

  6. Alex Rudnick says:

    The difference between this and the Sokal Affair, is that journals from SRP don’t seem to be taken particularly seriously by anybody — they seem to exist mostly so people can pay to bolster resumes. Social Text (where Sokal sent his manuscript) is srs bsns for some humanities people. So this seems to be more of a critique of publishing-fee-mill “journals” than of the culture of academic math.

    • MyrddinWilt says:

      Sokal’s paper actually made much more sense than he claimed. The physics was nonsense but the Hermeneutics Sokal wrote actually hangs together. The ‘nonsense’ was in the quotations he cited.

      Social Text is not peer reviewed either. That does not really work for what is actually a journal of aesthetics. 

      The magazine does not claim to be a scientific peer reviewed journal. So treating it as one didn’t make any sense.

      The mathgen hoax seems flawed because they didn’t get to peer review. It doesn’t count.

      The people who did the job properly were a couple of MIT students who submitted a paper generated using a Perl script to one of those affairs that accepts everything they get.

      • lorq says:

        Well-said.  The claims Sokal made about the meaning of his hoax didn’t hold up.  It was an apples-and-oranges situation.

        • climbertobby says:

           yeah, apples and oranges it is. the sokal hoax was also not aimed at improving the quality of publications in any scientific field but just to show off the suposed superiority of the methods of natural sciences (to which the philosopical foundations were laid in about 1900) over those of social sciences (which are quite modern philosophically)

          long story short sokal was just beeing a dick.

  7. SamSam says:

    That’s pretty par for the course for all journals nowadays. $500 is cheap. See science journal costs :

    Scams the lot of them.

  8. metacalifragilistic says:

    Any mathematicians want to comment on the review policies and field impact of this journal?  It seems to have an impact factor of ~0.15.  In many fields of the natural sciences, a low impact factor like that would likely mean that there is only one reviewer, who wants to get their job done as quickly as possible and is not interested in arguing out technical points.

    Even though the paper is “peer reviewed”, there may be the implicit assumption that papers in that journal will not be cited for any wide-reaching conclusions.  Anyone in academia can point to a few published papers in their field that are incorrect or nearly valueless – it’s unavoidable even with the best of intentions by all parties.  Generally, these papers will either be ignored (not cited much) or later papers will specifically refute their conclusions.

    • dr says:

      As others have pointed out, this is a vanity journal.  0.15 vastly overrates its impact.  That’s why it was targeted for this exercise.

    • knappa says:

      I had never heard of the journal “Advances in Pure Mathematics” and, as far as I can tell, it seems to be trying to masquerade as the well respected “Advances in Mathematics”. A quick look at their contents shows that it’s pretty much junk and only started in 2011. The fee to publish is highly suspect as well. This isn’t something that happens in mathematics journals.
      No respectable reviewer would even take a look beyond the gibberish abstract, except for curiosity.

  9. Roy Wiggins says:

    I keep getting spammy requests for papers from these guys. Apparently I have magically acquired a doctorate! A related journal publishes some wonderful pieces. I recommend “Some Examples to Show that Objects be Presented by Mathematical Equations,” “Base-X Notation and Tri-Value Logic,” and “Efficient Use of Cloud Computing in Medical Science.” The first one presents a bunch of pictures the writer drew in Mathematica; the second presents something that’s been around for at least 50 years if not more; the last is gobbeldegook that doesn’t say anything at all except “Doctors should use THE CLOUD to share diagnoses. Also make sure it’s encrypted.”

  10. oasisob1 says:

    “Goes to show that an inability to distinguish nonsense from scholarship exists in both of the two cultures.”

    The importance difference is that the mathematical nonsense paper was rigorous.

  11. Roy Trumbull says:

    Always bugged me when a tech article never listed what the variables were in the formulas given. Then I found out even the author didn’t know. The math was ghost written.

  12. willu says:

    As has been noted by others, this is important, but shouldn’t be overblown.  I publish in the Computer Science literature, not Mathematics, but things will be somewhat similar. (One CS specific weirdness is the importance of conferences.  Ours are peer reviewed, whereas they’re not in most fields.  For this reason, I’ll talk about ‘publications’, not ‘journal articles’.)

    There are a number of ways of classifying publications:
      – Peer reviewed vs. not peer reviewed
      – How much respect they hold in the field
      – How much they charge for publication
      – For profit vs Not for profit
      – Requiring ‘important’ research vs. requiring ‘valid’ research (i.e. do the reviewers have to think it is a useful contribution, or just that you didn’t do anything obviously wrong.)

    The Sokal affair pointed out that a highly respected journal in a field was accepting papers that they perhaps shouldn’t have been.

    This pointed out that a journal that charges for publication (most don’t charge much), and which was apparently not well respected, was doing a poor job of peer review.

    Both are useful.  It is really great to know which journals to avoid.  But I don’t think this is an indictment of mathematics in the same way that the Sokal affair was an indictment of postmodernism.

    If you want other instances, see 

  13. tubacat says:

     Indeed – I’ve never heard of any reputable journal asking an author to pay to have an article reviewed. I certainly do not review for any journals that require payment. This is a “vanity” publication, and I’m sure it’s seen as such by the mathematics community.

    • Peter Erwin says:

      They’re not asking the author to pay for having the article reviewed (Cory is, as far as I can tell, wrong to call it a “peer review” fee); the charges are for publication if the article is accepted (and the author still wants to go ahead with it).

      This is actually the usual approach for author-pays scientific journals. Whether or not such journals are “vanity” journals (as this one appears to be) depends on the journal itself, and the field. (For example, three of the top five journals in astronomy are author-payment-based, and have been for decades.)

  14. machinestate says:

    makes more sense to me than every mathemathics article on wikipedia

  15. semiotix says:

    I ran the generator program. My article began:

    It is well known that there exists a Wiener, trivial, semi-projective


  16. David Zureick-Brown says:

    Dear Cory,

    Mathematician here. To echo comments by Roy Wiggins and Alex Rudnick (and to somewhat address metacalifragilistic’s comment), this is, pretty blatantly, a vanity journal. I get a spammy email from them at least once a day (which is frustrating, because they [intentionally?] have a name very similar to a top math journal). No serious pure math journal (with the exception of very recent experimentations with open access journals, which are kind of unnecessary due to the arxiv) charges for publication. And, randomly browsing their publications (so, say, 5 data points), the published papers have pretty clearly not been vetted, let alone edited for correct english, and are generally non-sensical.

    (In particular, this is really rather different than Sokal.)

  17. This paper is less full of nonesense, omission and cryptic maths than most papers on computer graphics. Author should definitely consider submitting a computer graphics paper.

    • CLamb says:

       Reminds me of a comment by Tom Duff, “90% of computer graphics research is mathematical archaeology.”.  I might not’ve remembered the words exactly by that’s the gist of what he said.

  18. Michael Siler says:

    I’m also a mathematician, and I second everything that David Zureick-Brown said. I just wanted to add that I don’t like the line:

    Goes to show that an inability to distinguish nonsense from scholarship exists in both of the two cultures.

    You’ve missed the point. It’s not that journal reviewers can’t distinguish between nonsense and scholarship, it’s that this particular “journal” isn’t interested in the distinction. They are only interested in the publishing fees.

  19. Douglas Hainline says:

    Sokal absolutely exposed the vacuousness and intellectual pretensions of the post-modernists, who are a particularly egregious example of the political corruption which aflicts modern American academia.

    Those who are just learning about the “Sokal Affair” for the first time will benefit from reading the Wikipedia article about it:

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