My latest mathematics paper is complete, but has a single flaw. Can you see what it is?
Victorian mathematician-philosopher William Kingdon Clifford wrote ‘It is wrong, always, everywhere and for any one, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.’ In 1996 professor Alan David Sokal would revive this principle and defend the Left from a trendy segment of itself.
Currently a professor of mathematics at University College London as well as a professor of physics at NYU, Sokal works in statistical mechanics and algebraic graph theory (which incidentally overlaps with some my graduate work). He is best known to the wider public for his criticism of postmodernism, and 1996 after years of being troubled by an apparent decline in the intellectual rigor of the American academic humanities he decided to do an experiment:
Would a leading North American journal of cultural studies publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors' ideological preconceptions?
Absolutely! The then-non-peer-reviewed postmodern cultural studies journal Social Text by Duke University Press published his submission Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity. That this grand-sounding paper was hoax would be revealed years later in the journal Lingua Franca.
Sokal gained immense publicity after the fallout of his nonsense paper was published. His critique would also gain more credibility from encompassing his own community: the failure of scientific institutions to address the abuse of statistical methods or promote systematic reviews is no less of a threat to progress than the ramblings of postmodernists or fundamentalists.
The one flaw I mentioned in the above mathematics paper is just that, it is nonsense. The paper was generated by computer using similar methods to Sokal, text data mining other papers on the arCHIv.