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Humorous Academic Papers

Posted: Sat Mar 17, 2012 4:40 pm UTC
by verbingthenoun
Let's compile a list of academic papers that make you laugh while you're learning something. For now at least, let's stick to papers that touch on amusing subjects or that contain jokes (or are themselves jokes), rather than papers whose incompetence or bad formatting, etc. are laughable.

I'll start with a couple from my discipline, linguistics:

-The Proper Treatment of Your Ass in English (Beavers & Koontz-Garboden, 2003)

-English Sentences Without Overt Grammatical Subjects (Dong*)

*OK, fine, it's James McCawley.

Re: Humorous Academic Papers

Posted: Sat Mar 17, 2012 4:44 pm UTC
by Angua
Good because of the abstract:

Can apparent superluminal neutrino speeds be explained as a quantum weak measurement?
Abstract:
Spoiler:
Probably not.

Re: Humorous Academic Papers

Posted: Sun Mar 18, 2012 8:47 am UTC
by Proginoskes
One by a former professor of mine:

G. H. Meisters, "Polygons Have Ears." Amer. Math. Monthly 82, 648-651, 1975.

My advisor once wrote a paper where he (and the coauthors) listed several reasons why the topic was relevant, and then ended the list with: "Besides, it's fun."

"An International Randomized Trial Comparing Four Thrombolytic Strategies for Acute Myocardial Infarction", by E. Topol, R. Califf, F. Van de Werf, P.W. Armstrong, and their 972 co-authors. (The New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 329, no. 10, September 2, 1993, pp. 673-82; a hundred times as many authors as pages.) This won the Ig Noble Prize in 1993 for Literature.

The Journal of Irreproducible Results books are also a hoot.

Re: Humorous Academic Papers

Posted: Mon Mar 19, 2012 3:40 am UTC
by verbingthenoun
Here is some more ass linguistics.

Keep 'em coming!

Re: Humorous Academic Papers

Posted: Mon Mar 19, 2012 3:44 am UTC
by ConMan
One of the authors of this one is a coworker:

Lalor, Therese & Rendle-Short, Johanna (2007). 'That's So Gay': A Contemporary Use of Gay in Australian English. Australian Journal of Linguistics, 27 (2), 147-173.

Re: Humorous Academic Papers

Posted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 10:47 am UTC
by Softfoot
I'm not sure if this was intended to be humorous, but it made me laugh when I first saw it. I'm no physicist, and I certainly don't understand all the concepts, but the gist I got was that they wanted to play a 'pick a card' game to see if they should run the LHC for any given test/input set, because someone from the future might stack the deck in order to prevent cataclysm.
http://www.worldscinet.com/ijmpa/23/230 ... 39682.html

Re: Humorous Academic Papers

Posted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 10:13 pm UTC
by Dopefish
"WHEN ZOMBIES ATTACK!: MATHEMATICAL MODELLING OF AN OUTBREAK OF ZOMBIE INFECTION"

I stumbled across this a few years back during my math modelling course. I enjoy that it exists.

Re: Humorous Academic Papers

Posted: Wed Mar 21, 2012 12:28 am UTC
by masher
Angua wrote:Good because of the abstract:

Can apparent superluminal neutrino speeds be explained as a quantum weak measurement?
Abstract:
Spoiler:
Probably not.


I want to write an abstract like that...

Re: Humorous Academic Papers

Posted: Wed Mar 21, 2012 12:59 am UTC
by Scow
E.L. Hanson, J. Schwartz, B. Nickel, N. Koch, M.F. Danisman, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 125 (2003) 16074–16080.

The paper descibes self assembled monolayer formation through "tethering by aggregation and growth." Natrually they use the acronym to refer to this process in the paper, e.g. T-BAG. I guess it is the little things that help you keep your sanity during graduate school.

Re: Humorous Academic Papers

Posted: Wed Mar 21, 2012 5:02 am UTC
by Username4242
"Shit Happens (to be Useful)! Use of Elephant Dung as Habitat by Amphibians."

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1 ... 525.x/full

Re: Humorous Academic Papers

Posted: Wed Mar 21, 2012 6:59 am UTC
by Proginoskes
A lot of papers on (combinatorial) game theory fall into this category. I even saw one about the NP-completeness of some first-person-shooters a few weeks ago. (Sorry, I don't remember where it is.)

((A few minutes later:)) It was at xxx.lanl.gov:

http://lanl.arxiv.org/abs/1201.4995

Gaming is a hard job, but someone has to do it!
Giovanni Viglietta
(Submitted on 24 Jan 2012 (v1), last revised 14 Mar 2012 (this version, v3))

We establish some general schemes relating the computational complexity of a video game to the presence of certain common elements or mechanics, such as destroyable paths, collecting items, doors activated by switches or pressure plates, etc.. Then we apply such "metatheorems" to several video games published between 1980 and 1998, including Pac-Man, Tron, Lode Runner, Boulder Dash, Deflektor, Mindbender, Pipe Mania, Skweek, Prince of Persia, Lemmings, Doom, Puzzle Bobble 3, and Starcraft. We obtain both new results, and improvements or alternative proofs of previously known results.

Re: Humorous Academic Papers

Posted: Thu Mar 22, 2012 7:44 pm UTC
by TheKrikkitWars
I can't find it now, but I once read a paper called something like "Parafilm as an improvised wound closure and other unreported laboratory techniques." Someone had gone to quite a lot of effort to collate lots of the quick fix solutions that chemists use all time but which you'll never be told about in the literature or learn about in a teaching lab, and an editor was very open minded in publishing it; Aside from the off-beat nature of some of the solutions, it was actually quite interesting and useful.

Scow wrote:E.L. Hanson, J. Schwartz, B. Nickel, N. Koch, M.F. Danisman, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 125 (2003) 16074–16080.

The paper descibes self assembled monolayer formation through "tethering by aggregation and growth." Natrually they use the acronym to refer to this process in the paper, e.g. T-BAG. I guess it is the little things that help you keep your sanity during graduate school.


Polymer chemists and Computational chemists have an awful lot of acronyms like that; I guess it perks up studying an otherwise dull discipline ;)

Re: Humorous Academic Papers

Posted: Wed Mar 28, 2012 7:50 pm UTC
by freakish777
How is Electronic Band Structure in Germanium, My Ass not the first paper in this thread???


Spoiler:
Electron Band Structure In Germanium, My Ass


Abstract: The exponential dependence of resistivity on temperature in germanium is found to be a great big lie. My careful theoretical modeling and painstaking experimentation reveal 1) that my equipment is crap, as are all the available texts on the subject and 2) that this whole exercise was a complete waste of my time.


Introduction

Electrons in germanium are confined to well-defined energy bands that are separated by "forbidden regions" of zero charge-carrier density. You can read about it yourself if you want to, although I don't recommend it. You'll have to wade through an obtuse, convoluted discussion about considering an arbitrary number of non-coupled harmonic-oscillator potentials and taking limits and so on. The upshot is that if you heat up a sample of germanium, electrons will jump from a non-conductive energy band to a conductive one, thereby creating a measurable change in resistivity. This relation between temperature and resistivity can be shown to be exponential in certain temperature regimes by waving your hands and chanting "to first order".


Experiment procedure

I sifted through the box of germanium crystals and chose the one that appeared to be the least cracked. Then I soldered wires onto the crystal in the spots shown in figure 2b of Lab Handout 32. Do you have any idea how hard it is to solder wires to germanium? I'll tell you: real goddamn hard. The solder simply won't stick, and you can forget about getting any of the grad students in the solid state labs to help you out.
Once the wires were in place, I attached them as appropriate to the second-rate equipment I scavenged from the back of the lab, none of which worked properly. I soon wised up and swiped replacements from the well-stocked research labs. This is how they treat undergrads around here: they give you broken tools and then don't understand why you don't get any results.

Image
Fig. 1: Check this shit out.

In order to control the temperature of the germanium, I attached the crystal to a copper rod, the upper end of which was attached to a heating coil and the lower end of which was dipped in a thermos of liquid nitrogen. Midway through the project, the thermos began leaking. That's right: I pay a cool ten grand a quarter to come here, and yet they can't spare the five bucks to ensure that I have a working thermos.


Results

Check this shit out (Fig. 1). That's bonafide, 100%-real data, my friends. I took it myself over the course of two weeks. And this was not a leisurely two weeks, either; I busted my ass day and night in order to provide you with nothing but the best data possible. Now, let's look a bit more closely at this data, remembering that it is absolutely first-rate. Do you see the exponential dependence? I sure don't. I see a bunch of crap.
Christ, this was such a waste of my time.
Banking on my hopes that whoever grades this will just look at the pictures, I drew an exponential through my noise. I believe the apparent legitimacy is enhanced by the fact that I used a complicated computer program to make the fit. I understand this is the same process by which the top quark was discovered.


Conclusion

Going into physics was the biggest mistake of my life. I should've declared CS. I still wouldn't have any women, but at least I'd be rolling in cash.



Yes, I realize this isn't a paper, so much as someone's lab homework, but still, funny as hell.

Re: Humorous Academic Papers

Posted: Wed Mar 28, 2012 8:04 pm UTC
by darkone238
I have to say, the Germanium homework made my day much brighter :) Sounds like some papers I wrote in high school (alongside the real ones at least).

Re: Humorous Academic Papers

Posted: Wed Mar 28, 2012 8:31 pm UTC
by ahammel
The Ig Nobel Prizes are a good source of these. A James Watson* was awarded the prize in 2005 for his scholarly study entitled "The Significance of Mr. Richard Buckley's Exploding Trousers".

*Not the famous one

Re: Humorous Academic Papers

Posted: Wed Mar 28, 2012 10:38 pm UTC
by masher
Scow wrote:E.L. Hanson, J. Schwartz, B. Nickel, N. Koch, M.F. Danisman, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 125 (2003) 16074–16080.

The paper descibes self assembled monolayer formation through "tethering by aggregation and growth." Natrually they use the acronym to refer to this process in the paper, e.g. T-BAG. I guess it is the little things that help you keep your sanity during graduate school.


How about this one?

Yang, D. et al, 'Electrochemical synthesis of metal and semimetal nanotube–nanowire heterojunctions and their electronic transport properties', Chem. Commun., 2007, 1733-5.

They talk about copper nanotubes, which, of course, they abbreviate as CuNT.

I would have like to have been in that editorial meeting...