Asleep at the Gate

In 1996, in order to demonstrate the undiscerning trendiness of postmodernism, NYU physicist Alan Sokal submitted an article “liberally salted with nonsense” to the academic journal Social Text:

As Althusser rightly commented, ‘Lacan finally gives Freud’s thinking the scientific concepts that it requires.’ More recently, Lacan’s topologie du sujet has been applied fruitfully to cinema criticism and to the psychoanalysis of AIDS. In mathematical terms, Lacan is here pointing out that the first homology group of the sphere is trivial, while those of the other surfaces are profound; and this homology is linked with the connectedness or disconnectedness of the surface after one or more cuts.

It was published even though Sokal refused to make any changes.

In 2005, MIT student Jeremy Stribling submitted a paper of computer-generated gibberish to the technology conference WMSCI:

One must understand our network configuration to grasp the genesis of our results. We ran a deployment on the NSA’s planetary-scale overlay network to disprove the mutually largescale behavior of exhaustive archetypes. First, we halved the effective optical drive space of our mobile telephones to better understand the median latency of our desktop machines. This step flies in the face of conventional wisdom, but is instrumental to our results.

It was accepted when none of three reviewers rejected it.

French twins Igor and Grichka Bogdanov insist that their papers on the Big Bang are genuine contributions to physical cosmology, but mathematician John Baez calls them “a mishmash of superficially plausible sentences containing the right buzzwords in approximately the right order.” That battle is still raging.