Why Marcie Rathke is not Alan Sokal

I’ve been pretty startled by all of the publicity that Mathgen and the Marcie Rathke paper (accepted by Advances in Pure Mathematics) have recently attracted. Many people drew parallels between this incident and Alan Sokal’s 1996 hoax, in which Sokal, a physicist, got the cultural studies journal Social Text to accept a parody article which identified physics and physical reality as a social construct. I’m flattered by the comparison, but I wanted to take some space to respond and point out some essential differences between the two cases.

Basically, where Sokal attacked the intellectual standards of the entire field of cultural studies, the purpose of the Rathke paper was only to expose a particularly dismal sector of the academic publishing industry, in a field (mathematics) which I believe is essentially sound.

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Mathgen paper accepted!

I’m pleased to announce that Mathgen has had its first randomly-generated paper accepted by a reputable journal!

On August 3, 2012, a certain Professor Marcie Rathke of the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople submitted a very interesting article to Advances in Pure Mathematics, one of the many fine journals put out by Scientific Research Publishing. (Your inbox and/or spam trap very likely contains useful information about their publications at this very moment!) This mathematical tour de force was entitled “Independent, Negative, Canonically Turing Arrows of Equations and Problems in Applied Formal PDE”, and I quote here its intriguing abstract:
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I’ve just finished putting up Mathgen, an online generator for random math papers. It’s based on SCIgen, which generates papers in computer science.

To illustrate, I just generated a 15-page paper entitled “Stochastically Dependent Algebras for a Simply Ordered Curve,” by N. Kobayashi and A. Ramanujan. Its abstract reads:

Let us assume $| \iota | \cong \aleph_0$. We wish to extend the results of [16] to monoids. We show that every discretely quasi-nonnegative arrow acting compactly on an essentially left-Cayley isometry is almost associative, parabolic and partial. Next, in future work, we plan to address questions of uniqueness as well as stability. It was Fibonacci-Frobenius who first asked whether sub-completely super-Jacobi curves can be computed.

Go try it out, and generate a couple for yourself. Also linked from that page are more info about the program, source code, and links to randomly generated books you can buy.