Tag Archives: Author

Don’t panic


Many years ago I was on a panel reviewing  a scientific paper for publication. We concluded that one of the calculations in the paper was really superfluous. But it amused us because the calculation produced the answer 42!

Our recommendation to the author was that the calculation be removed – “despite the theological significance of the result!”

The number 42 seems to have a strong place in our culture – at least in the English-speaking world. And it’s all down to Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (If you don’t understand my point about the number 42 – read the book).

To mark what would have been Adams’s 61st birthday there have been a number of articles scattered through the scientific corners of the internet and blogosphere of late. I am a bit behind, but here’ a nice video in which Douglas Adams describes something of his life and attitudes

Big Thinkers – Douglas Adams [Author] – YouTube.

Another source of Douglas Adams’s wisdom are the many quotes he left. Some of these (quite a few actually) are collected at Goodreads.

Here’s one of them:


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Richard Dawkins in Auckland – update

I reported recently that Richard Dawkins will speak in Auckland next March.

Looks like there has been an overwhelming demand for tickets. To accommodate everyone the organisers have  now arranged a live screening of Richard Dawkins’ only Auckland appearance in 2010. Tickets for the screening are now on sale.
Details of his appearance are:

7.00pm to 8.30pm
Saturday 13 March 2010
Theatre 098, level 0
The University of Auckland Business School

The screening will take place in Theatre 098, which is below the Fisher & Paykel Appliances Auditorium where Richard Dawkins will be speaking. People attending the screening will have the opportunity to get their books signed by the author in the Fisher & Paykel Appliances Foyer following the lecture.


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Peer review – an emotional roller coaster

Every publishing scientist is aware of the emotional roller coaster that goes along with peer review. The “highlight” is, of course, that first reading of referees’ reports.

Classically, there will be three referees.

  • One will be very positive, recommending publication – but clearly may not have even read the paper let alone thought about it.
  • Another will be scathingly critical, perhaps even personally abusive, and recommend against publication. And maybe they haven’t spent much time on the paper either.
  • The third (if you are lucky) will be thoughtful, full of detailed comments and probably recommend publication – but only after the comments have been considered and accommodated.

But we all dread the report which recommends against publication – ever! Which denies any worth to the content of the paper.

Understandably authors can also react harshly towards referees. I once witnessed an author threaten a referee with legal action for defamation!

Although I haven’t seen anything quite this extreme. This is of course a dubbed version portraying Hitler as a senior author being told of referee’s comments on one of his papers!

Thanks to Simon Greenhill at Peer Review 1945 – HENRY.


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Judging the internet – and books

Normally I enjoy getting a new book. A chance to leaf through for a general impression and then get stuck into reading.

But I have one that I must read, and I keep putting off. For some reason it doesn’t appeal. Now, after reading the Telegraph article, Internet rules and laws: the top 10, from Godwin to Poe, I know why.

The article refers to DeMyer’s Second Law: “Anyone who posts an argument on the internet which is largely quotations can be very safely ignored, and is deemed to have lost the argument before it has begun.”

quote-mining-fundie-quote-mining-fallacy-demotivational-poster-1211866892Obviously very relevant for creationists who love to go in for quote mining.

But that is what is wrong with the book. Leafing through one just gets an impression of huge numbers of quotes.

For fun (and to postpone the actual reading) I scanned one chapter and did word counts. This chapter had only 20% of material actually written by the author. The rest were quotes. Talk about letting others do the heavy lifting!

So I am not impressed. But I might do more of this in the future. When I need to judge a book – scan a chapter and determine the proportion of quoted material.

It’s worth reading this article on internet rules. So much of it rings true. Something I must watch, though, is my tendency to use exclamations. The Law of Exclamation says: “The more exclamation points used in an email (or other posting), the more likely it is a complete lie. This is also true for excessive capital letters.”

Thanks to Pharyngula (I didn’t know we had a rule book!) for the link.


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