The Reading Room at the British Museum

Recently read: Dr S. Bestiale, Jon Snow’s fate, and a poem

It’s one of those weeks when I find it really difficult to do any serious work, offline or on this blog. So, this week’s collection of reading materials will endeavour to provide answers to questions such as: (a) who is Dr Stronzo Bestiale?, (b) is John Snow dead? and (c) what is the boundary between Science and Art?

Dr Stronzo Bestiale, I presume?

The first of the stories comes from Retraction Watch, which recently reported on the publication record of a scientist named Stronzo Bestiale. Polyglot readers of this blog will have noticed that Stronzo Bestiale means “complete idiot” in the language spoken by Dante, Umberto Eco, and Ilona Staller. Dr Bestiale, we read, is a fictional scientist created by physicist William G. Hoover in 1987 to prove a point: apparently, the Journal of Statistical Physics had rejected one of Hoover’s papers, but was happy to publish the exact same paper when it was resubmitted with Dr. Bestiale listed as a co-author. Retraction Watch notes that:

27 years later, Bestiale is still listed as co-author on several papers. He also has a Scopus profile that lists him as an active researcher at the Institute of Experimental Physics, University of Vienna.

The Scopus listing was still active as of Saturday (11th October) evening, and it showed that Dr Bestiale’s publications had generated 114 citations since 1987. Dr Bestiale is no longer research active though, and he has neither published nor perished since 1995.

Winter is coming

There are those who criticise science for being at a disconnect from the issues that matter to society. Such critics will be forced to revise their views after reading this paper in arxiv.org, which uses Bayesian modelling to predict the structure of the next books in the Song of Ice and Fire series (more commonly known as Game of Thrones, after the HBO series which the series inspired). Each chapter in the series is narrated from the Point of View of a specific character (a ‘POV character’), and the model described in this paper generates estimates of the number of chapters that are likely be narrated by each POV character, in the unlikely event that none of them meets an untimely death. Here’s a key extract:

SPOILER ALERT

Is Jon Snow dead? The model suggests that the probability of Jon Snow not being dead is at least 60% since this is less than the posterior probability of his having at least one POV chapter in book 6. Given the events of [Martin (2011)], many readers would assess his probability of not being dead as being much lower than 60%, but we must again point out that the model is unaware of the events in the books. The model can only say that, based on the number of POV chapters observed so far, he has about as much chance of survival as the other major characters.

END SPOILERS

And now for something completely different…

Scholarly Open Access, which often contains some of the oddest news concerning academic publishing, has a story on a creative approach to scholarly communication: a medical poem published in the International Journal of Medical Science Research and Practice, a bottom-feeding predatory publisher.

The poem is entitled “Ulcerative Colitis,” and it’s written by Dr. Sanjeev Narang, a professor in the — perhaps fittingly — Department of Pathology at the Index Medical College in Indore, India. Here are the first two lines of the poem:

Begins in the rectum and backwards it goes
No mercy to any part of colon it shows.

Admittedly, it does sound rather painful.


Featured Image Credit: ceridwen @ geograph.org, CC BY-SA

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