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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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August 30, 2013

Welcome to the Author's Brain. The "Fasten Seatbelts" Sign Is Illuminated

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Posted by Derek

Well, it's the Friday before a long holiday weekend here in the US, so I don't know if this is the day for long, detailed posts. I do have some oddities in the queue, though, so this is probably a good day to clear them out.

For starters, here's one in the tradition of the (in)famous Andrulis "gyre" paper. Another open-access publisher (SAGE) has an unusual item in their journal Qualitative Inquiry. (Some title, by the way - you could guess for days about what might appear under that category). The paper's title gets things off to a fine start: "Welcome to My Brain". And the abstract? Glad you asked:

This is about developing recursive, intrinsic, self-reflexive as de-and/or resubjective always evolving living research designs. It is about learning and memory cognition and experiment poetic/creative pedagogical science establishing a view of students ultimately me as subjects of will (not) gaining from disorder and noise: Antifragile and antifragility and pedagogy as movements in/through place/space. Further, it is about postconceptual hyperbolic word creation thus a view of using language for thinking not primarily for communication. It is brain research with a twist and becoming, ultimately valuation of knowledges processes: Becoming with data again and again and self-writing theory. I use knitting the Möbius strip and other art/math hyperbolic knitted and crocheted objects to illustrate nonbinary . . . perhaps. Generally; this is about asking how-questions more than what-questions.

Right. That's word-for-word, by the way, even though it reads as if parts of speech have been excised. Now, I do not, sadly, have access to journals with the kind of reach that Qualitative Inquiry displays, so I have not attempted to read the whole text. But the abstract sounds either like a very elaborate (and unenlightening) word game, or the product of a disturbed mind. The Neurobonkers blog, though, has some more, and it definitely points toward the latter:

This article is therefore about developing recursive intrinsic self-reflexive as de- and/or resubjective always evolving living research designs. Inquiry perhaps full stop—me: An auto-brain—biography and/or a brain theo­rizing itself; me theorizing my brain. It is thus about theo­rizing bodily here brain and transcorporeal materialities, in ways that neither push us back into any traps of biological determinism or cultural essentialism, nor make us leave bodily matter and biologies behind.

Apprarently, most of the manuscript is taken up with those "This is about. . ." constructions, which doesn't make for easy reading, either. At various points, a being/character called "John" makes appearances, as do recurring references to knitting and to Möbius strips. Brace yourselves:

Knitting John, John knitting. Knitting John Möbius. Möbius knitting John. Giant Möbius Strips have been used as conveyor belts (to make them last longer, since “each side” gets the same amount of wear) and as continuous-loop recording tapes (to double the playing time). In the 1960’s Möbius Strips were used in the design of versatile electronic resistors. Freestyle skiers have named one of their acrobatic stunts the Möbius Flip. The wear and tear of my efforts. My stunts, enthusiasm knitting. My brain and doubling and John.

OK, that's deranged. And how could anyone at SAGE have possibly reviewed it? This is the same question that came up with the MDPI journals and the Andrulis paper - five minutes with this stuff and you feel like calling up the author and telling them to adjust their dosages (or perhaps like adjusting yours). This sort of thing is interesting in a roadside-accident sort of way, but it also calls open-access publishing into disrepute. Maybe it's time for not only a list of predatory publishers, but a list of nonpredatory ones that freely admit garbage.

Comments (43) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: The Scientific Literature


1. opsomath on August 30, 2013 8:12 AM writes...

Glad to see I was justified in clicking "Report Spam" on that MDPI invitation to submit a paper.

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2. myma on August 30, 2013 8:14 AM writes...

My head, enthusiasm fracking
My brain and chortling and Frank?

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3. Pete on August 30, 2013 8:16 AM writes...

Take your medication as directed?

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4. myma on August 30, 2013 8:22 AM writes...

Oh no, it gets worse. The journal actively encourages this sort of thing, and they are planning a -special issue-!
"We find this space exciting and daunting, a drop vibrating to unfold. This potential unfolding in qualitative inquiry has brought to the fore visions of possibility - fragments of that to become, and questioning of practice ... We invite potential contributors to construct hypermodal exemplars and offer methodological insight into the possibilities of hypermodal inquiry."

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5. Andrew Meyer on August 30, 2013 8:27 AM writes...

This has the feel of those computer-generated papers that made a big stir a few years ago--are we sure a human was the author?

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6. Colm on August 30, 2013 8:29 AM writes...

I wonder how this relates to Time Cube.

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7. lurkmore on August 30, 2013 8:32 AM writes...

Yeah we are pretty sure. Here's another opus by the same

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8. Hap on August 30, 2013 8:37 AM writes...

The first part sounds like someone glomming on to Taleb to make their own word salad, but unfortunately it doesn't hold up to that level of promise.

The text quoted sounds too repetitive to be machine-generated - it unfortunately sounds like an author wrapped up in his own head. Self-referencing mechanisms taken to extremes would probably be the best possible scenario.

Is this journal sponsored by a state mental health agency?

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9. CanChem on August 30, 2013 8:40 AM writes...

Wow, what an easy way to beef up my CV's publications section. I never knew you could just mad-lib your way to articles.

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10. Tony on August 30, 2013 8:44 AM writes...

As a window into a disturbed mind, this sounds fascinating. As a path to enlightenment...not so much.

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11. Calvin on August 30, 2013 8:49 AM writes...

Seemed oddly familiar. Had the same ring as McKinsey-speak

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12. Anon on August 30, 2013 8:54 AM writes...

Sounds like Derrida, quoting from his 'Of Grammatology':

Has grammatology, then, the right to expect from linguistics an essential assistance that it has almost never looked for? On the contrary, does one not find efficaciously at work, in the very movement by which linguistics is instituted as a science, a metaphysical presupposition about the relationship between speech and writing? Would that presupposition not binder the constitution of a general science of writing? Is not the lifting of that presupposition an overthrowing of the landscape upon which the science of language is peacefully installed? For better and for worse? For blindness as well as for productivity? This is the second type of question that I now wish to outlines To develop this question, I should like to approach, as a privileged example, the project and texts of Ferdinand de Saussure. That the particularity of the example does not interfere with the generality of my argument is a point which I shall occasionally — try not merely to take for granted.

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13. Hap on August 30, 2013 8:57 AM writes...

From the title, Qualitative Inquiry sounds either like a journal for mental self-pleasuring or a place to publish transcripts of some friends hanging out with a, um, water pipe and a large quantity of intoxicant. It would have to be open-access because I'm not sure who would pay for a subscription.

McKinsey-speak has to enchant other management consultants and their victims. It has to sound sane and attractive to people not smart enough to know better. This...doesn't.

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14. Anonymous on August 30, 2013 8:58 AM writes...

Haha, #11 Calvin thanks for that Friday-funny :-)

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15. Helical Investor on August 30, 2013 9:08 AM writes...

"This is about developing recursive, intrinsic, self-reflexive as de-and/or resubjective always evolving living research designs. "

So .. uhmmmm ... you mean Facebook?

"Further, it is about postconceptual hyperbolic word creation thus a view of using language for thinking not primarily for communication."

Yup, definitely Facebook.


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16. Anonymous on August 30, 2013 9:22 AM writes...

Dr Seuss?

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17. Alex Whiteside on August 30, 2013 9:46 AM writes...

I am not sure what the author's objectives were, but communicating ideas to the reader was apparently not one of them. (In a paper about pedagogy, no less.) On the other hand you're paying for qualitative inquiry, and it doesn't get much more qualitative than a train-of-thought firstperson narrative.

I dare say there's an entertaining game of "does this quote come from the paper or House of Leaves" to be had out of it. The stylistic mash-up of academic prose, diary entries, and freeform poetry is quite reminiscent of that work.

"And I need/ed a knitting pause/stop; not from knitting but to knit: Today is Jan.17th 2013. I knew that I was going to write about that line, but not when, how or what. Still don’t. Thank you G for saying it/haunting me. And two years have gone by. But this is timeless and again peripheral I guess; a promise of “the perhaps” (Derrida, 1997, p. 27) only perhaps, something to come, but might prove important for more hopefully; the “perhaps” being the most just category for the future."

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18. luysii on August 30, 2013 9:50 AM writes...

“I feel that writing to you there I am writing to the source of a ray of light from within a pit of semi-darkness. It is a strange place where you live, where administration is heaped upon administration, and all tremble with fear or abhorrence (in spite of pious phrases) at symptoms of actual non-local thinking. Up the river, slightly better, but still very strange in a certain area with which we are both familiar. And yet, to see this strangeness, the viewer must be strange.”

“I observed the local Romans show a considerable interest in getting into telephone booths and talking on the telephone and one of their favorite words was pronto. So it’s like ping-pong, pinging back again the bell pinged to me.”

Could you paraphrase this? Neither can I, and when, as a neurologist I had occasion to see schizophrenics, the only way to capture their speech was to transcribe it verbatim. It can’t be paraphrased, because it makes no sense, even though it’s reasonably grammatical.

Who wrote this? A future Nobel laureate -- John Nash as he was entering schizophrenia. Even though the quotes in Derek's article and the one from Derrida are bizarre, they aren't like this stuff -- classic schizophrenic productions.

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19. Curious Wavefunction on August 30, 2013 10:01 AM writes...

That last part is brilliant fiction.

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20. Pig Farmer on August 30, 2013 10:11 AM writes...

Finnegans Wake makes more sense than this drivel.

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21. Curious Wavefunction on August 30, 2013 10:59 AM writes...

luysii: “I feel that writing to you there I am writing to the source of a ray of light from within a pit of semi-darkness. It is a strange place where you live, where administration is heaped upon administration, and all tremble with fear or abhorrence (in spite of pious phrases) at symptoms of actual non-local thinking. Up the river, slightly better, but still very strange in a certain area with which we are both familiar. And yet, to see this strangeness, the viewer must be strange.”

Sounds like a member of Congress.

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22. Anonymous on August 30, 2013 11:05 AM writes...

Anyone remember the so-called "Sokal Affair" where physics professor Alan Sokal wrote a gibberish article that sounded good and smart. He wanted to see if a certain "post-modern studies" journal would "publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors' ideological preconceptions". They did. (Wikipedia-"Sokal Hoax")

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23. Nekekami on August 30, 2013 11:21 AM writes...

I'd definitely look for some very smug comp.sci students out there who've had a paper submitted just for trolling purposes.....

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24. newnickname on August 30, 2013 11:40 AM writes...

The author of the paper is from Nord-Trøndelag University College, Steinkjer, Norway. Maybe the article makes more sense in Norwegian?

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25. Nekekami on August 30, 2013 11:58 AM writes...

Ah, Norway....

I'll choose one of our many Norway jokes to explain it...

Q: Why are there no mental hospitals in Norway?
A: It's too expensive to wall in and put a roof over the entire country.

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26. Wei on August 30, 2013 12:04 PM writes...


It definitely looks like it has been through an automatic translator, half (actually, most) of the sentences are not correct English, but the syntax errors are not really like the usual mistakes made by non-native speakers...

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27. Sigivald on August 30, 2013 12:20 PM writes...

I was intrigued by the idea of a Moebius resistor, and looked it up.

It seems to exist only in patents (old ones, too) - and the benefit (no inductance) is real, but does not depend on the Moebius shape, just the half twist.

See here.

A search reveals zero for sale on the market, which suggests they're useless or never actually produced. Useful electronic components show up in catalogs.

That rant has all the hallmarks of crazy and gullible, combined.

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28. cynical1 on August 30, 2013 12:23 PM writes...

It's just "Flashes from the Archives of Oblivion"............

Apologies to Roy........

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29. Anonymous on August 30, 2013 2:29 PM writes...

Several posts have referenced other that were created for artistic purposes and have nothing to do with science. Why assume that this paper is supposed to have anything to do with science? Because it's published in a periodical that mentions the word "peer review"?

As a piece of art, this paper is no better or worse than many other pieces of art that have been critically acclaimed but have no logic, function, or even coherence. I work in a building that looks like a wadded up piece of aluminum foil, with all the inefficiencies, leaks, and other problems that one might expect in a wad of aluminum foil, but it was simply one more step on that architect's journey to fame, fortune, international prizes, and honorary doctorates...from people who don't have to actually inhabit any of his crappy buildings. (If you're expecting an energy efficient building that doesn't leak, can be quickly traversed, and can undergo minor repairs without stripping the shell off the ENTIRE BUILDING, you'd be grossly disappointed. But as a work of art, it's apparently top-of-the-line.)

You go, crazy rambling artist dude. Notch another publication on your belt and show everyone how visionary you are. Don't let the sober, useful suckers here slow you down.

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30. newnickname on August 30, 2013 2:36 PM writes...

@29: Just wondering ... Stata Center?

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31. anon on August 30, 2013 3:35 PM writes...

you folks need to open your minds.

Align your harmonic gluconeochromatic energy flux with the Earth's Higgsian field.

In that way, local flambobulance is limited to the Flotuzian extremes of the glyconic spectrum.

If you still are having problems, my energy bracelet sells at Amazon for $29.99 and it uses microhydrocoptic marzelvanes to permanently align your flux signature.

I recommend one for each arm.

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32. RKN on August 30, 2013 4:05 PM writes...

Thomas Pynchon writing under a pseudonym?

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33. Sisyphus on August 30, 2013 4:06 PM writes...

It would be very interesting to discovery that this article was plagiarized.

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34. Anonymous on August 30, 2013 4:13 PM writes...

@30: No, but from the same architect.

The Iowa Advanced Technology Center sits across the river from what was the arts campus of the University of Iowa before it flooded. The artists here were a lot smarter than the ones in Minnesota; instead of lobbying for a Gehry-designed art museum which they would then have to inhabit, they lobbied for a Gehry-designed engineering/physical sciences building right across the river from them which they could admire from afar all day without having to deal with any of the ridiculous functionality issues.

On the bright side, only two wings of the building are like that, housing the offices and conferences rooms (and for several years, the university rowing team, since they couldn't figure out anything else that wing of the building was fit for). The labs are sandwiched between the "artistic" river- and street-facing wings in a giant, windowless, rectangular, concrete-block monolith with a great canyon/bay-and-chase utilities setup and a simple, efficient floor plan. My lab in that building is great. The 60-person presentation room with the big, undimmable skylight 25 feet in the air, on the other hand...

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35. Chris on August 30, 2013 5:50 PM writes...

Aagh! I just googled 'Gehry'. I couldn't believe my eyes. My first reaction was to wonder what all those buildings looked like *before* they started to collapse. My second reaction was to suspect the pictures are some cartoonist's bizarre CGI creations. I still find that suspicion hard to dismiss. But I have an uncomfortable feeing that some of these things actually exist.
If so, those things strongly offend me. They're an appalling waste of resources, they'd be incredibly expensive to build, hard to live in, almost impossible to keep watertight, grossly structurally inefficient... they make the Sydney Opera House look good (and I never thought I'd say that). Structurally they've got to be a complete fake - I bet there's a lot of good old rectangular column-and-beam frames inside all those weird shapes, with the bizarre cladding just bracketed on. I would certainly hope so, anyway, for the safety of anyone who has to venture inside one of those scrap piles.

I appreciate architects having their little joke but those ... things ... are beyond a joke. They're the architectural equivalent of that QI paper Derek quoted. How the hell were any clients sufficiently out of their minds as to pay for that crap? Were they just brainwashed with 'prize-winning architect (so we shouldn't question it)... it will get us noticed... ' BS?
Architecture gone malignant.

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36. Dr. Manhattan on August 30, 2013 7:16 PM writes...

Let's see...Pynchon is still alive but David Foster Wallace is sadly no longer... But there is something familiar... Wait, I've got it!

"Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe."

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37. Secondaire on August 30, 2013 7:33 PM writes...

*cocks head*


If this really is mental illness, I feel rather terrible for the author, but on the basis of how this rubbish reads, it looks more like someone who's turned their head into custard with drugs.

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38. MaryKaye on August 30, 2013 9:32 PM writes...

We have a Gehry building here in Seattle, and it is indeed a maintenance nightmare, from what I hear. From certain angles and in certain lighting, parts of it are attractive--it might have had potential as a piece of sculpture. But other sides are (to me anyway) relentlessly ugly, and it's so darned big....

If you put your sweaty hands on the multi-colored metal plates you can make seemingly permanent handprints.

Never been inside, so I can't speak to the architecture. It's also known for having one of the worst cafes in Seattle--not a ringing endorsement.

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39. as2o3 on August 31, 2013 2:03 AM writes...

Those of us unfortunate enough to read Norwegian can check out a few more of her pieces here:

There's also a book by the same author available on Amazon, and since I suspect no one here would ever consider buying it I'll just link to it directly below.

The title? "Spunk - A Love Story (Teacher Community Not)"

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40. Chris on August 31, 2013 9:54 PM writes...

I followed that link to "Spunk - A Love Story"

Here's Amazon's book description:

"This is a love story or rather a writing story about a High School in Norway trying to reform their school through creating learning communities between teachers and students. Therefore it is a story about change always and loving it: The linguistic conditions for change, but as a move from language to law and as aporetic thinking and about the pivoting but liberating effects of writing; positioning and giving direction and the art, perhaps, of being negative. It is postmodern and post structuralist story, and one could actually make a case of it being a Stand Up Pedagogy or a pedagogy of the Perhaps. Fresh writing pedagogy to create more that is. The text is messy and both argumentative and poetic registers are at work. Ultimately, it is about turning school into a discursive field and teachers into language workers rather than the knowledge workers we mainly speak of today. I,m working on a dream...."

Personally, I prefer to get my dreams from magic mushrooms. They're more coherent...

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41. Anonymous on September 1, 2013 4:34 AM writes...

Since nobody seems to understand what the author is talking about, perhaps his thoughts and ideas are profound, but he just can't express them?

How many scientists here have tried to convince others to support their radical and ingenious ideas, but people just don't "get it"?

Look in the mirror.

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42. sepisp on September 2, 2013 3:23 AM writes...

"Further, it is about postconceptual hyperbolic word creation thus a view of using language for thinking not primarily for communication."

Well, for sure, the author is well versed in not using language for communication!

#24: It's not a university, no matter what they say on their website.

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43. Anonymous Coward on September 5, 2013 2:51 AM writes...

SAGE is a humanities publisher but I don't believe they're OA-only. They've been around for some time, anyway.

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