27 Oct 2016

Nonsensical paper accepted for nuclear physics conference

From Afternoons, 1:21 pm on 27 October 2016

A Canterbury university professor managed to get his paper accepted to present at a nuclear physics conference.

The catch being he used Apple's IOS autocomplete to write it and it was nonsensical.

Christoph Bartnek

Christoph Bartnek Photo: Supplied

This was the pithy opening paragraph to Dr Christoph Bartneck’s abstract:

“Atomic physics and I shall not have the same problem with the separate section for a very long, long way. Nuclear weapons will not have to come out the same day after a long time of the year he added the two sides will have the two leaders to take the same way to bring up to their long ways of the same as they will have been a good place for a good time at home the united front and she is a great place for a good time.”

Dr Bartneck came up the idea after being invited to a conference which was not in his area of expertise.

The professor thought he would give a joke reply by typing in the words ‘atomic’ or ‘nuclear’ and seeing what the apple autocomplete function came up with.

It was gobbledygook but that seemingly was good enough for the conference organisers who invited him to speak nevertheless.

Dr Bartneck told Jesse Mulligan he gets dozens of such invites but this one caught his eye.

“What was unusual was that it was in a field that I have no direct relation to - nuclear physics is something that I don’t really do.

“I said ‘OK that’s a topic I know nothing about let’s try and submit a paper and see how it goes.’”

Dr Christoph Bartneck's fake Nuclear Physics paper

Dr Christoph Bartneck's fake Nuclear Physics paper Photo: Dr Christoph Bartneck

Dr Bartneck says his joke had a serious side.

“A paper that might be published in such a conference might be perceived by others as having gone through a rigorous review process. And that’s not the case.”

He says science has a duty to do a bit of “housekeeping once in a while and expose when things go terribly wrong”.

“It’s fair to say this conference had gone off the track quite considerably.”

He presented the paper under the alias Iris Pear.  

“Anybody who had looked at this paper at all would have immediately figured out that this was nonsense.”

The company that operates the conference is under federal investigation in the US, he says.

“The Federal Trade Commission received a complaint in August - I wouldn’t be surprised if they call me!”