Prank research paper makes the grade


Press Contact

Denise Brehm
Email: brehm@mit.edu
Phone: 617-253-8069
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Sometimes jargon really is gibberish.

Take the "scientific" papers generated by a computer program and submitted by three MIT computer science students to a scientific conference. One of the papers, "Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy," was accepted by World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics 2005 as a non-reviewed paper. "The Influence of Probabilistic Methodologies on Networking" was rejected.

Graduate students Jeremy Stribling, Max Krohn and Dan Aguayo had doubts about the standards of some conference organizers, who they say "spam people with e-mail."

"We were tired of getting these e-mails from these conference people, so we thought it would be fun to write software that generates meaningless research papers and submit them," said Stribling. All three of the students are doing research in the Parallel and Distributed Operating Systems Group at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT.

The paper's acceptance proves their point, Stribling said. Their computer program generates research papers using "context-free grammar" and includes graphs, figures and citations. The program takes real words and places them correctly in sentences, but the words used don't make sense together.

"Our aim here is to maximize amusement, rather than coherence," say the three on their web site.

They were so amused when the paper was accepted that they told their story on the web, asking people for donations to help them attend the conference in Orlando, Fla., July 10-13 to present the "Rooter" paper.

"Our current plan is to go there and give a completely randomly generated talk, delivered entirely with a straight face," say the three on their web site. "However, this is very expensive for grad students such as ourselves. So, we ask that you consider making us a small PayPal donation to help us toward this dream of ours."

When the web site became the topic of e-conversation on slashdot.org, donations to Stribling, Krohn and Aguayo shot up to than $2,311, more than they needed to attend, before they removed the donation button.

But alas, the conference organizers must have heard the talk; the invitation was rescinded. "As you can imagine, we are heartbroken. And still determined to go to the conference," write Stribling, Krohn and Aguayo on their site, which lets users type in an author's name and generate their own random research papers; the three have also made the code available for free and are asking others to provide them with additional "patches" of context-free grammar to augment the program.

Their once-accepted paper's abstract says: "Many physicists would agree that, had it not been for congestion control, the evaluation of web browsers might never have occurred. In fact, few hackers worldwide would disagree with the essential unification of voice-over-IP and public-private key pair. In order to solve this riddle, we confirm that SMPs can be made stochastic, cacheable, and interposable."

Random gibberish, just like it sounds.


Topics: Computer science and technology, Students, Hacks and humor

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