Tag Archives: Robert Boyle

Robert Boyle’s Monstrous Head

Every now and again, a paper is published that’s so peculiar, or so apparently irrelevant to any important question, that it attracts derision rather than citation.  Perhaps it picks up a Golden Fleece Award, or more fun, an IgNobel Prize; or perhaps it just gets roundly mocked on Twitter*.  Much more than every now and then, a paper gets published that just doesn’t seem to connect to anything, and rather than being derided it’s simply ignored.

Perhaps you think this kind of thing is a recent phenomenon.  Continue reading

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Painting of Hennig Brand discovering phosphorus

Open science, phosphorus, and economic impact

Image: The Alchymist, In Search of the Philosopher’s Stone (1771), by Joseph Wright, illustrating Hennig Brand’s discovery of phosphorus. Collection of The Derby Museum and Art Gallery.

Warning: long-ish. If you like, skip the middle section (history of the discovery of phosphorus) or skip the opening and conclusion (open science vs. commercialization). It’s kind of two posts in one.

 

Last week I was working on a grant proposal, to an agency called the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.  I was feeling a bit soiled, since NBIF is unabashedly about industrial innovation and commercialization, and I’ve always fancied myself a basic/pure/curiosity-driven scientist*.  A move into more applied work (mostly forestry-related) is new for me.  I really struggled to write the section about how the intellectual property generated by my proposal would be commercialized – partly because I just don’t have any interest in doing so, and partly because (as a consequence) I really don’t know how.

One thing was obvious, though: Continue reading

The Golden Age of Weird Papers

Image: American “Journal” of Engineering Research

Tom Spears, a science journalist with the Ottawa Citizen, recently wrote an article about the decidedly peculiar “paper” above. This “paper” was recently published in the predatory “journal” American Journal of Engineering Research, and the rest of its content is just as weird as the bit you can read in the image – for more, see Tom’s story here. With thousands of predatory journals publishing anything anyone will pay for, is today the golden age of weird papers? Arulmani and Latha might tempt you to think so, but let’s not pass judgement too fast. Let me tell you about some really weird papers I came across recently. Continue reading