Fun_People Archive
21 May
mini-AIR uncovers Hoax Hoax & Units

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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Tue, 21 May 96 19:16:59 -0700
To: Fun_People
Subject: mini-AIR uncovers Hoax Hoax & Units

Excerpted-from: The mini-Annals of Improbable Research ("mini-AIR")
		Issue Number 1996-05
1996-05-04	Levels of Non-Meaning: The Recursive Hoax

What, indeed, is reality? Fed up with the persistence of pseudo-
scientific pseudo-scholarly claptrap and gibberish, Alan Sokal
submitted a load of intentionally utter nonsense to a
"prestigious" "cultural studies" journal. 'Tis a wonderful piece
of writing, indistinguishable from (and no less coherent than) the
articles it mocks. The journal, "Social Text," published this
wonderfully moronic prose in its May '96 issue. Sokal, a New York
University physicist, then wrote up the whole fiasco; he published
his expose in the magazine "Lingua Franca." All this has been
detailed in the general press.

But it may not be the whole story. We obtained a copy of "Social
Text" and commissioned a panel of scholars (one of whom is a
convicted felon) to read and deconstruct the text. The panel
concluded -- unanimously -- that the other articles in "Social
Text" are devoid of meaning and probably are themselves hoaxes.
Thus Professor Sokal, thinking that he was cleverly showing up
some rotten eggheads, was instead being suckered by a band of
jokers more clever than himself.

So bravo, bravo, bravo to the deadpan merry old pranksters who
call themselves "cultural studies scholars." Their many deadpan
statements to the press in recent days are further triumphs in the
grand dada style.

[TECHNICAL AFTERNOTE: For the sake of completeness, we now plan to
pulverize our copy of "Social Text," and flush the particles into
a particle accelerator. Our expectation is that this Deridaist-
Joycean-Gell-Mannian particle collision process will synthesize a
new word: "krock," which is derived from "krauq, which is a
backwards spelling of the word "quark."]

1996-05-07	Genuine Genuinely Odd Units Project

Data is trickling in for our list of odd but genuine units of
measurement. Here is a random sampling. (We will publish a more
complete list in the Sept/Oct issue of AIR).

THE DUDLEY, a unit of height used by Woods Hole Oceanographic
Institute scientists to measure hydrothermal vents (also known as
"black smokers") that are found on the ocean floor. The unit
refers to the height of Dudley Foster, the 5' 8" pilot of the
underseas vehicle Alvin. (Submitted by investigator Maggie Rioux)

THE JOHNNY WALKER INCH, a unit of volume adopted by Malasian
freelance tin dredgers, who were paid by the amount of tin
concentrate they recovered. A Johnny Walker inch is the volume of
material that would fill an empty Johnny Wlaker whicky bottle to a
height of one inch.(Submitted by investigator Robin Hall)

THE MICROFORTNIGHT, a unit of time used in the documentation to
Digital Equipment Corporation's Open VMS operatin system.
(Submitted by investigators Paul Tomblin, Stan Gifford, Reece
Pollack and Roland Seidl)

THE SMOOT, a unit of length, defined to be the height of Oliver
Smoot Junior, used to measure the length of the Massachusetts
Avenue Bridge between Boston and Cambridge. The complete
measurement of the bridge also makes use of a related unit, THE
EAR. (Submitted by several dozen investigators)

THE STOUEVILLE, a unit of hotness used in classifying hot peppers.
Halipeno peppers are generally
[Oops!  It looks like we had a little e-drop-out here...  Perhaps the  
original text gave typical hotness values for different kinds of peppers, or  
perhaps it mentioned that the usual rating (the scoville heat unit) is a  
measure of the minimum concentration or maximum dilution (e.g. dissolved in  
water) at which the capsaicin can be detected, or perhaps it originally said:  
"...are generally called 'Jalapeno peppers'."  -psl]

THE GARN, a volumetric unit named after US Senator Jake Garn, who
flew on a space shuttle mission and spent much of that time
vomiting. (Submitted by investigator Paul Kolodner and several

If you have know of a genuine genuinely odd unit of measurement --
AND CAN DOCUMENT IT -- please mail or fax the documentation to:

	Genuine Genuinely Odd Units Project
	Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)
	PO Box 380853
	Cambridge MA 02228 USA FAX:617-661-0927

(If you would like acknowledgment that we received the
documentation, please include your e-mail address.)

(c) copyright 1996, The Annals of Improbable Research

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