XKCD's scientific microfiction meme (permalink)
In 2008, I traveled to the world's largest scientific data-centers for a Nature story. No matter whether the labs were devoted to internet archiving, the human genome, or the Higgs boson, they had two things in common: vast server farms, and XKCD.
Randall Munroe's webcomic is so unabashedly geeky, so unafraid to be obscure or format-breaking, so affectionate and knowing about the triumphs and pitfalls of science that it is absolute catnip for scientists.
Last week, Munroe published strip #2456, "Types of scientific paper," a 3×4 grid of thumbnails of journal articles with titles like, "We put a camera somewhere new" and "My colleague is wrong and I can finally prove it."
Even by XKCD standards, this is heavy scientist-bait. The research community has risen to the challenge, flooding the net with remixes that are, if anything, even better than the original: works of microfictional genius to rival Hemingway's "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."
Many of these have been collected on Bruce Sterling's Tumblr blogs, and, taken as a body, they constitute an act of wry, insightful auto-ethnography – self-criticism wrapped in humor that tells a story.
"Types of Paper in Epidemiology and Public Health"
- We counted how many people have a disease, here are maps with poor countries in red
We found that if you call your research 'genetic epidemiology,' then people are surprisingly OK with eugenics
"Types of History Paper"
- Stuff happened: a chronology 1910-1974
They missed so much stuff, it's honestly embarrassing 1910-1974
I am so tired of stuff scholarship
Wokeness is killing stuff scholarship! A senior scholar weighs in
"Types of Glaciology Paper"
- The ocean is doing a bunch of weird stuff to this glacier
Why is it doing that: the wild physics
Why is it doing that: now with machine learning
We found a glacier that's doing fine! Oh, wait, nevermind
"Types of Entomology Paper"
- This pesticide is completely safe, says one very restricted metric
This pesticide will kill us all: extrapolation from irrelevant data
39,000 new parasitic wasps
"Types of Climate Science Paper."
- Here's a bad thing about climate change you hadn't even thought about
Did any of you guys take a statistics course?
Things are definitely worse than we thought
Things are definitely better than we thought
"Types of Quantum Computing Paper"
- Simulating our system with our system
We've solved QC with our new scripting language
"Types of Remote Sensing Papers"
- We saw stuff on the ground from space
We saw stuff on the ground better from space
What's that? Let me see if I can see it from space
Have you tried neural networks though?
"Types of Building Energy Papers"
- Expensive material improves building efficiency
Stop climate change by rebuilding all buildings this way
Insulate all things
"Types of Housing Papers"
- Why tech workers deserve condos with better walk scores
Design students' yurts will end poverty
Supportive housing costs less than boiling poor people in oil and it's more efficient
Elders have rebuilt enough equity for a new round of predatory lending
Neighborhood gained wealth when rich people moved in
This city ended homelessness (for left-handed veterans with cats)
I saved my favorite for last: "How a reporter sees types of science papers"
- This journal puts the full paper online
I know this person responds to emails
GIF-able video in the supporting information
Fig 1 seems like it basically sums the whole thing up
I covered their last paper
Attack Surface is a Locus Awards finalist (permalink)
The annual Locus Awards finalists have been announced and I am thrilled to pieces to see my novel ATTACK SURFACE, a standalone book in the Little Brother universe for adults, in the final ten for Best SF Novel!
Even more exciting than making the top ten is the company it puts me in: the other finalists are:
- Machine by Elizabeth Bear
- Unconquerable Sun by Kate Elliott
- Agency by William Gibson
- The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal
- War of the Maps by Paul McAuley
- The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson
- The Last Emperox by John Scalzi
- Network Effect by Martha Wells
- Interlibrary Loan by Gene Wolfe
(also excited to see Tor Books, my publisher, next to so many of those names!)
The entire list is, as always, a must-read guide to the best sf/f of the past year. This year's Locus Awards Weekend is a virtual affair (for obvious reasons) and runs Jun 23-26. You can sign up here:
This day in history (permalink)
#20yrsago Microsoft slams Open Source. Again. https://www.nytimes.com/2001/05/03/business/technology-microsoft-is-set-to-be-top-foe-of-free-code.html
#20yrsago Fiery screed about the state of Linux desktop environments https://web.archive.org/web/20021204051712/http://www.linuxplanet.com/linuxplanet/opinions/3297/1/
#15yrsago Rich Americans as sick as poor Brits https://web.archive.org/web/20060516225807/http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn9098&feedId=online-news_rss20
#15yrsago Classic multi-ending MAD flexidisc MP3s https://scarstuff.blogspot.com/2006/04/mad-magazine-its-super-spectacular-day.html
#10yrsago Brust’s Tiassa: versatile fantasy in three modes https://memex.craphound.com/2011/05/02/brusts-tiassa-versatile-fantasy-in-three-modes/
#10yrsago Will technology make us freer, and if so, how? https://locusmag.com/2011/05/cory-doctorow-techno-optimism/
#1yrago Kim Stanley Robinson on "our rewritten imagination" https://pluralistic.net/2020/05/02/rewriting-our-imaginations/#ksr
#1yrago Ticketmaster gets $500m from Mohammad bin Salman https://pluralistic.net/2020/05/02/rewriting-our-imaginations/#mister-bone-saw
#1yrago How "contact tracing" apps could be worse than useless https://pluralistic.net/2020/05/02/rewriting-our-imaginations/#exposure-notification
#1yrago Prisons, meatpacking plants, nursing homes https://pluralistic.net/2020/05/02/rewriting-our-imaginations/#superclusters
- A Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. RESEARCH PHASE
A short story about consumer data co-ops. PLANNING
A Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. PLANNING
A nonfiction book about excessive buyer-power in the arts, co-written with Rebecca Giblin, "The Shakedown." FINAL EDITS
A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause." FINISHED
A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues." FINISHED
Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.
Latest podcast: Past Performance is Not Indicative of Future Results https://craphound.com/news/2021/03/28/past-performance-is-not-indicative-of-future-results/
- In conversation with John Scalzi (Gaithersburg Book Festival), May 7, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQAVJPE1vRk
Interoperability and Alternative Social Media, Reimagine the Internet, May 12, https://knightcolumbia.org/events/reimagine-the-internet
Book launch for Aminder Dhaliwal's Cyclopedia Exotica (Indigo), May 13, https://www.crowdcast.io/e/udbva8py/register
Seize the Means of Computation, Ryerson Centre for Free Expression, May 19, https://cfe.ryerson.ca/events/how-destroy-surveillance-capitalism-seize-means-computation
- The Shakedown, with Rebecca Giblin, nonfiction/business/politics, Beacon Press 2022
This work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. That means you can use it any way you like, including commercially, provided that you attribute it to me, Cory Doctorow, and include a link to pluralistic.net.
Quotations and images are not included in this license; they are included either under a limitation or exception to copyright, or on the basis of a separate license. Please exercise caution.
How to get Pluralistic:
Blog (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):
Newsletter (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):
Mastodon (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):
Twitter (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising):
Tumblr (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising):
"When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla" -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla