Realistic Science Fiction and Realistic Fictional Science

I happened upon this online article: Six scientists tell us about the most accurate science fiction in their fields. The article mentions some SF books that might make interesting reading.

The Marching Morons by C.M. Kornbluth sounds interesting; it’s described as the original version of Idiocracy (2006). Unfortunately, it’s out of print and used copies on Amazon.com are rather costly.

And I’m gonna have to check out Peter Watts’ Blindsight.


As a follow-up to the reference to Peter Watts’ Blindsight, in the Comments section of the online article user tom_blackwell provided a link to a faux scientific slide show presentation on the science of vampires. There’s lots of tongue-in-cheek science humor in this:

Taming the Nightmares of Yesterday for a Better Tomorrow.

Delivered by Dr. P. Watts, Senior Scientific Officer, FizerPharm, Inc., at the Seventh Annual International Conference on Transhuman Science, 2008, Vancouver, B.C.

Whoever composed this slide show — probably Peter Watts himself — has obviously attended scientific conferences and has a feel for the cadence of scientific presentations.


Other science humor in which scientific studies (some fake, some actually not) are presented:
The Journal of Irreproducible Results
Annals of Improbable Research (organizer of the Ig Nobel Prizes)


You might think from the name that The Journal of Spurious Correlations is yet another science humor journal, but it’s not. It’s intended to combat the file drawer problem. Unfortunately, it appears to be defunct.


SCIgen – An Automatic Computer Science Paper Generator. Give it a try and generate a technical paper with yourself and your pet cat as co-authors.

Three randomly generated talks were delivered at a satellite session of the 2005 World Multiconference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics (WMSCI). It would have been very amusing to have attended these talks.

In 2008, a randomly generated paper was accepted for presentation at a prestigious technical conference, and the fake author (“Herbert Schlangemann”) was even assigned to chair a panel. Figures 1 and 2 from the paper are a real hoot. The References section looks “real”.

And then in 2009, a computer-generated paper was accepted for publication by a peer-reviewed (?) journal. Here’s a link to the paper.


There was a recent article on the Chronicle Review that mentioned a 1973 study in which a colorful actor was “programmed” to deliver a fake lecture (“The Doctor Fox Lecture”) to real students and professors, and the fake talk was warmly received. (The paper mentions that the lecture was videotaped. They should post that videotape on YouTube.) How about “programming” a colorful, distinguished-looking actor to deliver a randomly generated talk? Wouldn’t that be great?


Algorithmic Detection of Computer Generated Papers


Here are two books by well-known SF authors that deal with the murky dividing line between science and pseudoscience:

Borderlands of Science, by Charles Sheffield
Kicking The Sacred Cow, by James P. Hogan (died only a few months ago)


Addendum (09/22/10): It occurred to me that I could’ve been clever and entitled this post Realistic SF and Realistic FS, but I think it’s better to spell out “Fake Science.”


Addendum (11/28/10): Changed the title of this post!


Addendum (09/24/11): Video footage of the legendary Doctor Fox lecture.

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  1. […] I have mentioned SCIgen in a previous post. […]


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