THREE MIT graduate students invented a computer program that can spit out randomly selected words to create grammatically correct research reports that make absolutely no sense. Now they have had one of those papers accepted for presentation at a July scientific conference.
If there were a Professor Irwin Corey Award honoring the comedic master of double-talk, these guys would surely get one. They deserve at least a salute for providing welcome giggles at the fuzzy, convoluted language polluting not only science but many fields.
Jeremy Stribling, Max Krohn, and Dan Aguayo call their paper ''Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy" -- which might have been seen as a tip-off that scientific beaks were being tweaked. After all, why would anyone want to unify redundancy?
But the four-page send-up, laced with confounding graphs, was accepted by an international conference that itself sounds like a spoof: ''The Ninth World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics." The organizers of the Orlando, Fla., gathering did not return a phone call from the Globe.
Stribling said in an interview that the conference ''sends out a lot of spam" asking for papers, and he and his colleagues wanted to show that research is accepted without being read carefully. The students plan to videotape their talk in July and post it on their website.
Their spoof echoes what has become known as the ''Sokal Hoax," perpetrated in 1996 by Alan Sokal, a professor of physics at New York University. He lampooned Duke University's left-wing cultural criticism journal ''Social Text" by positing in 11 pages of text and 30 pages of footnotes that the physical world did not exist. The journal published the paper, which was titled ''Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity."
The reason something like that can slip by editors without an eye blink is that a lot of people in academia think, speak, and write that way -- and they're hardly alone.
The business world can take a simple idea and turn it into a paradigm with parameters faster than a mouse click -- and the affliction keeps getting worse, no matter how many consultants are hired to promote clarity. The new book, ''Why Business People Speak Like Idiots," by Brian Fugere, Chelsea Hardaway, and Jon Warshawsky should be required reading in America's suites and cubicles.
And the phrase ''Remember the Rooter!" should be on every bulletin board and refrigerator in the land to remind people of the power in one tiny word: ''Huh?"