New spamference joke

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Ethan Weston & Carter Woodiel, "Paper Fully Written By iOS Autocomplete Accepted By Physics Conference", Newsy 10/23/2016:

A nonsensical academic paper on nuclear physics written only by iOS autocomplete has been accepted for a scientific conference.  

Christoph Bartneck, an associate professor at the Human Interface Technology laboratory at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, received an email inviting him to submit a paper to the International Conference on Atomic and Nuclear Physics in the US in November. 

“Since I have practically no knowledge of nuclear physics I resorted to iOS autocomplete function to help me writing the paper,” he wrote in a blog post on Thursday.

“I started a sentence with ‘atomic’ or ‘nuclear’ and then randomly hit the autocomplete suggestions.  “The text really does not make any sense.”

The paper is here: "Atomic Energy will have been made available to a single source". Its abstract:

Atomic Physics and I shall not have the same problem with a separate section for a very long long way. Nuclear weapons will not have to come out the same day after a long time of the year he added the two sides will have the two leaders to take the same way to bring up to their long ways of the same as they will have been a good place for a good time at home the united front and she is a great place for a good time. The atoms of a better universe will have the right for the same as you are the way we shall have to be a great place for a great time to enjoy the day you are a wonderful person to your great time to take the fun and take a great time and enjoy the great day you will be a wonderful time for your parents and kids. Molecular diagnostics will have been available for the rest by a single day and a good day to the rest have a wonderful time and aggravation for the rest day at home time for the two of us will have a great place for the rest to be great for you tomorrow and tomorrow after all and I am a very happy boy to the great day and I hope he is wonderful. Nevertheless I have to go back home to nuclear power to the united way she is to be the first woman united to work on their own and the rest will be the same way as she will have to come back to work and we are still not the way we shall have the united side and we are not the same way she is the way she said the same as she was a good time. Physics are great but the way it does it makes you want a good book and I will pick it to the same time I am just a little more than I can play for later and then it is very very good for a good game. Nuclear energy is not a nuclear nuclear power to the nuclear nuclear program he added and the nuclear nuclear program is a good united state of the nuclear nuclear power program and the united way nuclear nuclear program nuclear. Scientist and I have been very good to me today I hope I have to work on tomorrow after work today so far but I'm still going for tomorrow night at work today but I'm not going home said I am a good friend and a great time for the rest I have been doing. Physics are great but the same as you have been able and the same way to get the rest to your parents. Atoms for a play of the same as you can do with a great time to take the rest to your parents or you will be nucleus a great time for a great place. Power is not a great place for a good time.

The first famous example of this general type is described in "Cybernetic Text", 4/15/2005, and "(Mis)Informing Science", 4/20/2005. I haven't been able to locate an extant copy of the markov-chain-generated paper involved in that affair, but my memory is that it was somewhat more plausible than the iOS gibberish above.




  1. Gregory Kusnick said,

    October 23, 2016 @ 7:18 pm

    Seems a bit of a stretch to say the text was "fully written" or "written only" by autocomplete if it was Bartneck choosing from among the autosuggested words. He might say he chose randomly, but as we know, humans are very bad at that.

  2. Joshua K. said,

    October 23, 2016 @ 9:38 pm

    Glenn Reynolds suggests that the conference is "one of those bogus conferences that will accept any paper, allowing professors to fill their vita with 'presentations' while spending their travel budgets."

  3. Geoffrey K. Pullum said,

    October 24, 2016 @ 4:11 am

    @Gregory Kusnick: Bartneck wasn't doing an experiment in random text generation. He was just using a handy method of generating gibberish in order to humiliate the conference organizers by having the gibberish accepted.

    @ Joshua K: Yes, Glenn Reynolds is right, of course. Too obvious to mention. That was why Mark used the term "spamference" in his title. "Spamference" means "crap conference, publicized via spam and organized solely to raise money, gratify mediocre and stupid scientists' vanity, and corruptly divert travel budgets into providing free vacations." We have discussed them here before. I am still getting spamference invitations in abundance, several every day, on a multiplicity of topics from engineering to sociology. They are blooming like poisonous algae. I'd be interested to know whether people actually go to them, but I'm not prepared to do the investigative reporting myself.

  4. RW said,

    October 24, 2016 @ 6:53 am

    I too would love to know who, if anyone, goes to these conferences. Any actual academic would destroy their reputation by having any association with one. It was depressing to see that a lot of the news coverage of this did not make it clear that it was a fraudulent conference, instead seeming to imply that physicists are idiots who can't tell nonsense from science.

  5. phspaelti said,

    October 24, 2016 @ 9:27 am

    @GKP: gratify mediocre and stupid scientists' vanity, and corruptly divert travel budgets into providing free vacations.

    I think Geoff is being entirely too harsh on actual people putting up with difficult circumstances. Academics from around the world are often subject to completely unreasonable publication requirements set by mindless bureaucrats. I wouldn't be surprised if many of the participants in these events had to pay dearly out of their own pocket to "earn" the line on their CV just to keep their job. I doubt many participants at such events see them as "free vacations".

    I'd be sympathetic to anyone who truly has to give papers at a certain number of conferences on pain of being fired, and works under administrators who are powerful enough to fire faculty but too ill-informed to be able to tell proper conferences from the spamferences that accept any typed gibberish sent in. That would be really horrible circumstance, and I'd be genuinely sorry for anyone who was in it. But this is apparently speculation: Does anyone have definite evidence of someone who is in the position that a spamference acceptance will save their job? As for my "vacation" suggestion, which is also (I admit it) speculation, the spamferences whose announcements I have looked at have a tendency to be in beach resorts with pleasant holiday-friendly climates: Florida, Greece, Hawaii, etc. There never seem to be spamferences scheduled for places with less than ideal weather conditions: show me a spamference scheduled for Akron, Birmingham, Cleveland, Detroit, or Edinburgh in the winter. —GKP

  6. Gregory Kusnick said,

    October 24, 2016 @ 12:17 pm

    GKP: Yes, I understood what Bartneck was (and wasn't) doing. But apparently Weston and Woodley didn't.

  7. Gregory Kusnick said,

    October 24, 2016 @ 12:18 pm

    Weston and Woodiel, of course.

  8. Dan Lufkin said,

    October 24, 2016 @ 1:16 pm

    I once gave a genuine paper at a genuine conference that dealt with statistics and thought I'd get a teachable moment and a few chuckles out of the audiece by running my abstract through Mark V. Shaney.

    I left copies of the abstract on the dinner tables and saw lots of people (including many L1 English speakers) read them with absolutely no change of expression. Following my after-dinner talk there were no questions or comments about the weird abstract. Nobody ever said anything and I felt like a fool for the rest of the conference.

  9. is said,

    October 25, 2016 @ 12:12 am

    "Nuclear energy is not a nuclear nuclear power to the nuclear nuclear program he added and the nuclear nuclear program is a good united state of the nuclear nuclear power program and the united way nuclear nuclear program nuclear."

    Gosh, guys, I don't know what you're talking about. This is obviously a serious nuclear paper about nuclear nuclear physics nuclear.

  10. David Marjanović said,

    October 25, 2016 @ 1:09 am

    Academics from around the world are often subject to completely unreasonable publication requirements set by mindless bureaucrats.

    I don't know of any field where conference abstracts count as publications. They don't have an impact factor!

  11. Peter Erwin said,

    October 25, 2016 @ 7:57 am

    @David Marjanović

    My understanding is that conference presentations are quite important in computer science and some related fields, roughly equivalent to mid-level journals. (These are conferences where submissions are peer-reviewed before being accepted.)

    (I have also seen a comment by an ecologist about how he almost missed getting a faculty position because he hadn't listed any seminars or colloquia he had given on his CV, and in his interview with the dean the latter expressed concern that he didn't seem to be promoting his work very much…)

    So while conference abstracts may not have impact factors, they can show up in "publication lists", and may help in some cases as evidence of "work".

  12. Adam F said,

    October 26, 2016 @ 3:26 am

    I've always assumed the autocomplete was trained using a Markov model or something similar. So what kind of corpus has the bigram "nuclear nuclear"?

  13. January First-of-May said,

    October 26, 2016 @ 10:18 am

    @Adam F – I assume that the corpus it was trained on did not have very many bigrams starting with "nuclear" at all, and after a while defaulted to monogram (is that the word?) frequency (and/or perhaps just choosing random words).
    Having been tainted by previous parts of the abstract, it would have given a fairly high frequency for "nuclear", and eventually this word would have been chosen for autocompletion. Voila, "nuclear nuclear".

    EDIT: after having seen the full text of the abstract, I realized that it did not, in fact, have that many occurrences of "nuclear" prior to this spot. Could still be the above if words specifically entered by the user have a higher weight; could be a dictionary entry along the lines of "nuclear, nuclear energy, nuclear program, nuclear power".

  14. Adam F said,

    October 27, 2016 @ 5:10 am

    @January First-of-May:
    That's a plausible explanation, thanks.

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