Who doesn’t love free books?

At the end of the academic year, we all get overwhelmed with grading final exams and papers, scrambling to finish projects, and trying to make plans for the summer. Once the hullabaloo is finished, who doesn’t like to stretch out on the porch or the beach on a sunny day and read something you actually want to read?

While the purpose of this blog isn’t unsolicited advertising, you know I love free. And this is a great offer.

During the month of May, Routledge is offering “free to view” monograph research books via their Routledge Library Channel. I’ve got my eye on a book about the origins of visual American icons –looks neat!

Here are the subject areas they’re offering — check it out, and read something interesting after your final grades are turned in!


Just for Fun: Academic Avenger No. 5: The Trial

Sure it’s three-and-a-half days early for “Just for Fun”… but this one’s just for fun.

Academic Avenger

Today’s adventure was brought to you by

The Trial The Trial

Franz Kafka
A Message from the Emperor

The emperor – it is said – has sent to you, alone, the pitiful subject, the tiny shadow that fled to the farthest farness from the imperial sun, to you of all people has the…

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Just For Fun: What’s the impact factor of gobbledygook?

If you’re like me, you’ve occasionally read a research article in a respected journal and then asked yourself, “Huh?!? Was that written by monkeys on typewriters?” Evidence continues to accumulate that peer review is not necessarily a foolproof guard against nonsense in print.  In 1996 physicist Alan Sokal had his essay “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity” published in Social Text, only to immediately reveal that his essay was an intentional spoof designed to reveal the potential for absurdity in radical cultural studies. The hoax sparked a firestorm in academia.

Now it appears that intentional nonsense is pervasive — at least according to this new article in Slate.

In 2005, a group of MIT graduate students decided to goof off in a very MIT graduate student way: They created a program called SCIgen that randomly generated fake scientific papers. Thanks to SCIgen, for the last several years, computer-written gobbledygook has been routinely published in scientific journals and conference proceedings.

According to Nature News, Cyril Labbé, a French computer scientist, recently informed Springer and the IEEE, two major scientific publishers, that between them, they had published more than 120 algorithmically-generated articles. In 2012, Labbé had told the IEEE of another batch of 85 fake articles. He’s been playing with SCIgen for a few years—in 2010 a fake researcher he created, Ike Antkare, briefly became the 21st most highly cited scientist in Google Scholar’s database.

The article goes on to discuss the implications of how the publish-or-perish imperative in academia might make such a farce less surprising than we expect, and why this is a problem. It’s a good read — check it out!

Just for Fun: “When May I Shoot a Student?”

Responding to the imminent passage of a bill by the Idaho state legislature to permit concealed firearms on state campuses, Greg Hampikian raised some compelling questions — tongue firmly planted in cheek — in a New York Times op-ed column on February 27, 2014. Hampikian is a professor of biology and criminal justice… itself a combo I find fascinating.

BOISE, Idaho — TO the chief counsel of the Idaho State Legislature:

In light of the bill permitting guns on our state’s college and university campuses, which is likely to be approved by the state House of Representatives in the coming days, I have a matter of practical concern that I hope you can help with: When may I shoot a student?

I am a biology professor, not a lawyer, and I had never considered bringing a gun to work until now. But since many of my students are likely to be armed, I thought it would be a good idea to even the playing field.

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