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You Won't Believe What These Students Learnt In Just Four Years
June 11, 2014 2:40 PM   Subscribe

if Upworthy ran a university their doctoral theses would probably sound like these.
posted by divabat (30 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
four years? Sign me up!
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:53 PM on June 11 [6 favorites]


Don't mock! I've started seeing the upworthy sort of clickbaity title used for conference papers a lot more lately. That along with the passion for having (I kid you not) powerpoint bullet points that are tweetable makes me weep for academia.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 2:53 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


There is a certain brand of academic who tries for this sort of thing and has been for a while.

I can see the first one and maybe the fifth one being usable titles, in certain circumstances.
posted by biffa at 2:58 PM on June 11


I feel sad for academics, either they are shat on by the public for toiling away on useless scholarship or they are shat on by their peers for pandering to the former and becoming pop-[insert field practitioner title]s.
posted by anewnadir at 3:02 PM on June 11 [3 favorites]


Never mind all this--just show me that one weird trick for finishing my thesis.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:11 PM on June 11 [34 favorites]


in my mind at least, titles becoming like this seemingly everywhere, from academic papers to legitimate journalistic sites is worse than basically any other social phenomenon i can think of right now. Barring stuff that's actually harmful, obviously.

It's like, NSFfaithinhumanity.
posted by emptythought at 3:16 PM on June 11


There's so much reflexive scorn heaped on Upworthy that I'm starting to worry that it is something I need to take seriously.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:17 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


Snappy academic paper titles have long been a genre. (Hypothetical example: Bite My Dick: Whale Eating as Symbol and Allegory in Melville)

The main difference here is the lack of the classic catchy-setup, colon, literal-minded description.
posted by ardgedee at 3:19 PM on June 11 [5 favorites]


I prefer LolMyThesis.com. It relies on people making fun of their own thesis as an inexhaustible source of alleged humor.
posted by Mad_Carew at 3:24 PM on June 11 [5 favorites]


I can reassure you all that my dissertation title is decidedly boring-sounding. I don't even think I have any mathematical objects with punny names!
posted by hoyland at 3:25 PM on June 11


Here's an old livejournal collecting odd-sounding citations, eg:
Minnis, Mhyra S. (1952). "Cleavage in women's organizations: a reflection of the social structure of a city." American Sociological Review, 18(February): 47-53
posted by ardgedee at 3:29 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


You won't believe what one PhD candidate spent years of her life on!

Hahahaha sob
posted by a hat out of hell at 3:31 PM on June 11 [17 favorites]


I love lolmythesis. The submissions are often boring, but it's worth it for the gems. A couple of my favorites:

"How much fit would an index fit if the index indexed fit?"

"the real sun is too complicated so we made a fake sun on a computer. the fake computer sun is too complicated so we drew a cartoon. the cartoon is wrong."

"Shocking people in the butt makes them pee, but only if you do it right."
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 3:39 PM on June 11 [10 favorites]


> I feel sad for academics, either they are shat on by the public for toiling away on useless scholarship or they are shat on by their peers for pandering to the former and becoming pop-[insert field practitioner title]s.

Right, that's because you're supposed to work on hard problems that are impossible for the public to understand, but which when solved lead to a useful application. The public loves you for the application, your peers love you for the scholarship. Easier said than done, of course, but it's not a double-bind, there is a way out.

But instead people get confused and write scholarship for the public, not their peers. But the public is easy to impress, so it's not like impressing them is actually a great achievement. Satisfying some actual need they have would be impressive, but that is hard. Hence the shitting-on.
posted by officer_fred at 3:45 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Easier said than done, of course, but it's not a double-bind, there is a way out.

Yeah, it's called Industry.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 3:50 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


Self links in comments are ok, right?

If so, here's something I put together: Overheard on Astro-ph

Astro-ph is the astrophysics pre-print server. People generally write their papers using LaTeX, a document preparation system that takes plain text and makes it into PDFs with nicely formatted mathematics and figures. LaTeX allows you to include comments in the source file that are not included in the final output. People use these comments for various things -- to write notes to themselves, to keep track of half-written paragraphs that aren't ready for the eyes of the people to whom they're sending their drafts. Sometimes they use them to have arguments with their co-authors, or to snark about other papers.

I wrote some code to download the LaTeX source files from Astro-ph and look through the comments for "interesting" tidbits. I post the best ones to the Twitter feed above. They're all real comments in real papers (with names and such changed to anonymize them).

If I've misunderstood and self-links in comments aren't ok, then my comment patiently awaits the tender grip of the great beyond...
posted by ngc4486 at 3:54 PM on June 11 [29 favorites]


"Shocking people in the butt makes them pee, but only if you do it right."

Wha...what happens if you do it wrong?
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 4:04 PM on June 11


(Self-links in comments are allowed and encouraged if relevant, ngc4486)
posted by Elementary Penguin at 4:04 PM on June 11


(Also that is awesome and hilarious)
posted by Elementary Penguin at 4:05 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


that's because you're supposed to work on hard problems that are impossible for the public to understand, but which when solved lead to a useful application

Not really?

A "useful application" isn't considered a requirement for a many types of research - even in the hard sciences. It's done for the purpose of expanding our knowledge. It's a problem that this knowledge can be difficult to communicate to the public, but it's hard to see around it, since that's a consequence of how much we know now.

My own research doesn't have a "useful application." Maybe in some vague, far-off future, a fuller understanding of the phenomenon I'm studying will help someone build better language technology? But I don't think that has to happen in order to justify what I'm doing, because I think that the knowledge is valuable in itself. Luckily, so does my department.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:20 PM on June 11 [6 favorites]


As far as pun titles go, nothing beats:
"'I believe in miracles', Hugh Sexey's thing: taxation of ecclesiastical benefices in the reign of Elizabeth".
posted by Bromius at 6:13 PM on June 11 [7 favorites]


They Told Her There Were Jobs. What Happened Next Will Shock You
posted by threeants at 6:25 PM on June 11 [3 favorites]


That along with the passion for having (I kid you not) powerpoint bullet points that are tweetable makes me weep for academia.

I, for one, welcome the death of the WALL O' TEXT POWERPOINT
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 8:47 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


My own research doesn't have a "useful application." ... But I don't think that has to happen in order to justify what I'm doing, because I think that the knowledge is valuable in itself.

There are an infinite number of things that we could study. How do we prioritize our limited resources?
posted by anifinder at 9:40 PM on June 11


"we" don't study. I do, and you do. And I'll study whatever I darn well please.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:56 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


I, for one, welcome the death of the WALL O' TEXT POWERPOINT

You would think that could only be good, right? You haven't seem someone still do a horrible powerpoint but now insist that any idea must be expressed in 140 characters no matter WHAT. So their audience can tweet it.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 10:01 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


There are an infinite number of things that we could study. How do we prioritize our limited resources?

We form research funding bodies, assemble bodies of experienced researchers and fund what appear to be the best ideas for scholarship.

We form universities and allow a certain amount of work to be done on topics of the employed experts choosing.

Don't worry though, we are increasingly gong down your way of thinking and research has to be justified against impact or value to business. This hits the blue sky science as well as our ability to understand the development of our culture, society, psychology, history, etc.
posted by biffa at 11:04 PM on June 11 [4 favorites]


Imagine how different Cosmos would be if all of the thinkers and scientists highlighted in that series had asked does this have a useful application and moved on to other pursuits if it didn't.

We probably wouldn't have a Carl Sagan.

We probably wouldn't have a space program.

We probably wouldn't have Cosmos or any similar series, because a society that only values useful applications of knowledge wouldn't find wonder in the knowledge itself.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:06 AM on June 12


Right, that's because you're supposed to work on hard problems that are impossible for the public to understand, but which when solved lead to a useful application.

Solved? I've never even seen a problem worth researching that could be solved.
posted by yeolcoatl at 5:34 AM on June 12


Imagine how different Cosmos would be if all of the thinkers and scientists highlighted in that series had asked does this have a useful application and moved on to other pursuits if it didn't.

Simplistic, to say the least.

The question that ought to be asked here is not 'is it useful', but rather, 'what difference would it make if this were real?'

In this case, it's a distinction (scientism, not religion) without a difference (scientism as religion).

[EDIT: whoa, i gotta start remembering what the hell thread I'm in...]
posted by lodurr at 6:12 PM on June 12


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