I Smoke Crack Rocks
December 16, 2010 9:08 AM   Subscribe

PhDChallenge.org proposed a challenge: To have the phrase "I smoke crack rocks" included in a peer reviewed academic paper. The winner is Gabriel Parent from Carnegie Mellon, who included it in his paper [PDF].
posted by reenum (54 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Homepage of the illustrious winner.
posted by Tesseractive at 9:15 AM on December 16, 2010

Also sponsored by 4chan apparently
posted by wheelieman at 9:15 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here's the quick summary of the challenge:
The idea of the PhD Challenge is to have students perform some task that the average graduate student is too timid to perform. It takes a unique caliber of student to overcome adversity and the ire of their adviser in order to complete this challenge.

* One Box of Maruchan Ramen Noodle Soup (your choice of flavor)
* One Pack of Leather Elbow Patches
* The Official 2010 PhD Challenge Winning Paper Award Certificate
* One Autographed 8×10 Photograph of Nobel Prize Laureate Paul Krugman (tentative)

The goal of the PhD Challenge to promote good humor in academia and science. It is not meant to be disrespectful to organizations, conferences, or journals. Frankly, we would extremely surprised if anybody actually completes our challenge, but you never know what can happen.
The original "idea" behind this sounds engaging: push grad students to do something more edgy or extreme, but the phrase, the awards, and the fact that they doubt anyone would actually do this makes it sound like a drunken idea turned into a fancy website.

But in further overthinking this, I realize that the goal had to be generic enough that it could be worked into any field. Taking it another step too far, it seems that the language-based fields have an advantage with inserting a phrase, as displayed in this paper.

In summary, there is probably something else I should be doing now.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:21 AM on December 16, 2010 [8 favorites]

The way he did it feels like cheating to me.
posted by madcaptenor at 9:22 AM on December 16, 2010 [13 favorites]

It appears that no actual crack was smoked during the writing of said paper, probably, and it was just used as a nonsense example.

A real challenge would've been to work the phrase "yo mama's on crack rock" into the work in a substantive way. Enough, even, that those reviewing the paper would be moved enough to say "not my mama!"
posted by Burhanistan at 9:24 AM on December 16, 2010

I had guess it would be a linguist/language person.

"For example, a caller could yell ..."

and that's how I figured it would happen. "For example, a drug addict may scream ..." etc.

the whole contest (get an odd bit of language through peer review) seems skewed to language students.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:24 AM on December 16, 2010

or what filthy light thief said.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:26 AM on December 16, 2010

The first person on Metafilter to say my secret phrase in a comment gets a favorite.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 9:27 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

"my secret phrase"
posted by madcaptenor at 9:28 AM on December 16, 2010 [33 favorites]

Lets Go Bus: user name of the year
posted by Xurando at 9:28 AM on December 16, 2010

My friends and I used to do this, but with less high stakes writing (term papers, research papers, etc.) in undergrad.

I believe the best one was working the phrase "a pleasing cantaloupe" into a music history paper. It had the same "absurd quotation" aspect as this paper did. Something along the lines of "Beethoven would have as soon uttered 'My that's a pleasing cantaloupe' to his patrons as was their reaction to his demands for more money and time on his trip."
posted by SNWidget at 9:28 AM on December 16, 2010

madcaptenor: ""my secret phrase""

Not my secret phrase. Also, cheating.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 9:28 AM on December 16, 2010

Yeah, I was reading the challenge and thinking "Well, Linguistics would be cheating..." I mean, we had practically a whole subfield back in the 70s dedicated to lewd and derogatory example sentences about Richard Nixon.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:28 AM on December 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

l33tpolicywonk: The first person on Metafilter to say my secret phrase in a comment gets a favorite.

It's a trick! No one says anything on Metafilter, it's all written!
posted by filthy light thief at 9:30 AM on December 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


posted by PinkMoose at 9:34 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

filthy light thief: "It's a trick!"

We have a winner.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 9:34 AM on December 16, 2010

posted by inigo2 at 9:35 AM on December 16, 2010

I like Melons!
posted by Mister_A at 9:38 AM on December 16, 2010

This is like the academic equivalent of Robert Florence of Consolevania being (indirectly) dared into saying 'bummed in the gob' on national television in the UK (3:28).
posted by slimepuppy at 9:42 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Years ago, my coworkers and I used to do this at our weekly presentations. I won (well, I was the last person to do it, after the owner said "enough") after making a "Words to remember" chart handout (to hang on your cubicle so you can study it while doing out-calls!). It was an 8 point star and the first letter of each word spelled out PUCKERED.
posted by jeffmik at 9:44 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

This year's challenge was easy, I wonder what next year's challenge will be. Or, for that matter, what the challenges were in years past.

Here's an idea, inserting a acorrect equation which spells something in l33t sp34k.
posted by Vindaloo at 9:45 AM on December 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

I wish they had imposed a requirement that the phrase would not be placed in quotation marks or used as a quote.
posted by crapmatic at 9:46 AM on December 16, 2010

I think this challenge is heavily biased toward Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Philosophy. Mathematicians, geologists, or theoretical physicists are at a big disadvantage.
posted by demiurge at 9:47 AM on December 16, 2010

Demetri Martin and his friends had a similar game going when he was in law school.
posted by Kattullus at 9:55 AM on December 16, 2010

His thesis is full of perverse and often baffling arguments.
posted by mimi at 9:56 AM on December 16, 2010

My challenge: discover a new element, name it mefite.
posted by empath at 9:56 AM on December 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

I knew a couple guys in college who were inevitably at the top of their class. They would challenge each other to insert odd words into their papers/essays/whatever. (The one that I remember was "Deluxe.") They would get their assignments back and, of course, get high grades but occasionally the professor would circle the chosen word with a question mark. That was considered even better than just slipping it through unnoticed.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:01 AM on December 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

When we wrote our comprehensive exams, each member of my cohort gave another two secret words that they were required to incorporate into their essays somehow. I got "spleen" and another one that I can't remember; I gave my partner "moist" and another one I can't remember. It was kind of fun—or at least it made the experience of writing comprehensive exams just a little bit more tolerable—and I was proud that I was able to work both words into my answers. I don't think I've collected the beer I earned for it yet, though.
posted by synecdoche at 10:02 AM on December 16, 2010

One of my friends still owes me £10 after I managed to get the word "lederhosen" into my GCSE German Writing exam. Of course, GCSEs being national exams where the school doesn't get the exam paper back again, I have no way of proving it. But I want my reward, dammit!
posted by ZsigE at 10:07 AM on December 16, 2010

I would say not cheating. Yes, it is linguistics, but in the context of the described project it is a legitimate example of a grammar that would be difficult to parse -- not simply inserted as a random interjection. It is not exactly a Garden Path Sentence, but I say it counts as a win because of actual relevance.
posted by cgk at 10:18 AM on December 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

The challenge among my friends was to sneak obscene phrases into each others undergraduate papers—i.e., when drafts of said papers were left open on a computer. I seem to recall some references to goat-fucking passing through undetected into a final copy.
posted by dephlogisticated at 10:19 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

I did something like this on the AP Calculus test. Except it involved drawing hand turkeys on the free answer pages and filling in the multiple-choice bubbles to spell out a message ("I AM ROBOT" IIRC). My prize? Taking a nap for the rest of the examination period and then going home early per school policy re: AP tests.
posted by clorox at 10:23 AM on December 16, 2010

To me, there's a difference between slipping an odd word into an essay, and getting "I smoke crack rocks" into an academic paper. One is the Meow game (video), the other one is closer to calling someone a chickenfucker. Subtly is key in both instances, but the latter is more of a dare than a challenge.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:25 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

See also: Order of the Occult Hand.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:52 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

In high school comp class, a group of us all used callipygian in our biography paper. Pope John-Paul II, Akhnaten, John Lennon and Einstein, all had very shapely asses that year.
posted by khaibit at 11:07 AM on December 16, 2010 [5 favorites]

What I really want to see is a physics paper containing the phrase "y'all bitches be trippin'". For bonus points, insert it into a citation from Stephen Hawking.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 11:35 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

At my college, we were all required to write theses to graduate. As a consequence, these type of challenges were common. My favorite challenge was to integrate the phrase "As my advisor incorrectly pointed out."
posted by shshore at 11:42 AM on December 16, 2010 [7 favorites]

Back when I was doing my GCSEs, there was a challenge to see if you could get the word "bouncebackability" into an exam paper.

Of course there was no way to prove you'd done it, but still.
posted by Acey at 11:45 AM on December 16, 2010

In my grad department we did this all the time. I got "yummy in the tummy." Which I managed to slip into my paper as to how the bacteria reacted to long chains of hydrocarbons in ameliorated soils. My office mate got "in a penis-like fashion." Which he used without comment to explain how he used his soil corer.
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 11:49 AM on December 16, 2010 [7 favorites]

PinkMoose: In a linguistics paper you see an awful lot of sentences whose content doesn't matter — they're just example of some syntactic construction or other. The usual example sentences are painfully dull. "The cat sat on the mat" and "Fred likes beans" are two that you see a lot.

Anyway, so once upon a time, back in the late 60s, there were a bunch of vaguely anti-Chomskyan linguists who started a movement called Generative Semantics. And one problem they had with Chomsky was that he had set himself up as The Unquestionable Authority on syntax — so the whole GS movement wound up with this very strong anti-authoritarian streak as a reaction against that, and it sometimes surfaced as self-deprecating humor and even deliberate unprofessionalism. The idea was basically, "Well, if we make a big point of not taking each other too seriously, then nobody else will take us too seriously either. That way we'll know that our theories are succeeding on their own merits and not just because anyone's afraid to question us."

So in that spirit, one thing they liked to do was use wacky or provocative example sentences instead of the standard dull ones. Obscenity and political humor were especially popular. Eventually the whole thing fell apart, but they left behind a lot of really entertaining papers (some of which also make very good theoretical points — they weren't just jokes).

They also wrote some of the first serious linguistic papers about obscenity and humor. My personal favorite makes the observation that you can say "Fuck Communism" and you can say "Fuck my sister on the sofa" but you can't say "Fuck Communism on the sofa," which is true (and linguistically interesting!) and also still makes me snicker years after I first read it.

posted by nebulawindphone at 12:14 PM on December 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

Oh, the things we did in high school about the time all of us band nerds took the advanced grammar class together. In honor of the then-current Styx album, I worked the phrase "a man whose circumstances went beyond his control" into an essay about Thomas Hardy. It got the coveted red question mark...
posted by randomkeystrike at 12:42 PM on December 16, 2010

The catabolite repressor/activator (Cra) protein was mutated to have the residues cysteine and lysine on the C-terminus, denoted CraCK......... Compound I emits visible vapor when heated, in the future denote by "I smoke". CraCK rocks into the receptor pocket in ....
posted by 445supermag at 12:46 PM on December 16, 2010 [4 favorites]

This week, I got "Lovecraftian" and "moisterizer."
posted by rush at 12:51 PM on December 16, 2010

Does a thesis/dissertation count? I think Chole J. Bird [PDF] may have beaten him to it.
posted by scharpy at 12:55 PM on December 16, 2010

That's a good try, 445, but I'm having trouble seeing how the sentence about Compound I fits into what otherwise appears to be a molecular biology paper; molecular biology generally doesn't involve heating things to the point that they emit visible vapor.

I was thinking more along the lines of geology:

One of the seams near the volcano emitted significant amounts of fine airborne ash and was dubbed "Smoke Crack." Several rock samples were taken from this area. (Fig. I) Smoke Crack rocks were analyzed to determine their chemical composition...
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:58 PM on December 16, 2010 [5 favorites]

Mormon missionaries have been known to play the "secret word" game on door approaches. Especially those working in a foreign language: Same conversation twenty times in a row + carrying a dictionary = this stuff happens.

nebulawindphone and PinkMoose: Linguistic papers are still great for offbeat material. I had a semantics seminar where the first major assignment was to read and summarize any 30 peer reviewed papers or book chapters on any topic within semantics. Well, so one of my papers was on pronominal uses of 'your ass', and another was on the translation of profanity for the Spanish edition of Pulp Fiction. This was a lot of fun until I tried to e-mail my summaries to the professor. I don't know if it was sentences like "Your ass is not the only pronominal in its register," or whether it was the presence of every major single-word expletive in two different languages, but for some reason the University's mail filter found my message unacceptable. (I finally snuck it through in a PDF.)
posted by eritain at 1:13 PM on December 16, 2010

In my MFA program, one student dared another to work phrases from "Doo Dah Doo Doo" into workshop. It was extra funny because only four of them knew, so while they were all trying not to giggle, the rest of us were nodding sagely about how the poet's level of detail about her father truly made the audience "want to meet that dad."
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:38 PM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ha! The guy who wrote about your ass teaches in my department. He'll be proud to know he broke y'all's email filter.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:21 PM on December 16, 2010

I caught a couple of my undergraduate students seeing who could use the word "invagination" the most times in their lab report on mitosis and meiosis. One was fine, two was reasonable, but the one who used it five times in a paragraph blew it for everyone.
posted by ltracey at 7:10 PM on December 16, 2010

Still, the all-time winner for bets on what you can get into papers led to a certain class of Feynman Diagram (a calculation tool used in particle physics) being named is the Penguin Diagram:

In the spring of 1977, Mike Chanowitz, Mary K and I wrote a paper on GUTs predicting the b quark mass before it was found. When it was found a few weeks later, Mary K, Dimitri, Serge Rudaz and I immediately started working on its phenomenology. That summer, there was a student at CERN, Melissa Franklin who is now an experimentalist at Harvard. One evening, she, I and Serge went to a pub, and she and I started a game of darts. We made a bet that if I lost I had to put the word penguin into my next paper. She actually left the darts game before the end, and was replaced by Serge, who beat me. Nevertheless, I felt obligated to carry out the conditions of the bet.
For some time, it was not clear to me how to get the word into this b quark paper that we were writing at the time. Then, one evening, after working at CERN, I stopped on my way back to my apartment to visit some friends living in Meyrin where I smoked some illegal substance. Later, when I got back to my apartment and continued working on our paper, I had a sudden flash that the famous diagrams look like penguins. So we put the name into our paper, and the rest, as they say, is history.

posted by metaBugs at 1:08 AM on December 17, 2010

This reminds me of the (in)famous Copper Nanotubes paper (warning: pdf). Except that the prevailing consensus is that the acronyms in that paper were not deliberate.

(If you don't want to download the pdf, have a think about the chemical symbol for "copper", then the obvious two letter abbreviation for "nanotube", and then stick those four letters together. Yes: the paper is full of it. Also, BINTs.)
posted by lollusc at 2:41 AM on December 17, 2010

lollusc, if we're going there: there's a sugar named fucose, and a class of enzymes named kinases. When I studied chemistry as an undergraduate rumor had it that sometimes this was abbreviated in the obvious way by people who weren't native English speakers and as a result didn't know better.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:23 AM on December 17, 2010

Late follow-up: direct link to lollusc's referenced PDF, and archive links to this past PhD Challenge (as the main link of this FPP currently shows the 2011 information):
* Call for Participation (2010)
* Eligibility Rules (2010)
* FAQ (2010)
* 2010 PhD Challenge Winner
posted by filthy light thief at 1:18 PM on January 5, 2011

I feel like there is a glaring weakness to this contest: conference proceedings (of which the 2010 winner is an example). These papers are not peer-reviewed, and are generally accepted as a sort of "supporting info" to the talk or poster presented at the conference. If the 2011 challenge is going to be successfully achieved, it will likely be in a conference proceeding rather than a journal manuscript, which would be tossed out by the first round of editors.
posted by Existential Dread at 6:44 PM on January 5, 2011

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