To Sokalize is to plant a piece of gibberish in a supposedly serious academic paper to demonstrate the credibility or lack of credibility of the editors. The original Sokal hoax.
This one caught the once-respected journal of popular science reporting. This is old news and it is surprising that it has not been referred to more often.
A few years ago, I learned of an article by Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi in the November 2009 issue of Scientific American called “A Path to Sustainable Energy.” My first impression was, “These guys must be joking.” My second impression was, “Yes, they are joking, and the joke is on Scientific American.” Jacobson and Delucchi wrote a spoof to show what tomfoolery can be published in Scientific American, rather like Alan Sokal’s spoof of post-modernist jargon in Social Text. They did manage to squeeze in some calculations that detail what is really involved in a carbon-free economy, but avoided all precautionary words, lest the editors reject the manuscript. It’s a laugh a minute.
The authors have humorously gone way beyond Al Gore’s challenge to “to repower America with 100 percent carbon-free electricity within 10 years.” They have a plan “to determine how 100 percent of the world’s energy, for all purposes, could be supplied by wind, water and solar [WWS] resources, by as early as 2030.”
Then the went a bit further and took on the National Academies. I have been wondering about the Academies.
Robert Bryce, writing in The National Review , points out something that was unknown to me: Jacobson and Delucci published essentially the same stuff in the Proceedings of the National Academies:
“The paper, which claimed to offer “a low-cost solution to the grid reliability problem” with 100 percent renewables, went on to win the Cozzarelli Prize, an annual award handed out by the National Academy. A Stanford website said that Jacobson’s paper was one of six chosen by “the editorial board of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences from the more than 3,000 research articles published in the journal in 2015.”
Perhaps Jacobson and Delucci meant to illustrate the low standards of the National Academies. In any case, Christopher Clack and 20 colleagues missed the humor, and took the intrepid Stanford scholars seriously enough to write a scathing rebuttal , and they published it in the very same Proceedings as the J&D paper.