Scientific American Sokalized

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 [4], 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 [5], and they published it in the very same Proceedings as the J&D paper.

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24 Responses to Scientific American Sokalized

  1. RobK

    Trouble is many have adopted the spoof as a manual.

  2. Rafe Champion

    Yes I thought I saw something like that but didn’t stop to read it. Please post references if you can.

  3. jupes

    It’s not just the journals and academies who are too willing to believe this tosh. Unfortunately it’s also governments.

    Witness the pathetic ‘renewable’ policies of our federal and state governments are imposing on our once great country.

  4. RobK

    Rafe,
    No, I have nothing on hand. I let my subscription go not long after that, around 2010 from memory, so I can no longer browse the on line archives and I ditched a couple of decades of hard copies not long after that. They had gone full CAGW and heavily political as well, not just in editorial but the comments too. Once it was a good read.

  5. Rafe

    Same with Science.
    What about Nature?

  6. Jessie

    Hope that Prof Peter Ridd at JCU is getting full support as his colleagues bear down on him.

    Would have thought demonstrate the credibility or lack of credibility of the editors AND academics/intellectuals who blithely reference the paper in support of their grants and theories (oops hypotheses)., and policy-driven funding from tax payers.

    Paper avail here in pdf
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/38052436_A_Path_to_Sustainable_Energy_by_2030
    and also at Stanford Uni
    https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/sad1109Jaco5p.indd.pdf

    Responses (in Letters) to paper
    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/letters-march-2010/

    A critique of Jacobson/Delucchi 2009 paper

  7. Jessie

    COAL MINERS and other fossil fuel workers, unions and lobbyists are likely to resist a transformation to clean energy; political leaders will have to champion the cause.

    and great photo. p65

    Recall Margaret Thatcher and the Unions? Even just a mention of them seems to cause a frenzy, rather than a cautious approach in examining all the ‘facts’. As Christopher Booker writes.

  8. Jessie

    Rafe,

    If you perchance are speaking with Tony Abbott in Sydney town, would you ask him these questions with regard to the Welfare Card roll-out:

    1. Assuming Tony and entourage have, after his chartered seats/aviation fuel costs are covered, purchased from the local remote community store for >1week of food/supplies. Would he recommend the price/quality of food stuffs and expectations of a massive ‘extended family’ much as he feeds his own family from said remote store. With a healthy, balanced diet?
    2. Who owns the remote community stores? >300, though not aware?
    3. Are these remote stores viable ‘businesses’ without extensive government funding?
    4. How many ‘local’ workers work in the store over a year?
    5. Do any local people/elders/special families (landowners on which the community is built) benefit with side lines from the store. Or are in governance positions of these Store Committees. Or receive ‘royalty’ payments from the store, including free food, fule and vouchers for ‘community events (in their capacity of bribery)
    6. Could these community stores exist without the never ending bush road-works and associated machinery/fuel/personnel/accommodation, refrigerated sea/road/air transport, diesel for the generators that operate the remote community stores+fridges/freezers AND covered by government grants/local Council Roads federal funding.
    7. Given that Aged Care+Education remote program staff (and accommodation/vehicles) cook and feed aged/disabled and school children in many communities what are the benefits of a welfare card to the ‘staff’ that also receive cooked food from these programs to feed their families?

    Much appreciated.

  9. RobK

    Jessie,
    Thanks for that.
    Are you able to access the letters to the editor of the next few issues?

  10. areff

    Trouble is, the WUWT guest poster makes rather a hash of his conceit that Jacobson & Co. were intentionally Sokal-ising Scientific America. It was purely unintentional, as demonstrated by the fact that Jacobson is still sprouting the same piffle at every opportunity.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnrdvWz6BIQ

    Jacobson is to science what Peter Hannam is journalism: a blight

  11. Waz

    As an aside, my wife and I are both trained in the sciences but, while we moved onto different careers we have had a Scientific American subs for a while but cancelled it several months as it’s become a mouthpiece for socialist nonsense and has very little scientific material of interest to those who want a quick summary of what the science and technology world is up to; which is what the SA used to be very good at.

  12. Nerblnob

    As RF says, sort of, one wishes this really was a spoof.

    97% of such articles are beyond satire, but the majority technically illiterate member of the public has no reason to doubt them, and sheer repetition might convince even the doubters.

  13. Jessie

    RobK @2.57

    Note areff’s comment, correct.

    Read at length the comments (March 2010-2013(x1) on the link
    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/letters-march-2010/

    Aside from much to and froing on “widespread distribution of confidential material”, this was also stated:- “Peer review does not guarantee quality or accuracy. Quality of work depends on the quality of the people doing the work “ Hmm, and the quality of their proposed methods/instruments etc? etc etc

  14. MikeS

    Spent hours in the Fisher book stack in the 70’s devouring old copies of Scientific American, especially “The Amateur Scientist” and “Mathematical Games”. My dear Mum had a subscription at the local newsagent for years and we never missed a copy. It dumbed down fatally in the 90’s – both thinner and too stupid to survive. “IEEE Spectrum” approaches it’s former glory but also risks a semi literate, lefty journalist takeover. Vale curiosity for its own sake.

  15. Jessie

    RobK

    Too hard after a long day…..

    Jacobson et al article p60 The Editors welcome responses to this article. To comment and to see more detailed ➥ calculations, go to http://www.Scientifi cAmerican.com/sustainable-energy

    So I place this into google search and there are numerous choices over several pages
    eg https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/powering-a-green-planet/
    But no interactive, plenty of commentary

    and
    Google Search using search term a path to sustainable energy by 2030 scientific american also brings up a reasonable list here. Go to pages2& 3 also in google lists

    The Science of Sustainability
    https://www.scientificamerican.com/custom-media/scjohnson-transparent-by-design/scjsustainability/?utm_source=custom-media&utm_medium=site&utm_campaign=transparent-by-design&utm_content=link&utm_term=Polar#
    There is no single path to corporate sustainability. Two multinational companies, Mars and Pfizer, illustrate two very different approaches to going green.
    This article was created for SC Johnson by Scientific American Custom Media, a division separate from the magazine’s board of editors.

    Suggest if you are not a robot an online request here……………
    https://www.scientificamerican.com/mediakit/contact/

  16. Jessie

    And for sake of balance and to keep you busy RoBK
    this………… in regard to Jacobson et al article
    This popular article is supported by a technical analysis, which the authors will apparently submit to the peer-reviewed journal Energy Policy at some point (or may have already done so). Anyway, they have made both papers available for free public download here …………….
    http://www.thesciencecouncil.com/index.php/dr-barry-brook/103-critique-of-a-plan-for-a-sustainable-energy-future-by-2030

  17. Tel

    As an aside, my wife and I are both trained in the sciences but, while we moved onto different careers we have had a Scientific American subs for a while but cancelled it several months as it’s become a mouthpiece for socialist nonsense and has very little scientific material of interest to those who want a quick summary of what the science and technology world is up to; which is what the SA used to be very good at.

    New Scientist went exactly the same way… used to be excellent, got onto the Global Warming boat, turned full SJW. Sadly, 100% infiltrated.

    That said, I haven’t even looked at it for years.

  18. Tel

    “IEEE Spectrum” approaches it’s former glory but also risks a semi literate, lefty journalist takeover. Vale curiosity for its own sake.

    Future generations will come up with theories about global intellectual extinction events and what causes them.

  19. Jessie

    And Rafe further to my list for Abbott at 2.34

    Which of these ideas and thus funded remote policy roll-out would be more likely to have a better outcome?

    a) to purchase for these remote communities Woollies metal trollies* rather then the prams that are used to load groceries for the 0.5->1.5km stroll past marauding pack dogs, drunks, hungry marijuana laced louts who have spent their $, equally hungry psychotic types having spent their $ on tobacco/gunja, non-attending school children (starving or plain hungry) and assorted ‘extended’ family members gathered at this prime location of plenty (aka remote community store). Thus shopping is finally carted safely to the heavily lockable refrigerator and cupboards.
    OR
    b) sell hot take-away food that can be consumed instantly morning and afternoon when stores open, quickly surreptitiously and without having to pay for electricity, gas and/or clean a kitchen and kitchen implements. Food that is fat and sugar loaded, which allows for the long reported starve/binge cultural fact (aka from hunter/gatherer sharers to modern era).
    c) continue to allow the local landowner/family to monopolise and receive royalties from the evening ‘hot pie etc cart/business’ for the evening meal grab and snack.

    * costing in repairs from dirt tracks, and returnability programs (?remote employment opportunity) of said item. And use by children as playthings.

  20. Crossie

    It’s not just the journals and academies who are too willing to believe this tosh. Unfortunately it’s also governments.

    I can understand politicians relying on academics to provide the expertise in their fields which means that academics are much more culpable. It’s a pity though that they cannot be voted out of their positions since the peer review system is no longer operative and able to police their own.

  21. Waz, i read Next Big Future, which includes technology, science, and war toys..

    It provides news in the leading edge of technology, plus the occasional article about big-arsed weapons.

    Dismiss the fakes, and seek the real deal.

  22. MikeS

    Future generations will come up with theories about global intellectual extinction events and what causes them.

    Unfortunately they seem unstoppable. I had to let my subscription to “The Atlantic” go after a decade or more when the Trump Derangement Syndrome grew too large. I now avoid any magazine or website which includes explainer articles along the lines of “How Trump Grew Three Heads and Started Eating Babies” or “Why all Republicans are Emotionally Retarded”.

  23. Mr Black

    Global warming is politically protected. A pile of dogshit, actual dogshit, will warrant a cover story in a science magazine if the article claims it can solve global warming. There is no garbage that they won’t take seriously. When one of these frauds says “peer reviewed” in his defence, I immediately assume his entire study is lies from beginning to end. Real research can point to evidence and predictions, not the number of people who agree with it.

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