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The Issues of the Issue: JIR v51 #5

© Norman Sperling, December 23, 2011

The noticeable uptick in the national economy, encouraging though insufficient, is mirrored by JIR subscriptions. We're getting a few more than before, though not enough for prosperity. Part of this comes from general interest in recent scientific-press studies of (truly) irreproducible reports. Science-media critic Charlie Petit even used JIR in his lead when he commented on that - thanks Charlie!

Now in the postal system is JIR v51 #5. It's full, as always, of science humor. An MD using the pseudonym "Fizzy McFizz" wrote "All Research is Actually Made Up", supporting a conclusion that some draw from the reproducibility challenges. Burlesquing expansion on small-number statistics, Paul Monach of Boston University compares a category in which he can find 2 examples, to a huge population surrounding them.

While the Zen approach continues to interest people, Eric Levy shows that the Un-Zen life - seeking immediate gratification - seems closer to what they actually do.

Our cover article is "Ants are Superbeings!" by Australian researchers Elaine Foster and R. A. J. Reynolds. It points out many of ants' superior abilities, including their social behavior which acts in some cases like a super-organism. Serious entomologists ("ant"omologists?) are considering this, too. For one take, read Mark W. Moffett's spectacularly illustrated 2010 book Adventures Among Ants, from University of California Press.

We thank the talented young artist Marlin Peterson of Washington state for our cover art. He's a scientific illustrator who seeks to reproduce the results of Science that can't be photographed. Enjoy his website at www.marlinpeterson.com. The picture shows Argentine ants colonizing new ecological niches. The Argentine ant, Linepithema humile, is very remarkable indeed, and I'm sure we haven't heard the last of it. What remarkable things do the ants around you do?

Conferencemanship occupied some of JIR's earliest contributors, and still concerns our authors and readers. In this issue, P. Alexandre tells "How to Answer Questions" while maintaining (an illusion of) superiority.

Comedian Norm Goldblatt ties up beer, pi, the Higgs Boson, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, ET, and religion while having "Beer With An Alien". I've had a meal with Norm myself, but we didn't get to any of those issues.

Trevor Kitson, our most prolific contributor from New Zealand, apologizes to Rudyard Kipling for his chemistry takeoff on "If".

What is the proper opposite of the Vulcan Blessing, "Live Long and Prosper"? Logician John Mariani of Lancaster University, UK, explores the possibilities. "Fail And Die Soon" stops agony too soon to be a big curse. "Die Soon Or Fail" goes in the right direction, but "Live Long Or Prosper" is "far more elegant, far more logical, and much, much nastier."

Our friend Larry Lesser of UTEP is back with a new song. Taking his cue from James Taylor's excellent Fire & Rain, Lesser talks technical in Combustion & Precipitation. And I pun right back at him in an Editor's Note.

2 contributors send up dysfunctional bureaucracies: Harry Stern of Kennesaw State University in Georgia satirizes social work's "community disorganization", while R. L. Zimdahl critiques university administration, having been part of one for many years. I'll stick to my own standards: when there's good will and good management, any system works; where there isn't, no system can work.

A question for you: experience has taught that I catch a lot more errors when I proofread paper printouts, rather than the computer screen. A little is due to the screen's less-accurate renditions of character spacing, but that doesn't explain most of my "catches". Do others experience this too? Or the reverse? Why does this happen?

The Journal of Irreproducible Results
This Book Warps Space and Time
What Your Astronomy Textbook Won't Tell You

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