By John Borghi
Sending ripples through a scientific community still reeling from news that an artisanal science laboratory in Brooklyn, NY has documented the existence of phlogiston, a highly cited paper concerning the discovery of the alleged chemical compound known as bolonium has been proven to not actually exist.The paper, titled “A Deployment of Byzantine Fault Tolerances,” has been cited just over 8,000 times by articles appearing in such prestigious scientific journals as Cell, Nature, Science, and a bunch of other journals with hard to pronounce names. However, despite its seemingly seminal status, it appears that, at least prior to last Thursday, no single scientist had attempted to track down the original text. “To be honest, I just copied the citation from a review paper. I was up against a deadline and couldn’t check up on all my citations,” said Dr. Anthony N. Other, who recently cited the article in his paper, “A Methodology for the Compelling Unification of Vacuum Tubes and Non-Von Neumann Machines” available in the latest issue of The Journal of Scientific Truthiness.
Deadline-related shortcutting appears to be the primary cause of the paper’s popularity. “Every scientist I know has to juggle a great many responsibilities,” says Dr. Other. “After spending all day at the lab bench and all night trying to secure grant funding, I just don’t think I have time required to do a simple PubMed search or ask a reference librarian.”
The non-existence of the paper was first noted by undergraduate research assistant Alice Roberts, who discovered the absence while preparing a manuscript for her research methods class day two full weeks before it was due. When contacted, Ms. Roberts declined comment after being told that a parody newspaper about a fictional science article was being written and that the article would feature a nonexistent chemical compound, sources with placeholder names, and completely fictitious quotes.
The first citation of the non-existent article appears to be in the monograph “Telephony No Longer Considered Harmful.” However, given that this title could very well have been created by the random article generator known as SCIgen (http://pdos.csail.mit.edu/scigen/), everything you have just read is probably meaningless.
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