Nate Eldridge has written a program, Mathgen, to randomly generate a nonsense math paper. (It’s based on an older program, SCIgen, that generates random computer science papers.) While they don’t make any sense, the Mathgen papers capture the typical style of mathematical writing pretty well. The main quirk that gives it away is that a real math paper would repeat terminology, Mathgen creates new mathematical terms every sentence. (This an inevitable consequence that the algorithm used is context-free.)

Apparently it doesn’t give it away for everyone, though. A Mathgen-generated paper was submitted to a journal, Advances in Pure Mathematics, where it was accepted with revisions. I’ve never heard of this journal, so I would assume that it’s like the mathematical version of a vanity publisher that makes money from publication fees. But what’s amazing is that the paper was peer reviewed! The suggested revisions are of the form “please make this make sense”, but still, out there somewhere there’s a person who read this paper, and tried to make constructive comments. Who was this person?

2 thoughts on “Mathgen

  1. “Peer reviewed” is a very slippery term. I’m in the Microwave/radar biz, and occasionaly get asked to “peer review” some very iffy papers. Even if I say “this is complete crap, it would be an embarrasment ot run it” they always seem to get printed and the reason as you point out is vanity fees. While some orgs like IEEE are not a problem, there are plenty of slick looking journals out there that aren’t worth the bandwidth. There are also some cases of Chomskybot papers getting into computer science conferences, these seem like pranks but point out flaws in our system of judgeing acedemic work.

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