Being trashy online consumers of written words, I assume some of us must come across some bizarre things when wading through the literary scrapyard of such mixed-up jumbles of materials, some more mentionable than others etc. Sometimes though, it just happens that we come across a factual joy, stranger than fiction, that is this week’s trivium to start your weekend.
Back in 1957, Laika, a stray dog from the streets of Moscow, was flown into outer space in Sputnik 2, and was pretty much cooked (steady now – all you Korean readers out there) and died within a few hours of the spacecraft overheating. I guess in a similar attempt to test the feasibility of space survivability for mammals (with a view to extend to humans), in 1961, Ham the chimpanzee was launched into the same uncharted territory for Project Mercury. Fortunately for Ham, the mission was a success and he returned to earth only with a bruised nose (so we are told, but who knows, they say the whole man on the moon thing was a hoax). But you see neither of these facts is remotely as bizarre as the following story.
Keeping in line with the animal use/abuse theme this week I came across a respectable journal paper (published by Physical Review) written by a scientist from a reputable academic institute from the US which was also co-authored by his feline companion – needless to declare, all facts are sourced from Wikipedia.
Before we go any further, however, I’d like to point out (especially for more sceptical readers in incredulity ready to write off the journal as not serious) that one sub-journal of Physical Review boasts an impact factor of over 8.0. For perspective, some decent cancer research papers only score 3.0 or lower impact factors, i.e. it’s a serious enough journal.
Back to the cat. Apparently it was just a normal cat, and there was nothing special about its intelligence level. The truth is that Jack H. Hetherington the physicist had already written his paper all ready to be submitted to the journal. Unfortunately for him though, he had written the entire paper in the first person plural (that is, ‘we’, ‘our’, ‘us’ and ‘ours’) without having anyone else having participated in or contributed to his very publishable research results. Now feeling rather lazy, instead of re-drafting the paper with the first person singular pronouns (‘I’, ‘me’, ‘my’, and ‘mine’), he decided to keep the paper exactly as it was, but include his cat as the second author of the paper with a pseudonym F.D.C. Willard.
To his credit, back in the days in the 1970s when this paper was drafted and subsequently published, it wasn’t as if he could just ‘ctrl+f’ ‘we’ and ‘replace all’ with ‘I’ etc. but every word had to be retyped, as if scientists didn’t have enough things to do.
That’s it for today. Have a good one.