Monday, June 05, 2006

Paper Recipe


1 arxiv mirror
1 12-pt document.
2-3 topics of general interest.
A couple of standard textbooks.
1 handful of good taste.
2 teaspoons of symmetry groups.
1/2 cup of superlatives.
1 box of parameters.
1 scalar field.


The previous day, check the recent papers on the arxives hep-ph / hep-th/ astro-ph and gr-qc. Peel and cut the titles, don't bother with abstracts. Pick out frequently used words, irrespective of their physical content.

Our this year's seasonal recommendations are e.g. 'duality, hidden, AdS, noncommutative, black hole entropy, deconstruct, landscape, emergent, ..."

Also, take the parameters out of their box and pair them with values, e.g. Q_eff ≤ 1/3 and \sigma(2,2) = \sin^2(\Pi/3). For best results, make sure your superlatives contain the all-time favourites 'promising', 'groundbreaking', 'exciting', 'significant' and 'of high interest'.

The Following Day:

1) Prepare the Title.

Prepare the title by using as many of the previously found frequently used words as possible. Mix several of them. Colleagues should ideally feel obliged to cite your paper, but not qualified to actually judge on it.

2) Prepare the Abstract.

Take the 2-3 topics of general interest, wash them thoroughly, until completely free of criticism and discussion. We recommend today 'Dark Energy', 'Quantum Gravity', and 'Large Hadron Collider', or whatever this week's special offer of your local blog scene is. Unwrap the prepared frequently used words, and carefully check whether some have become stale over night.

In a large, non-stick pan, warm the topics of general interest over medium heat. Add the frequently used words and cook until thickened to less than 10 sentences. Add ½ cup of superlatives and mash them with the back of a wooden spoon. Gradually stir in the parameters and simmer together for 4 to 5 minutes.

The result might look as follows:

We examine 'topic of general interest #1' within the 'superlative' scenario of 'frequently used word #1' by taking into account the recent 'superlative' results on 'frequently used word #2'. The relations to 'frequently used word #3' with an additional sector of 'frequently used word #4' are carefully investigated, and allow us to draw 'superlative' new conclusions about 'frequently used word #1'. Using an improved version of the 'frequently used word #2' standard approach, we find Q_eff ≤ 1/3, and \sigma(2,2) = sin^2 (\Pi/3). Furthermore, we discuss the relevance for 'topic of general interest #3'.

Add one handful of good taste. Pour into a 12-pt document. Sprinkle with PACS numbers and keywords.

3) The introduction

Google the topics of general interest and copy and paste for at least 3 paragraphs. Then, claim that recently the importance of 'frequently used words' has been realized. Cite the references looked up the previous day. Refer the interested reader to the reviews. Stir in a little of history. Mix well, but carefully. Make certain not to mash crucial details. Put in a warm spot and leave to rise.

4) The Main Part

Start your investigation by some undoubtedly correct formula, using the standard textbooks. Such might e.g. be the FRW metric, the equal time commutation relations, or the QED Lagrangian. Let stand for one hour. Meanwhile get some coffee. Look up the references from the previous day, hit 'cited by' and randomly repeat various equations from citation #50 and up. Make sure to rename all variables, and not to copy the text prior and after the equations. Add appropriate citations to all equations. Do not interpret the calculation. Knead until you have a smooth text. Let rest for a while, then roll out thin on a clean board.

Add the scalar field. Cut into symmetric shapes, then hide some parts and deconstruct the rest. Sprinkle with symmetry groups. Twist carefully several times.

5) The Results

Preheat the universe. Take main part and cover the entire standard model, let several parameters overhang, and give them unintuitive names. Redefine the variables multiple times, use plenty of not introduced abbreviations, and don't hesitate to apply unmentioned mathematical theorems to rewrite your derivations. Introduce at least one new notation, and drop irrelevant factors 2\Pi or \sqrt{2}.

Stir until smooth and bubbly.

Should open questions appear on the surface, add citations to yourself 'in preparation'.

Plot a random correlation between some parameters, then pick a couple of values you like. Call them typical, and put them aside for later use. Fill the rest of the parameter space into the main part. Cover with discussion. Garnish with footnotes and references to 'private communications'. Bake 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

6) The Conclusions

Take the abstract and punch a hole in the middle. Fill in the typical parameters you put aside earlier. Spell check the document several times.

Best served with a prominent co-author, and acknowledgements of hospitality at top-ranking universities.

PS: Don't forget that the world will end tomorrow 06/06/06, so wear a clean shirt and give your last dollars to the homeless guy on the sidewalk.


  1. What would be amusing is if somebody rewrote that postmodernism essay generator

    so that it generated theoretical physics papers at random. ;)

  2. Dear Bee,

    that's a very detailed and easy-to-follow recipe, albeit quite complex :-) But I am glad to see that your papers usually do not follow too much that scheme...

    BTW, I was completely unaware of the 06/06/06 date today... Thanks for warning me! At least her in Frankfurt, 06:06 am and 06:06 pm have already passed by without anything special happening, so let's keep our fingers crossed ;-)

  3. anonymous said...

    so that it generated theoretical physics papers at random. ;)

    Well, I try to see the bright side. If enough postdocs generate random papers long enough, there is a chance one of them will eventually find a glimpse of the truth. The probability might be arbitrarily small, but nonzero. Its kind of similar to the 1000 monkeys hitting keys on random, and eventually write the bible.

    B. (still waiting for the world to end)

  4. can I freeze the leftovers?

  5. Great recipe, but how do I generate nice figures? :)


  6. Great recipe, but how do I generate nice figures? :)

    Aah, an advanced question! Well, for starters, try this:

    a) Take a standard plot that is vaguely related to the topic. Say, a neutrino-oscillation, a thermal spectrum, or the running of gauge couplings.

    b) Redefine plotted quantities by dividing through appropriate powers of some arbitrary mass-scale to make sure nobody knows what order of magnitude we are talking about.

    c) Give the new quantities names with lots of tildes, primes, over/underscores and indices to make them look really important.

    d) Invert the quantity plotted on the x-axis.

    e) Double-log the plot. Don't worry about possible singularities, they indicate the occurrence of new physics.

    f) Multiply the same curve with a scale-factor x^n, and plot results for various n together.

    g) Don't forget a lengthy but vacuous explanation in the caption of every figure.

    E.g. 'The dotted curve shows a sudden increase, before dropping after it passes the maximum. It crosses the dashed curve for n larger than 3, which corresponds to the small coupling limit. The large x-behaviour is governed by the asymptotic values.'

    Take care but never take me serious,


  7. stefan said ...

    But I am glad to see that your papers usually do not follow too much that scheme...

    I have a bad conscience in advance.

    so let's keep our fingers crossed ;-)

    Cant. It's hard to type with fingers crossed. Best,


  8. Wow, the figure recipe sounds like haute cuisine, very sophisticated, indeed ;-)

    BTW: I have survived our local 06/06/06! So maybe our most famous newspaper was right: they told yesterday that this year 06 is not dangerous at all, since it is in fact 2006 and the "20" between 06/06 and 06 stands for harmony etc.. and is relaxing the situation...

  9. Great! Now the recipe is complete. :)

    But that is too much work, Bee. These days people just use their microwave oven on frozen food bought at the nearby store, why go into cooking?

    Best wishes,

    (sometimes, don't take me serious too)

  10. Christine said...

    But that is too much work, Bee

    I am working on an instant paper: just add quintessence and stir.

    Cooking can be quite relaxing. Esp. if you can give up any time and call the local Indian.

    Personally, I prefer nutty fruitcakes.

    Best, B.

  11. It works!

    Dynamical generation of fuzzy extra dimensions, dimensional reduction and symmetry breaking

    We present a renormalizable 4-dimensional SU(N) gauge theory with a suitable multiplet of scalar fields, which dynamically develops extra dimensions in the form of a fuzzy sphere S^2. We explicitly find the tower of massive Kaluza-Klein modes consistent with an interpretation as gauge theory on M^4 x S^2, the scalars being interpreted as gauge fields on S^2. The gauge group is broken dynamically, and the low-energy content of the model is determined. Depending on the parameters of the model the low-energy gauge group can be SU(n), or broken further to SU(n_1) x SU(n_2) x U(1), with mass scale determined by the size of the extra dimension.

  12. Funny. You should also add an automatically generated average abstract. Robert Helling has made the script:

  13. Lubos, thanks for the link! Now we only need an equation generator, then we can all retire and let our scripts do the work. Best,


    PS: I wonder how you managed to write this comment while blogger was down. I lost my post at least 3 times.


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