UPDATE: Hypotheses are there to be tested and if you read the comments below you’ll see that my hypothesis “G. Aad does not exist and is a clever, made-up first author by the ATLAS team at CERN” has been falsified. Such is the way of science, it was a nice idea but we have to move on to new challenges: over at the Dynamic Ecology blog, Brian McGill is fairly certain that Dr Van in the paper Vincent, Van & Goh (1996) is made up…..
Dublin. Guinness. Science. It’s a heady mix and invariably under such circumstances, scientists turn their conversation to the big questions that matter, including the use of surreptitious humour in scientific publications.
In the bar at University College Dublin this evening, where I’m currently external examiner for their BSc Environmental Biology course, a small group of us traded examples that we knew of: barmen and vineyard owners named in the acknowledgements; pet dogs as co-authors; unwitting funders thanked; hidden references to hard drugs; made-up ecology listed in book indices and on Wikipedia; kids thanked for field assistance; camouflaged side swipes at rivals.
There’s a long list, but the biggest question for me, and one which I’ve wanted to write about for a while, is: does G. Aad exist?
A certain G. Aad is listed as the first author on many of the scientific papers being published by the ATLAS group at CERN – for example here:
Indeed, G. Aad is first author on (quite literally) hundreds of papers* from this group:
Clearly the ATLAS team has listed the collaborators on each paper alphabetically, beginning with G. Aad, and with the UK’s most high-profile physicist, B.E. Cox, part-way down. But whilst Professor Brian Cox certainly exists, G. Aad just seems a little too convenient, akin to Aadvark Electricians in printed phone book listings, when such things mattered.
Too convenient and too……clever: G. Aad…..GAad…..Gaad…..God…..geddit?
An appropriate first author for publications from the team that has been searching for the God Particle. But Dr Aad does not appear as a bona fide member of staff on the websites of any of the institutions where he is credited as working and I suspect that he is fictitious. So unless someone knows different, I’d like to suggest this as one of the best examples of hidden humour in the science literature.
*Web of Knowledge lists 305 papers with G. Aad as first author, giving him an h-index of 34. All since 2008……