Pluralistic: 02 May 2021

Today's links

One frame from XKCD's 'Types of Scientific Papers' strip; the headline has been replaced with Hemingway's famous six-word story, 'For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

XKCD's scientific microfiction meme (permalink)

In 2008, I traveled to the world's largest scientific data-centers for a Nature story. No matter whether the labs were devoted to internet archiving, the human genome, or the Higgs boson, they had two things in common: vast server farms, and XKCD.

Randall Munroe's webcomic is so unabashedly geeky, so unafraid to be obscure or format-breaking, so affectionate and knowing about the triumphs and pitfalls of science that it is absolute catnip for scientists.

XKCD 2456, Types of Scientific Paper

Last week, Munroe published strip #2456, "Types of scientific paper," a 3×4 grid of thumbnails of journal articles with titles like, "We put a camera somewhere new" and "My colleague is wrong and I can finally prove it."

Even by XKCD standards, this is heavy scientist-bait. The research community has risen to the challenge, flooding the net with remixes that are, if anything, even better than the original: works of microfictional genius to rival Hemingway's "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

Many of these have been collected on Bruce Sterling's Tumblr blogs, and, taken as a body, they constitute an act of wry, insightful auto-ethnography – self-criticism wrapped in humor that tells a story.

Types of Paper in Epidemiology and Public Health

"Types of Paper in Epidemiology and Public Health"

  • We counted how many people have a disease, here are maps with poor countries in red

  • We found that if you call your research 'genetic epidemiology,' then people are surprisingly OK with eugenics

Types of History Paper

"Types of History Paper"

  • Stuff happened: a chronology 1910-1974
  • They missed so much stuff, it's honestly embarrassing 1910-1974

  • I am so tired of stuff scholarship

  • Wokeness is killing stuff scholarship! A senior scholar weighs in

Types of Glaciology Paper

"Types of Glaciology Paper"

  • The ocean is doing a bunch of weird stuff to this glacier
  • Why is it doing that: the wild physics

  • Why is it doing that: now with machine learning

  • We found a glacier that's doing fine! Oh, wait, nevermind

Types of Entomology Paper

"Types of Entomology Paper"

  • This pesticide is completely safe, says one very restricted metric
  • This pesticide will kill us all: extrapolation from irrelevant data

  • 39,000 new parasitic wasps

Types of Climate Science Paper.

"Types of Climate Science Paper."

  • Here's a bad thing about climate change you hadn't even thought about
  • Did any of you guys take a statistics course?

  • Things are definitely worse than we thought

  • Things are definitely better than we thought

Types of Quantum Computing Paper

"Types of Quantum Computing Paper"

  • Simulating our system with our system
  • We've solved QC with our new scripting language

Types of Remote Sensing Papers

"Types of Remote Sensing Papers"

  • We saw stuff on the ground from space
  • We saw stuff on the ground better from space

  • What's that? Let me see if I can see it from space

  • Have you tried neural networks though?

Types of Building Energy Papers

"Types of Building Energy Papers"

  • Expensive material improves building efficiency
  • Stop climate change by rebuilding all buildings this way

  • Insulate all things

Types of Housing Papers

"Types of Housing Papers"

  • Why tech workers deserve condos with better walk scores
  • Design students' yurts will end poverty

  • Supportive housing costs less than boiling poor people in oil and it's more efficient

  • Elders have rebuilt enough equity for a new round of predatory lending

  • Neighborhood gained wealth when rich people moved in

  • This city ended homelessness (for left-handed veterans with cats)

How a reporter sees types of science papers

I saved my favorite for last: "How a reporter sees types of science papers"

  • This journal puts the full paper online
  • Quantum

  • I know this person responds to emails

  • GIF-able video in the supporting information

  • Fig 1 seems like it basically sums the whole thing up

  • Scientist beef!

  • I covered their last paper

A glitched animation that flickers between a CCTV camera, the styled title of ATTACK SURFACE, and 'by Cory Doctorow'

Attack Surface is a Locus Awards finalist (permalink)

The annual Locus Awards finalists have been announced and I am thrilled to pieces to see my novel ATTACK SURFACE, a standalone book in the Little Brother universe for adults, in the final ten for Best SF Novel!

Even more exciting than making the top ten is the company it puts me in: the other finalists are:

  • Machine by Elizabeth Bear
  • Unconquerable Sun by Kate Elliott
  • Agency by William Gibson
  • The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal
  • War of the Maps by Paul McAuley
  • The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • The Last Emperox by John Scalzi
  • Network Effect by Martha Wells
  • Interlibrary Loan by Gene Wolfe

(also excited to see Tor Books, my publisher, next to so many of those names!)

The entire list is, as always, a must-read guide to the best sf/f of the past year. This year's Locus Awards Weekend is a virtual affair (for obvious reasons) and runs Jun 23-26. You can sign up here:

This day in history (permalink)

#20yrsago Microsoft slams Open Source. Again.

#20yrsago Fiery screed about the state of Linux desktop environments

#15yrsago Rich Americans as sick as poor Brits

#15yrsago Classic multi-ending MAD flexidisc MP3s

#10yrsago Brust’s Tiassa: versatile fantasy in three modes

#10yrsago Will technology make us freer, and if so, how?

#1yrago Kim Stanley Robinson on "our rewritten imagination"

#1yrago Ticketmaster gets $500m from Mohammad bin Salman

#1yrago How "contact tracing" apps could be worse than useless

#1yrago Prisons, meatpacking plants, nursing homes

Colophon (permalink)

Currently writing:

  • A Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. RESEARCH PHASE
  • A short story about consumer data co-ops. PLANNING

  • A Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. PLANNING

  • A nonfiction book about excessive buyer-power in the arts, co-written with Rebecca Giblin, "The Shakedown." FINAL EDITS

  • A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause." FINISHED

  • A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues." FINISHED

Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.

Latest podcast: Past Performance is Not Indicative of Future Results
Upcoming appearances:

Recent appearances:

Latest book:

Upcoming books:

  • The Shakedown, with Rebecca Giblin, nonfiction/business/politics, Beacon Press 2022

This work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. That means you can use it any way you like, including commercially, provided that you attribute it to me, Cory Doctorow, and include a link to

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"When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla" -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla