Hoax of Mirrors

The so-called ‘Sokal squared’ hoax is both mind-numbingly stupid, and unwittingly beautiful. The hoax, revealed this week, was perpetrated by a trio of ‘researchers’ who you can see in promotional photographs standing facing the camera like the line-up of secretly powerful oddballs in some cable channel’s latest superhero mini-series, or the new season of CSI. […]

Read more "Hoax of Mirrors"

What I (Don’t) Know

One of the foundations of French slander law is a case that took place in the village of La Baffe in the Vosges in 1828, and which was recognized at the time to be very strange, and troubling. The case came before the criminal court (tribunal correctionnel)in Épinal on the morning of February 2nd.[1] The first […]

Read more "What I (Don’t) Know"

1000 Witches Deep

I have over a thousand suspected witches in my computer. It’s not too bad. They were born in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early years of the twentieth centuries, so they should all be dead by now. But I still open my computer slowly, just in case one of them makes a run for it. It’s […]

Read more "1000 Witches Deep"

The Chiffchaff Problem

Should historians accept the existence of chiffchaffs – a warbling bird common in Europe and Asia – for the period before 1789?   These birds had not been distinguished by observers from similar species until Gilbert White recorded differences in their singing in Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne(1789). But surely there are obvious reasons why […]

Read more "The Chiffchaff Problem"

Deal or No Deal

Tomorrow’s Higher Education Committee meeting of the UCU will decide whether or not to put the offer tabled by UUK to a ballot of union members. At our branch meeting in Bristol, I was among a large majority in favour of this ballot. There are, I now realise, good reasons why the proposal should not […]

Read more "Deal or No Deal"

Solidarity is a Feeling

  There is something rotten in the university. We feel it, and we know it from simple statistics. It is the statistics on the gender pay gap. It is the collapse in numbers of mature students in higher education.  It is student mental health and suicide rates. It is staff being told year after year […]

Read more "Solidarity is a Feeling"