Saturday, November 01, 2008

Adventures of Peer Review Man 1: The Beginning

In a world with information corrupted by vested interests, is there any way one can get pure fact untainted by opinion; truth without spin? It's not that easy.

In this milieu of mistrust and lies was born Peer Review Man - a crusader for truth; a crusader for intellectual honesty. A crusader for all that the world holds dear.

There are many stories as to how Peer Review Man acquired his super power. Some are downright improbable. For instance there's one about him watching television as an inspired teenager as Ramar Pillai (a Indian charlatan) concocted petrol out of nowhere - defying all laws of thermodynamics. The fable goes on to say that the subsequent disillusionment of finding out that Mr. Pillai was little more than a hoax led the teenager to take a solemn vow that he would verify all that sounded fishy with peer reviewed literature. And then he proceeeded to read scientific journals day in and day-out.

There's another equally fishy one - which says that Peer Review Man is not a human being at all - but a hyper-evolved highly intellegent artificial neural network which has a built in connection to the internet (and therefore wikipedia). All fishy claims are googled and wikipediaed (this is a new word which I am coining. Webster owes me royalties.). Links are followed until peer reviewed sources are found - and therefore the truth is finally isolated.

Of course, the above sketches are abundantly improbable. Here's how he really came about.

Nagappa was an infant back then in a rural hamlet in northern Andhra Pradesh. His family wasn't particularly well to do economically. But it was a well educated family - a family well versed in the natural sciences. The Dad was a Physics enthusiast - and had lots of papers and textbooks stowed away in cabinets. The Mum was a biologist of sorts - and had her books by Darwin, Maynard Smith and the like stowed in the same cabinet.

And now, let's talk about Muriel, the mouse. (why a mouse in the middle of Andhra Pradesh has an Anglican name is beyond me). The enthusiastic mouse was scavenging for some tasty little slice of cheese (presumably) in the cabinet. Muriel, of course, did not find it, so it started nibbling on pages of Newton's Principia mechanica. After chewing Newton, it made its way to copies of Einstien's 1905 papers on special relativity and bit off the corners. Portions of Hiesenberg's thesis, Mendelleev's periodic table and Sclichting's "Boundary Layer Theory" were consumed too. As were works by Darwin, Feynman, Keynes and Fiegenbaum.

Muriel had by then pretty much binged on a rather significant quantity of paper. Most veterinarians who specialize in mice (there are a couple of the planet, I suppose) will tell you that what Muriel did was not good for its weight and cholesterol. But Muriel was a rather intrepid little mouse. She then decided to kick it up a notch - and started sipping from a tumbler of country liquor that the dad had left on the shelf. Knowing Muriel, it shall come as no surprise to the reader that what was consumed was excessive.

Muriel started feeling queasy. Nauseous. Felt like vomiting all that she had eaten. She found a little bowl on a table somewhere and just let loose in the same.

The bowl was Nagappa's cerelac (that's what infants are fed in India - and I promise, it tastes yummy!) bowl. So, nagappa made a meal of the mouse's vomit which consisted of a rather potent cocktail of portions of copies of some of seminial scientific literature laced with ethanol (and some of Muriel's gastric juices).

And thus was created Peer Review Man. AKA (to friends and family only) as Nagappa.

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