Undead Authors

I just read about this thing, where the dead have helped co-author an academic paper. Yes, the dead was listed as a co-author to a paper. It was just a reaction to the XKCD comic on the right – where crazy mathematicians got dead mathematicians to sign off on their paper.

By the way, there’s no need to wait until the end times to write papers with dead mathematicians. One example of this is the paper “Higher algebraic K-theory of schemes and of derived categories” by R. W. Thomason and Thomas Trobaugh, which Thomason wrote with his deceased friend Trobaugh after Trobaugh appeared to him in a dream:

“The first author must state that his coauthor and close friend, Tom Trobaugh, quite intelligent, singularly original, and inordinately generous, killed himself consequent to endogenous depression. Ninety-four days later, in my dream, Tom’s simulacrum remarked, ‘The direct limit characterization of perfect complexes shows that they extend, just as one extends a coherent sheaf.’ Awaking with a start, I knew this idea had to be wrong, since some perfect complexes have a non-vanishing K_0 obstruction to extension. I had worked on this problem for 3 years, and saw this approach to be hopeless. But Tom’s simulacrum had been so insistent, I knew he wouldn’t let me sleep undisturbed until I had worked out the argument and could point to the gap. This work quickly led to the key results of this paper. To Tom, I could have explained why he must be listed as a coauthor.”

That’s just fun! Simulacrums rule! (Now, if only Megan Fox’s simulacrum would pay me a visit!)

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Shawn Tan

Chip Doctor, Chartered/Professional Engineer, Entrepreneur, Law Graduate.

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