A computer program developed by a Harvey Mudd College alumnus created online buzz recently when one of its algorithmically generated math papers was accepted for publication.
The program, Mathgen, randomly generates professional-looking mathematics papers complete with theorems, proofs, equations, discussion and references. Developed by Nate Eldredge ’03, it is modeled after SCIgen, a program that generates random computer science papers.
“Like most mathematicians, I get a lot of spam from questionable journals soliciting papers. When I got Mathgen working, I thought it would be interesting to test them,” said Eldredge, currently a postdoctoral associate at Cornell University. “I went through my spam folder looking for the most impressive-sounding journal title and settled on Advances in Pure Mathematics.”
He submitted the Mathgen-produced paper, “Independent, Negative, Canonically Turing Arrows of Equations and Problems in Applied Formal PDE,” which was provisionally accepted by the APM journal. The journal’s editor even included a list of suggestions for revision for the fictitious author, Marcie Rathke.
Dr. Rathke will remain unpublished, however, partly because of the journal’s requested $500 publication fee but mostly for the sake of academic integrity.