Wednesday, May 12, 2010

An Academic Challenge

Today I saw the following poster at MIT:

This is the brainchild of the folks at They want someone to get the phrase "I smoke crack rocks" into a scientific paper before December 1 of this year.

But someone at the challenge must have been smoking something, because in the FAQ, they say, "If your potential contest entry contains at least 90% of the words from challenge phrase, you may still submit it. For example, for the 2010 PhD Challenge, submissions containing the phrases I SMOKE CRACK and SMOKE CRACK ROCKS are valid and would be considered in the final judging." They seem to think that 75% is greater than or equal to 90%.


Valhar2000 said...

Who would do this?

edthemanicstreetpreacher said...

Funny stuff, Jeffrey, but are you sure this is for real?

Either the organisers are trying to pwn some hapless postgrad into ruining their academic career or you have been pwned by someone who should write for The Onion.

And I’m not sure the prizes on offer are worth writing a three page thesis. Pack of elbow patches?! Is that what gets university-types’ juices flowing?


Joel said...

ed, the text does not necessarily have to appear left-to-right, and, yes, the prizes were selected for purposes of satire.

Miranda said...

Are commas allowed?
"I get such a headache when I smoke, crack rocks, or change my baby's diaper."

Tim Kenyon said...

A linguistics PhD will have no problem, provided occurrences in quotations marks are allowed.

Anonymous said...

It would probably be pretty easy to work this into a conference or workshop paper on natural language processing or other human language technologies. Just use it as an example of some phenomenon that you're going to study the computational properties of.

Blake Stacey said...

I already have leather elbow patches on my tweed jacket, so I'm set on that score.

Philoctetes said...

Dear Jeffrey,

I repeat part of my May 11, 2010 challenge and again offer a thousand dollars ($1,000 USD) if you can defeat both arguments below that the South Tower and WTC7 were destroyed by controlled demolition.

Michael Green

Michael B. Green, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychologist
Qualified Medical Examiner (1992-3/2006, retired)
Former Assistant Professor of Philosophy
University of Texas at Austin

2) David Chandler forced NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) to admit at a public forum that WTC7 collapsed at free-fall acceleration for approximately 2.25 seconds. Free-fall acceleration can occur:
"...only if there is no structural resistance. This can occur only if all the building support columns are simultaneously severed, something that requires controlled demolition. More formally, the potential energy of the building cannot be converted to kinetic energy at the rate of gravitational acceleration -- free fall -- unless there is zero structural resistance, which requires simultaneous severing of all support, i.e., controlled demolition. ...Chandler's three videos are listed at architect Richard Gage's website,, under "NIST admits freefall" in the left column. Chandler has recently added a simpler summary video that I recommend skipping: it's for people who have an intuitive grasp of the science itself. Chandler's videos are also at his own website,, titled "WTC7: NIST Finally Admits Freefall." The other three carefully explain the high-school level science and display NIST officials' patent guilt and discomfiture at being pressured to lie apace to maintain the official story." (Excerpted from my essay at:

My same essay also elliptically describes another of the hoaxes of the Official Story:

"Among my other favorites is watching the top 15-20 stories of the South Tower starting to topple over like an axed tree, and then disintegrating in mid-air while the undamaged bottom of the building explodes outward symmetrically top-to-bottom, supposedly crushed by the part that fell to the side. I wish that we were making this up."

Chandler perfects the argument by quantifying a crucial measurement with elegant simplicity. Using a software program and a BBC World video of the South Tower's collapse, Chandler tracks the relative velocities of a free-falling chunk of debris and the rate of descent of the explosive girdle that the Official Story demands is the interface between the "crushing piston" of the top of the Tower and the remaining bottom that is being crushed. From the point of his initial measurement, the free-falling debris at first descends slightly faster than the "crush point" or "explosive girdle," but then the rate of descent of the explosive girdle overtakes that of the falling object. In other words, the crush point that requires the top "crushing piston" of the Tower overcoming the structural resistance of the lower supporting portion is descending faster than a free falling object. Such a phenomenon violates fundamental laws of Newtonian physics -- the Law of Momentum in particular -- and (once again) establishes controlled demolition. Having Ron Craig chat up how thin the Towers' steel was or how there weren't people with burned lungs is quite beside the point. Chandler's video, Race with Gravity, is on his website,

Please feel free to consult with any heavyweights of your own choosing from math, physics, structural engineering or any other relevant discipline. What is essential is that you or they address our evidence rather than sputtering off about how crazy it is even to consider controlled demolition because it would be impossible to plant such charges, the USG would never do such a thing, or tolerate it being done, etc. That kind of resistance to the hard facts is endemic but irrelevant to the argument.

Jeffrey Shallit said...

Philoctetes/Michael Green:

Your "challenge" is meaningless drivel. Who's going to decide if any evidence I present is worth $1000? You? You are clearly unqualified -- I am not aware of philosophy professors and clinical psychologists having any expertise in engineering or building construction.

The "controlled demolition" claims of 9/11 crackpots have been adequately debunked elsewhere, and nothing you have said refutes that.