In 2008, I traveled to the world's largest scientific data-centers for a Nature story. No matter whether the labs were devoted to internet archiving, the human genome, or the Higgs boson, they had two things in common: vast server farms, and XKCD.

Randall Munroe's webcomic is so unabashedly geeky, so unafraid to be obscure or format-breaking, so affectionate and knowing about the triumphs and pitfalls of science that it is absolute catnip for scientists.


Last week, Munroe published strip #2456, "Types of scientific paper," a 3x4 grid of thumbnails of journal articles with titles like, "We put a camera somewhere new" and "My colleague is wrong and I can finally prove it."


Even by XKCD standards, this is heavy scientist-bait. The research community has risen to the challenge, flooding the net with remixes that are, if anything, even better than the original: works of microfictional genius to rival Hemingway's "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

Many of these have been collected on Bruce Sterling's Tumblr blogs, and, taken as a body, they constitute an act of wry, insightful auto-ethnography - self-criticism wrapped in humor that tells a story.


"Types of Paper in Epidemiology and Public Health"

* We counted how many people have a disease, here are maps with poor countries in red

* We found that if you call your research 'genetic epidemiology,' then people are surprisingly OK with eugenics


"Types of History Paper"

* Stuff happened: a chronology 1910-1974

* They missed so much stuff, it's honestly embarrassing 1910-1974

* I am so tired of stuff scholarship

* Wokeness is killing stuff scholarship! A senior scholar weighs in


"Types of Glaciology Paper"

* The ocean is doing a bunch of weird stuff to this glacier

* Why is it doing that: the wild physics

* Why is it doing that: now with machine learning

* We found a glacier that's doing fine! Oh, wait, nevermind


"Types of Entomology Paper"

* This pesticide is completely safe, says one very restricted metric

* This pesticide will kill us all: extrapolation from irrelevant data

* 39,000 new parasitic wasps



"Types of Climate Science Paper."

* Here's a bad thing about climate change you hadn't even thought about

* Did any of you guys take a statistics course?

* Things are definitely worse than we thought

* Things are definitely better than we thought


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"Types of Quantum Computing Paper"

* Simulating our system with our system

* We've solved QC with our new scripting language


"Types of Remote Sensing Papers"

* We saw stuff on the ground from space

* We saw stuff on the ground better from space

* What's that? Let me see if I can see it from space

* Have you tried neural networks though?


"Types of Building Energy Papers"

* Expensive material improves building efficiency

* Stop climate change by rebuilding all buildings this way

* Insulate all things


"Types of Housing Papers"

* Why tech workers deserve condos with better walk scores

* Design students' yurts will end poverty

* Supportive housing costs less than boiling poor people in oil and it's more efficient

* Elders have rebuilt enough equity for a new round of predatory lending

* Neighborhood gained wealth when rich people moved in

* This city ended homelessness (for left-handed veterans with cats)


I saved my favorite for last: "How a reporter sees types of science papers"

* This journal puts the full paper online

* Quantum

* I know this person responds to emails

* GIF-able video in the supporting information

* Fig 1 seems like it basically sums the whole thing up

* Scientist beef!

* I covered their last paper


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