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Le pauvre Sokal

John Sturrock: The Social Text Hoax

16 July 1998
Intellectual Impostures 
by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont.
Profile, 274 pp., £9.99, October 1999, 1 86197 074 9
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... has it in for the French thinkers who have come among us since the late Sixties, bearing what Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont would like to see ostracised as fatuous, if not actually nonsensical ideas.The authors are both professors of physics, Sokal in New York, Bricmont in Belgium, and it’s as hard scientists that ...

What’s in the bottle?

Donald MacKenzie: The Science Wars Revisited

9 May 2002
The One Culture? A Conversation about Science 
edited by Jay Labinger and Harry Collins.
Chicago, 329 pp., £41, August 2001, 0 226 46722 8
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... the ‘science wars’ were well underway by 1996, they came to wider attention in that year when Alan Sokal succeeded in publishing his brilliant pastiche in Social Text. Sokal’s hoax implicitly condemned – and a fair number of further books and articles raged against, often, alas, without ...

Short Cuts

Daniel Soar: Sokal 2.0

25 October 2018
... studies’, which they define as that section of the academy which identifies power imbalances in society and seeks to analyse them from the point of view of the marginalised or oppressed. So they take issue with the whole premise of gender studies, critical race theory, queer theory etc. It is their belief – which they think the relative success ...

John Sturrock

Mary-Kay Wilmers

20 September 2017
... the paper’s readers, and elicited the largest number of indignant letters, was written by John. Alan Sokal, a professor of mathematics at UCL and physics at NYU, had gone into battle against the postmodern theorists whom he accused – I’m simplifying but not greatly – of having no understanding of the concepts they borrowed from science, and no ...

Nutty Professors

Hal Foster: ‘Lingua Franca’

8 May 2003
Quick Studies: The Best of ‘Lingua Franca’ 
edited by Alexander Star.
Farrar, Straus, 514 pp., $18, September 2002, 0 374 52863 2
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... of psychoanalysis by Frederick Crews). But the real killer is the first article, which is by Alan Sokal, the physicist who wrote a parody of ‘Postmodern science studies’ entitled ‘Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity’, which the unsuspecting editors of the cultural studies journal Social Text ...

Heat Death

Simon Schaffer: Entropists v. Energeticists

13 April 2000
Ludwig Boltzmann: The Man who Trusted Atoms 
by Carlo Cercignani.
Oxford, 329 pp., £29.50, September 1998, 0 19 850154 4
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... intuitions of Boltzmann’s new world order were statistical, and resonated nicely with the avalanche of statistical tables which dominated the milieu of his father, a Habsburg tax official of Prussian descent. Even the smallest volume of a hot gas must contain so many colliding particles, a number cleverly computed by Boltzmann’s Viennese ...
21 August 1997
... construction’ work like cancerous cells: once seeded, they replicate out of hand. Consider Alan Sokal’s hoax. In May 1996, Sokal, a physicist at New York University, published a learned pastiche in a special issue of Social Text, a more or less literary journal. Believing that some fashionable intellectuals ...

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