Science: Behind the scenes

I’ve collected a few weird stories from the world of science that are interesting. They’re not science stories about discoveries and research but they’re science stories about what goes on behind the scenes.

Spam and mailing lists

Let’s start with an amusing tale. We’ve all got spam before and scientists are no exception. Fed up with the constant spam from one particular journal, Dr. Peter Vamplew submitted a fake article, originally written by David Mazières and Eddie Kohler, that expressed his frustration. The article was 10 pages long and merely consisted of the sentence, “Get me off your fucking mailing list” repeated throughout. Continue reading


Free online education

The invention and widespread use of computers has had a massive impact on how things are done. I grew up with computers and it can be quite amusing to hear about the way my father used to do things and how much more difficult it was back then. For example, when I did a literature review, all I had to do was go online, search for some keywords and download the relevant papers. He spoke about books with lists of article titles that used to be mailed to universities. He had to find the relevant titles, order them and wait for the copies to be delivered before he could see if they really were relevant. When I did referencing I just put everything into a reference manager which then inserted, formatted and arranged the reference list as required. Before computers it all had to be done manually. Continue reading

Guest post: My academic life so far

This is a guest post written by Michael Kent who is doing a PhD in climatology at UCT and is one of the assistant tutors at Cape Town Nihongo Kai, our Japanese school. He has agreed to share his path into science and how he has been able to combine his studies with his other interests.


Although in 2003 I was finishing my last year of high school, I still had no clue what I wanted to do or study the following year. What I did know was that I enjoyed doing geography. This helped cement the idea that I should go and study further, and after some help from an advisor at school, I applied to do related courses at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Fortunately, my application was accepted and I began my studies in 2004. Continue reading