Science

"Mutiny on the Joke Journal"

The question is an obvious one. Is a magazine devoted to "irreproducible" research itself irreplaceable? According to Marc Abrahams, the answer is no.

Abrahams is the former editor of the popualr monthly science humor magazine Journal of Irreproducible Results (JIR). He, the magazine's staff, and its regular contributors, including a number of Nobel Laureates, have left JIR to form a new humor publication, the Annals of Improbable Research (AIR). The original founder of JIR, virologist Alex Kohn, has also joined the exodus: He will be chairman of the editorial board and even coined the new name. Abrahams says everyone is excited about being called AIRheads.

Those close to the magazine say the surprise move stems from Abrahams' dissatisfaction with support from JIR publisher Blackwell Scientific Publications. Abrahams had tried to buy the rights to JIR from its owner, George Scherr, but was never able to agree upon a satisfactory price. Blackwell will publish their last issue of JIR in July, but an official there says that Scherr plans to somehow continue the magazine; AIR is expected on newsstands in the fall. And Abrahams assures JIR readers that AIR will take up sponsorship of the annual Ig Nobel awards honoring science of the most dubious sorts.

One past JIR contributor can hardly wait for the new magazine. "I do think it's important to send the message that science is fun," says chemist and Nobel Laureate Dudley Herschbach of Harvard University. Herschbach told Science he's writing an article detailing his quantum interpretation of intelligence (The QI of IQ) that explains why smart people sometimes act dumb and how temperature fluctuations drive IQ up and down. When asked whether his theory meant global warming would make the world smarter, he said he would have to go do the calculations.

SCIENCE - VOL 264 - 24 JUNE 1994