The Best-Worst ‘Star Trek’ Episode Got a (Fake) Research Paper Published
We love the interplay of Star Trek technology with our own world, but less so when especially fake science inspires even more fake research. That’s exactly what happened, as one of Star Trek: Voyager’s most infamously so-bad-it’s-good episodes inspired a facetious research paper – one that scientific journals actually published.
The 1996 episode in question, “Threshold,” sees an experiment to travel beyond the fictional “Warp 10" barrier slowly devolving pilot Tom Paris into a sort of space-catfish, who then kidnaps Captain Janeway, subjects her to the same experiment, and subsequently mates with her. The absolutely bonkers (and personal favorite) hour was even described by producer Brannon Braga as “a real low point,” albeit one that now has its own (fake) scientific paper published.
According to Space.com, an anonymous biologist (going by Voyager’s Dr. Lewis Zimmerman, no less) wrote and submitted “Rapid Genetic and Developmental Morphological Change Following Extreme Celerity” to various open-access journals in an attempt to expose their lax standards. Absent any peer review or vetting of the paper’s claims, four journals accepted the document, and the American Research Journal of Biosciences actually published it. As io9 notes, “Zimmerman” even utilized Star Trek terminology in the report, and thanked both Braga and the Federation in his notes.
The author was inspired by a similar fake pitch researching Star Wars’ “midichlorians,” and sought to identify “predatory journals” that accept and publish unverified research for a fee. University of Colorado research librarian Jeffrey Beall added that certain journals “are not selective in what they publish. They are essentially counterfeit journals, mimicking the look and feel of legitimate online journals, but with the singular goal of making easy money.” The American Research Journal of Biosciences has since pulled the Star Trek paper from its listing.
Even bad Star Trek can have a positive effect on the world two decades later. Validation, thy name is “Space Catfish.”
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