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Alert: Incompetent colleague wastes time of hardworking Wolfram Research publicist

Marty McKee at Wolfram Research appears to have a very very stupid colleague. McKee wrote to Christian Robert:

Your article, “Evidence and Evolution: A review”, caught the attention of one of my colleagues, who thought that it could be developed into an interesting Demonstration to add to the Wolfram Demonstrations Project.

As Christian points out, adapting his book review into a computer demonstration would be quite a feat! I wonder what McKee’s colleague could be thinking? I recommend that Wolfram fire McKee’s colleague immediately: what an idiot!

P.S. I’m not actually sure that McKee was the author of this email; I’m guessing this was the case because this other very similar email was written under his name.

P.P.S. To head off the inevitable comments: Yes, yes, I know this is no big deal and I shouldn’t get bent out of shape about it. But . . . Wolfram Research has contributed such great things to the world, that I hate to think of them wasting any money paying the salary of Marty McKee’s colleague, somebody who’s so stupid that he or she thinks that a book review can be developed into an interactive computer demonstration. I’d like to feel that I’m doing my part by alerting them so they can fire this incompetent colleague person.

P.P.P.S. Hey, this new Zombies category is really coming in handy!


  1. Manoel Galdino says:

    Are You being Ironic? It's hard to get Irony on the internet.
    Anyway, have you ever read this review about a book of Wofram?

    I don't have any means to judge for myself if Wolfram is/was a Crank at all, but since you may be ironic here it would be nice to hear you about these things.

  2. xi'an says:

    This link to Shalizi's review is very good, but note that a third of the reviews of Wolfram's megalomaniac piece are giving the book one star (ie the minimum). After reading part of the book, I submitted a (negative) review to Amazon that never made it, so I cannot blame this review for getting this non-sense email!

  3. Andrew Gelman says:

    Shalizi's review is interesting, but I don't understand why he refers to a certain effort of Wolfram's as a "Nice Try" (rather than as a "nice try"). This sort of thing makes me feel like there is a whole subtext to what Shalizi is writing that I'm missing.

  4. Martin says:

    I guess that Marty McKee may have some responsability on this if he allowed to his "colleague" to use his name.

  5. K? O'Rourke says:

    Always been an uncomfortable tension between Wolfram's business/personal interests and his firm’s provision of computational resources to facilitate science.

    At least ever since Mathematica went "black box" with the position we don't have to disclose how our programs get answers just provide high assurances those answer are correct.

    But I have found that program was often the only way I could get correct answers (for instance in my thesis were R repeatedly gave wrong answers like in a previous posting where the numerical integration failed).

    A quote from JG Gardin comes to mind – "you can't rule out a hypothesis by the way it was generated – but you may very well wish to consider this in deciding if its worth spend your time taking it seriously".

    As for this particular inquiry – very likely they were just interested in getting some demonstrations of computations and issues that were mention in the review – not having Mathematica "re-write" the review itself.

    For that they would need to first implement Gardin's logicist programs – actually if they are reading this – they might look into that – the re-writing Levi-Strauss would be a good example. Now Derrida was on Gardin's to do list (he made a public offer to hire a graduate student for this) … maybe the computer could generate that debate between Derrida and Wolfram that Shalizi suggested in his review!

    Yup, the Zombie category is panning out.


  6. wei says:

    Are you sure it is a person instead of a software? Maybe their search algorithm need some update to approach more appropriate audience.

  7. There was no very deep subtext to that, I was just trying to emphasize that whatever its merits may have been at one time, it was no longer a viable concept.

  8. I take a look at the Amazon's reviews. Yeah, there are a lot of criticism, in line with what Shalizi wrote.
    Thanks for the link.

  9. Andrew Gelman says:


    The email very clearly stated, "one of my colleagues." So that would seem to imply there is a real person, an actual colleague involved. If it had been an automatic program, I assume the email would've stated that Christian's article was "flagged by a computer program" or something like that.

  10. xi'an says:

    Ah! As if you didn't know better than putting your trust in an email!!! I am sure the response rate to this "my colleague" trick is much higher. The first time I got this email, I actually read it in its entirety before realising this was junk mail. And a few weeks ago one of my colleagues (true!) forwarded me an identical email, sounding very proud of being singled out by Wolfram and co.