Publication Peculiarities: Papers

I read a lot of papers. I also glance at many papers in journal contents pages and Google search results. From time to time I notice a paper that has an interesting title, author list, abstract, or some other notable feature. This post is the first in a series collecting such publication peculiarities. It concerns papers with striking features other than the title, author list, or abstract. The rules of the game are that I prefer examples from mathematics and related areas and that I must be able to provide a link to the article in question.

If you know of other good examples, please add them in the comments box at the end of this post.

The Letter W

The paper

Brian Hayes, Why W?, American Scientist 93, 104-108, 2005,

which is about the Lambert W function, has the remarkable feature that every sentence contains at least one instance of the letter “w” (as the author admits in the final section). There does not appear to be a word for the result of this constrained writing, but it is a kind of opposite of a lipogram: a text in which a certain letter is avoided entirely.

A Computer Program

Charles Lindsey was a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Manchester and was one of the designers of the language Algol 68. I took a course on programming languages from him when I was a student. His paper

Charles H. Lindsey, ALGOL 68 with fewer tears, Comput. J. 15 (2), 176-188, 1972

is a syntactically valid Algol 68 program. Nowadays we would call this literate programming!


The paper

Clifford Truesdell, Solutio Generalis et Accurata Problematum Quamplurimorum de Motu Corporum Elasticorum incomprimibilium in Deformationibus valde Magnis, Arch. Rational Mech. Anal. 11, 106-113, 1962

has been described by Ball and James (in The Scientific Life and Influence of Clifford Ambrose Truesdell III) as “perhaps the only serious scientific paper published in Latin in the 20th century”.

Shortest Paper

A contender for shortest paper is

L. J. Lander and T. R. Parkin, Counterexample to Euler’s Conjecture on Sums of Like Powers, Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 72, 1079, 1966,

which consists of just two sentences. However, brevity is taken to extremes in the next paper, for which writer’s block led to an empty body:

Dennis Upper, The Unsuccessful Self-Treatment of a Case of “Writer’s Block”, Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis 7, 497, 1974.

This experiment has been successfully replicated:

Geoffrey Molloy, The Unsuccessful Self-Treatment of a Case of “Writer’s Block”: A Replication, Perceptual and Motor Skills 57, 566, 1983,

Robert Didden, Jeff Sigafoos, Mark O’Reilly, Giulio Lancioni and Peter Sturmey, A Multisite Cross-Cultural Replication of Upper’s (1974) Unsuccessful Self-Treatment of Writer’s Block, J. Appl. Behav. Anal. 40, 773, 2007.

Order of Authors

Most fields have conventions about the order in which author names appear. The authors of the paper

M. P. Hassell and R. M. May, Aggregation of Predators and Insect Parasites and its Effect on Stability, Journal of Animal Ecology 43, 567-594, 1974

state that “The order of authorship was determined from a twenty-five-game croquet series held at Imperial College Field Station during summer 1973.”

First Word

The first word of the first article in the journal Nature was, appropriately, “Nature”:

T. H. Huxley, Nature: Aphorims by Goethe, Nature 1(1), 9-11, 1869.


Occasionally, a paper contains something the authors meant to remove before publication. The originally published version of the paper

Zachary W. Culumber, Christian E. Bautista-Hernández, Scott Monks, Lenin Arias-Rodriguez and Michael Tobler, Variation in Melanism and Female Preference in Proximate but Ecologically Distinct Environments, Ethology 120, 1090-1100, 2014

contained the sentence

Although association preferences documented in our study theoretically could be a consequence of either mating or shoaling preferences in the different female groups investigated (should we cite the crappy Gabor paper here?),

Some time after the paper was published it was updated, with the parenthetical phrase replaced by “(Gabor 1999)”.

Numerical Linear Algebra Group 2014

The Manchester Numerical Linear Algebra group was very active in 2014. This post summarizes what we got up to. Publications are not included here, but many of them can be found on MIMS EPrints under the category Numerical Analysis.

A new venture for several of us this year was to make our software available on GitHub: Deadman, Higham, Relton, Sego, Zhang.


PhD Students

Three students successfully defended their theses:

Sam and Leo are now postdoctoral Research Associates in the group. Ramaseshan is a Senior Engineer at Arup, working in the Manchester office.

Weijian Zhang joined the group in September as a PhD student working with Nick Higham.

Sam Relton and Mary Aprahamian served as President and Treasurer, respectively, of the Manchester SIAM Student Chapter.

Postdoctoral Research Associates (PDRAs)

Jennifer Pestana joined the group in January, from Oxford University, to work with Françoise Tisseur.

Javier Perez joined the group in September, to work with Françoise Tisseur.

Tim Butters joined the group in January to work as a postdoctoral Knowledge Transfer Associate with Stefan Guettel and Nick Higham, in a project with Sabisu.

Lijing Lin (2007-2014) left the group in September to take up a Research Associate position in the Faculty of Life Sciences at The University of Manchester.

Amal Khabou (2013-2014) left in September to take up a Maître de conférences position at Université Paris Sud.

Meisam Sharify (2013-2014) left in May to take up a post as Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science, Shahid Beheshti University, G.C. Tehran, Iran.


Members of the group gave presentations at the the following conferences and workshops.

IMA Conference on the Mathematical Challenges of Big Data, London, December 16-17, 2014 (Higham).

Structured Numerical Linear and Multilinear Algebra: Analysis, Algorithms and Applications, Kalamata, Greece, September 8-12 2014 (Noferini).

Spectral Theory Workshop to celebrate the 70th birthday of Brian Davies, King’s College London, 30 October 2014 (Tisseur).

4th IMA Conference on Numerical Linear Algebra and Optimisation, Birmingham, September 3-5, 2014 (Aprahamian, Berljafa, Khabou, Pestana, Relton, Strabić, Tisseur).

11th World Congress on Computational Mechanics, Barcelona, 20-25 July 2014 (Kannan).

International Workshop on Operator Theory and Applications, Amsterdam, July 14-18, 2014 (Tisseur).

SIAM Annual Meeting, Chicago, July 7-11, 2014 (Aprahamian, Deadman, Guettel, Lotz, Zhang).

First Joint International Meeting RSME-SCM-SEMA-SIMAI-UMI, Bilbao, June 30-July 4, 2014 (Noferini).

Householder Symposium XIX on Numerical Linear Algebra, Spa, Belgium, June 8-13, 2014 (Deadman, Guettel, Higham, Khabou, Lin, Noferini, Pestana, Taslaman, Tisseur).

10th International Workshop on Accurate Solution of Eigenvalue Problems (IWASEP10), Dubrovnik, Croatia, June 2-5 (Sego, Strabić).

Structured Matrix Days, XLIM, Université de Limoges, France, May 26-27, 2014 (Noferini).

Advances in Numerical Algorithms and High Performance Computing, University College London, April 14-15, 2014 (Deadman, Higham, Relton).

Napier 400th Anniversary Celebrations: Computation in Mathematics Workshop, ICMS, Edinburgh, April 2, 2014 (Higham: Video podcast).

Workshop on Nonlinear Eigenvalue Problems, The University of Manchester, April 23-25, 2014 (organized by Tisseur, Pestana, Kressner and Michiels and attended by the whole group).

Annual Meeting of the International Association of Applied Mathematics and Mechanics, Erlangen, March 10-14, 2014 (Guettel).

International Workshop on Eigenvalue Problems: Algorithms; Software and Applications, in Petascale Computing March 7-9, 2014 Tsukuba, Japan (Guettel, Tisseur).

2014 SET for BRITAIN exhibition at the House of Commons (Mary Aprahamian presented a poster).

Conference and Workshop Organization

The group organized three events in Manchester.

Several minisymposia were organized:


Vedran Sego visited the group throughout 2014.

Zhi-Gang Jia from Jiangsu Normal University, China, visited the group August 2013-July 2014.

Philip Gill (UC San Diego) and Margaret Wright (New York University) both visited for two weeks in March.

Jan Papež, a PhD student at the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague, visited for a week in November.

Marcel Schweitzer, a PhD student at the Universit of Wuppertal, visited the group for one week in September 2014.

Vladimir Druskin (Schlumberger-Doll Research Center, Cambridge, USA) visited the group for one week in June 2014.

Daniel Ruprecht (Università della Svizzera Italiana) and Robert Speck (Jülich Supercomputing Centre) visited the group for one week in February 2014.

Massimiliano Fasi, an M.Sc. student at the University of Bologna, Italy, visited for a week in November. He will join the group as a PhD student in September 2015, funded by a University of Manchester President’s Doctoral Scholarship Award.

Caterina Fenu, a PhD student at the University of Cagliari, Italy, visited for a week in November.

Knowledge Transfer

In The Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Sabisu, involving KTP Associate Tim Butters, Stefan Guettel, Nick Higham, and Jon Shapiro (School of Computer Science), an alarm management system has been developed and launched as a product.

Recognition and Service

Françoise Tisseur was awarded a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award (2014-2019) to support her work on the numerical solution of nonlinear eigenvalue problems.

Former PDRA Yuji Nakatsukasa (2011-2013) was awarded the Householder Prize 2014 for his PhD thesis “Algorithms and Perturbation Theory for Matrix Eigenvalue Problems and the Singular Value Decomposition” (2011), written at the University of California, Davis.

Nick Higham served on Subpanel 10, Mathematical Sciences, in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014.

Françoise Tisseur served as

  • Vice-President of the UK & Republic of Ireland SIAM Section,
  • Program Director of the SIAM Activity Group on Linear Algebra,
  • Member of the Householder Prize Committee 2014.