Anyone who subscribes to the stereotype of scientists as models of rationality, but incapable of romance, needs to think again. One scientist has hidden a marriage proposal in the acknowledgments section of his peer-reviewed paper. Although, we are unsure as of yet whether the request was accepted.
In the various scientific fields, zoologists may claim to have an advantage in the romance stakes, since they deal with (sometimes) hot-blooded creatures capable of forming lasting pair-bonds. Then there are those who consider true love to be about chemistry. However, Rui Long, a PhD student at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, China, is out to claim romantic status for physicists.
The acknowledgments of a paper published in Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications included in its acknowledgments the words: “Rui Long wants to thank, in particular, the patience, care and support from Panpan Mao over the past years. Will you marry me?” (In recognition that science cannot run on love alone, the acknowledgments also pay tribute to the National Natural Science Foundation of China as the source of funding for the three authors.)
The proposal was brought to the attention of the world by Dr Jess Wade of Imperial College London who tweeted last week: “Romance is not dead, it's just hidden behind a paywall.”
Sadly, her comment is accurate, since Physica A is not an open access publication. If you want to know about minimally nonlinear irreversible refrigerators at finite cooling power, and you are not part of a university with a subscription, you'll have to pay.
Nevertheless, the paper is a real one, unlike the pseudo-paper with which University of Sydney physics PhD student Brendan McMonigal proposed to fellow physics major Christie Nelan, winning the world's heart in the process, back in 2013.
Other Twitter users responded to Wade by asking if the work had been cited by Panpan Mao in a subsequent paper, but since Long's work only just went online in advance of the April edition of the journal, this is unlikely, and we will all just have to wait to learn her response. Given how long peer review can take, this may be a slow process.
It turns out, however, that the idea is not a new one. Three years ago paleontologist Caleb Brown proposed to his partner Lorna O'Brien in a paper on the discovery of a relative of the Triceratops.
Even if plagiarized, Long's idea is much better than some of the truly awful acknowledgments that have been reported using the #thanksfortyping hashtag on Twitter, set off by examples of authors who thanked their wives for typing the paper (and sometimes doing much of the research), but didn't even refer to them by name.