If Academia Worked Like Music


You are an associate professor at the Fakeland University of Common Knowledge (FUCK). After years of hard work with your best friends Ethan and Albert (they go by Et and Al), you have 12 manuscripts you call "demos".

You rent a lab space, larger and more professional than the one in your basement. The staff help you with cameras and stuff.

After a two-week-long lab session, you take everything to your producer Oliver Leaf, who has every tool imaginable for LaTeX typesetting. He has the ability to get Nature to accept a CVS receipt.

Over the duration of three months you sit together with Et, Al and Oliver to discuss what looks best in print. Sometimes it feels like torture. You commission artist Tik Zeichner to create a striking book cover.

At the printing press, the .tex files are compiled to .pdf, printed out, and bound into a hardcover. You and your friends each take a copy and shoot some promotional photos.

For the paper videos, you and Et Al do experiments in the most random places: on a frozen lake, in bed, on top of a skyscraper, etc. Contrary to what the video shows, the blowtorch doesn't actually melt quartz glass. At the end you smash a few Erlenmeyer flasks in slomo just cause you can.

The opening paper is released along with its paper video. It's a smash hit (pun intended), although you had to cut the discussion entirely for the radio mix. One month later, you drop a more opinionated paper. It sparks controversy among your fanbase, which is needed for hype.

The marketing team is working hard to plaster every billboard in every city with your abstract. Soon it becomes impossible to end a conversation without mentioning your name.

On the day the book drops, you announce a world tour, which would be quite accurate if North America and Europe were the only two continents. But hey, Mexico technically counts as "Latin America" right?

You show up at a surprise book signing party at a parking lot, before the police show up and cancel it. Your 20,000 fans are disappointed and soon riot. You narrowly escape.

After a dozen interviews and promotional photoshoots, you read on the news that your book is "generally favorable". It's only been ten days but there's at least a hundred videos reproducing your reactions (called "reaction videos"), or cover a part thereof ("covers"). Most are cringe.

Like everything else, ticket prices skyrocketed over the pandemic. A general admission ticket that used to cost 50 now costs 187. Your fans are complaining how TicketPastorĀ® monopolizes live research.

Opening for you on the tour are undergrads who work in the lab next door. But they specialize in wireless communication, a topic you doubt your audience is interested in. Their antenna had grounding issues and there was a constant hum.

The crew help the undergrads clean up their workbench and leave. Then you enter the stage. Thunderous cheering. Et and Al walk on stage. More cheering. Neon signs that read "Your Research Saved My Life". You know that isn't true; they saved themselves.

Your setlist opens with the opening chapter in the book, which segues into chapter 2. You then perform experiments from your previous books. The sixth paper requires a pot of beewax, so you move through the crowd to the Bee stage. The crowd cheers as you pass, trying to touch you without consent.

The crew shove a portable table into the mosh pit for them to hold up. Al leaps off and surfs to the table, where he dilutes stock solutions into 0.001M phosphate buffered saline. At the end, he throws one empty test tube into the pit. That's gotta sell for a hundred bucks on ebay.

The show is over and you are exhausted. Some diehard fans, who you recall seeing just the night before, have waited two hours at the crew exit. Sure, instagram, tiktok, whatever. You crawl back into your touring van and basically just sleep there.

Eleven months later, just as the tour is over, the RIAA (Research Industry Association of Anywhere) informs you that your book has been certified gold, which means it has sold 500k copies, where 150 library checkouts counts as one copy. It would have been way sooner if there wasn't so many Sci-Hubbers out there, but then you remember Sci-Hub saving your ass as an undergrad, so you can't really blame them.

Time for more manuscripts.