social science

McDonald's. Dell. Chrysler. Rolls-Royce. Sears. Trump. All are companies that bear the names of their founders. Does that matter? One would think not, as Shakespeare told us, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

But new research published in the American Economic Review begs to differ. The authors, all from Duke University, claim that eponymous companies (i.e., companies named after their founders) are more successful than others.

In contrast to Shakespeare, the authors had a different hypothesis: A founder who names a company after himself is sending a signal to the market. That signal, essentially, is: "I'm such an incredibly talented person, that I guarantee my firm will succeed. To prove I mean what I say, I'm going to put my name and reputation...

Last week, a funny and clever hoax was perpetrated against a social sciences journal. The hoaxers wrote an absurd paper on how the penis is merely a social construct. And for good measure, they claimed it made climate change worse. Somehow, the paper passed peer review, and the predictable result was widespread mockery of the social sciences -- and gender studies, in particular -- across the Internet.

Not everybody was amused. A couple of critics raised legitimate objections. One of them noted that Cogent Social...

NYU physicist Alan Sokal thought very little of the research performed by his colleagues in the social sciences. To prove his point, he wrote a paper that used plenty of trendy buzz words but made absolutely no sense. As he later explained, Dr. Sokal wanted to find out if a humanities journal would "publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors' ideological preconceptions."

It would. His paper, "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity," was published in the journal Social Text in 1996, and his hoax has earned him a place in scientific history.

Dr....

Imagine you receive a phone call from a pollster. When you answer, the person on the other end asks, "For whom do you plan to vote in November: The honest and trustworthy Mr. Smith, or his lying, cheating, and disgusting opponent Mr. Jones?" Quite obviously, the pollster is trying to elicit a particular response.

This is a technique called "push polling," and it's actually far more of an advertising campaign than an attempt to discern the will of the voters. Nobody would take the results of such a poll seriously.

Gallup, a well-respected pollster, recently released the results of a poll on race relations that also asked African-Americans a loaded question: Can you think...

The contents within may be dangerous to society. (Credit: Shutterstock) The contents within may be dangerous to society. (Credit: Shutterstock)

Science can make us uncomfortable. Astronomy proved that the Earth goes around the sun, upending centuries of geocentric theology. Physics tells us that our universe will someday come to an end. DNA sequencing can reveal our true ancestry or genetic predispositions to cancer and Alzheimer's disease, forever changing our life's...