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PNAS forgets basic principles of game theory, thus dooming thousands of Bothans to the fate of Alderaan

Under the subject line, “I needed this information to make a go/no-go decision on my new Death Star,” Kevin Lewis points to this press release from a prestigious journal:

Because versions of the below articles were previously posted online, PNAS is publishing the articles without embargo:

Potential atmospheres around TRAPPIST-1 planets

Simulations of stellar winds and atmospheric ion escape rates for the seven recently discovered Earth-sized planets orbiting the ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 indicate that the outer planets of the TRAPPIST-1 system may be capable of retaining their atmospheres over billion-year timescales, a crucial requirement for surface-based planetary habitability.

Lewis asks: Why was this under embargo?

My reply: I suppose that once the news has leaked to the Rebel Alliance, there’s no need to embargo it anymore.

Lewis responds: Ah, that is where your strategic instincts fail you. If the information remained under embargo, the rebels might have assumed that the empire did not have the information. And many Bothans would have had to die to confirm the leaked information.

Damn! We’ve all known that PNAS has weaknesses in its social science coverage, and here we can see the real-world consequences of this deficit.

One Comment

  1. Clyde Schechter says:

    Most of the medical journals I have published in have a policy of distributing pre-publication copies of selected articles to a network of science reporters, and perhaps others, under the terms that reporting on them is embargoed until the actual date of publication. This policy, I imagine, is designed to protect the economic value of their copyrights on the material.

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