Friday, November 20, 2009

How was this investigation started?

This entry perhaps should have been posted first. I apologize for posting this late.

A frequently asked question about the recent investigation of Dr. Anilir's career is how it was started and spread recently, after the negligence over several years. Some people suspect (or try to downplay our effort by claiming) that it must come from personal resentment, which is completely wrong as you will understand by reading the following.

First, I have to clarify that what I am reporting on this blog is mostly not my own research, but result of collective efforts by many people (I also contribute as one of them, but my share is tiny.)

It seems that some people had suspicion about Dr. Anilir before. However, if you do not have a solid evidence, it would be difficult to accuse someone. It also involves certain risk.

Dr. Anilir was fairly well known, but he was not famous enough. Many people had not (and perhaps still have not) heard about him. Things might have changed a little, when an article featuring Dr. Anilir appeared as one of the "Front Runner" special series article in Asahi Shimbun (newspaper) on August 29th, 2009. Asahi is one of the largest newspapers in Japan (officially, 8 million copies are printed for every issue), and it featured him in substantial depth (full 1 and 1/2 page) -- although most of the content now seems to be fantasy. The "Front Runner" series featured, for example, Bill Gates in the past. Maybe he got more attention because of this article in Asahi Shimbun.

Then enters "2 channel" -- the largest internet forum in Japan. Most postings there are made anonymously, and the quality of the postings varies wildly. Some people (especially those in traditional mass media) tend to downplay or ridicule internet forums, especially "2 channel". In fact, occasionally, some stupid people use "2 channel" to announce criminal acts and get arrested. (You can usually maintain anonymity at "2 channel", but they keep the access log and disclose to law enforcement agencies upon official request. Announcement to kill someone is a crime by itself, so the police will investigate and ask for the log!)

On the other hand, although it is overlooked by traditional media, some serious (and often very professional) discussions also take place in "2 channel". It has many sub-forums (called ita or "boards" in "2 channel"), and several of them are devoted to sciences. On the "Sciences - General" board, there was a thread on paper submission, where people were discussing how to write a paper and go through the review process, etc.

Meanwhile, someone got to know about Dr. Anilir (maybe from the Asahi article, but I don't know) and looked at his publication list in his web page at the University of Tokyo. At a glance, it looked like a normal publication list with many papers. But he or she noticed that there was a very strange "paper" in the listing -- Physical Review Letters published by Cambridge University Press, and the article is claimed to have more than 10 pages. Anyone with some research experience in physics would immediately smell something strange. I am not sure if anybody with physics background looked at the publication list previously in Japan. Maybe someone noticed, but did not know how to deal with it. Actually, we learned that "feyerabend" (who I think also contributes to this blog) did notice the problem with PRL (and some others) and posted to Turkish internet forum(?) "sourtimes" earlier, on May 18th, 2009. Maybe our "2 channel" just has more population to start a large-scale movement.

Anyway, in Japan, the person who noticed the problem with "Physical Review Letters" paper posted the finding to the thread discussing paper submission, in "Sciences - General" board of "2 channel". It was on September 5th, 2009, just one week after the article in Asahi Shimbun. It got attention of scientists participating in the same thread, and on September 9th, a new thread to discuss exclusively the "Serkan affair" was started. The story was spread gradually over "2 channel" (especially science-related boards) and attracted quite a few scientists and engineers. I am just one of them.

Later, the information was spread not only in "2 channel" but also through other internet media. Investigation was also extended in other places, in particular at Japanese blog where the findings of "2 channel" are also summarized. This is also an interesting subject in the history of this affair, but let me stop here for now. I just mention that the "Serkan affair thread" in "2 channel" is now 10th in its series. Every thread is closed after 1,000 postings, so there have been almost 10,000 postings in the "Serkan affair thread" so far.

Anyhow, the current investigation was ignited by the anonymous posting in "2 channel" on September 5th. Most of the people involved in the investigation, including myself, did not know about Dr. Anilir before that epoch-making posting, so there was not even a chance to have any personal resentment. It is also interesting to recall that "2 channel" is often regarded as a crazy, underground place, especially by traditional media. At least concerning Dr. Anilir, however, it quickly accumulated most precise information which was not known by newspapers or authorities like the University of Tokyo.


  1. Replies

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  2. Hi Nakres,

    Thanks for sharing with us how this all started. Still the question, how he got away with his fake identity past ten years is not answered, which is obviously has nothing to do with you.

    What do you think? What is the reason he kept unnoticed for ten years. Or we should say, he was noticed before by many, but nobody took action (as said in one of the posts). What is your opinion how this could be happened?


  3. Hi Anonymous,

    Well, I also want to know "how he got away with his fake identity"!
    To answer that, I think we need to know what happened first.

    Yes, maybe someone noticed some problems before, but I don't really know. Even if you notice a problem, it might be not easy to stand up. Also, if you do not see the full scale of the problem, you might downplay the finding as a minor problem.

  4. He is cool we are fool :)
    Did you like the movie "Catch Me If You Can?"

  5. I hope he learned how to perform seppuku after all those years in Japan. I'm terribly ashamed of him as a fellow Turk. I don't know if it means anything but I want to apologize in the name of that crook.

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