Deviating momentarily from our theme of light, and the famous scientists who were involved in figuring out its properties, here is some light relief, concerning scientists who never actually existed:
- The Italian Stronzo Bestiale appeared as a co-author in many erudite physics papers connecting fractal geometry, irreversibility, and the second law of thermodynamics, along with the U.S. scientists Bill Moran and William G. Hoover. Until Bestiale joined them, their papers were being rejected. But Moran and Hoover had simply made this person up, and named him after hearing two Italian women on an aeroplane constantly referring to someone called “stronzo bestiale,”, which they discovered was not actually a person’s name, but meant “total asshole”. You can even get a T-shirt “I’m friends with Stronzo Bestiale”.
- The mathematician Nicolas Bourbaki is actually the pseudonymous cover for a group of anonymous (mainly French) mathematicians who set out to revolutionize mathematics in the early part of the twentieth century. “Bourbaki” authored a number of books, and to this day the “Bourbaki group” (Association des collaborateurs de Nicolas Bourbaki) has an office in Paris.
- Monsieur le Blanc was another French mathematician who made many important discoveries, and impressed such famous mathematicians such as Lagrange and Gauss. But Monsieur le Blanc was actually a woman, Sophie Germaine, who had been forced to assume a male identity (that of a dead student) because women were banned from universities.
- Finally, Dundee, M. is referenced in a paper of mine as an Australian expert. He is, of course, Mick “Crocodile” Dundee.