I edit a journal. I am doing final editing on a paper that’s almost ready to go to print. And I realize that the references haven’t been checked yet.* Too late to ask someone else, so I do it myself.
And a funny thing happened.
The first reference in the body of the paper was the first one in the alphabetical list of references at the end of the paper. No biggie.
But then the second reference in the body was the second in alphabetical order.
I didn’t see the pattern until I was almost done. But here are the authors in order of mention in the paper:
Bardhan and Walker 
Chen, Roll and Ross 
Clark-Neely and Wheelock 
Paletta and Scannell 
And what came after Shiers? Sorry folks; Zou, Miller and Malamud’s  paper was mentioned a few sentences before Zimmerman .
What are the odds? The paper had 10 references. The odds are 1 in 10 that the first paper mentioned would be first alphabetically. After that there are 9 more left, so the odds of the second paper mentioned being second alphabetically are 1 in 9. But, the odds of both of them turning out that was are now 1 in 90. Do the math: the odds of 8 papers appearing in alphabetical order is 1,814,400 to 1.
FWIW: The paper will appear on the website next week.
* For those who aren’t academics, when you publish a paper in a journal, items are referenced in the body of the paper in some sort of shorthand, and a complete references appear at the end of the article. Checking references means making sure everything that’s in the body is also in the back.
My university now lists “Pre-General Studies” as a major.
I think this is more of an internal designation than an actual major … but even so.
And how did I come across this gem? have a full class, and was looking for students who hadn’t showed up for the first week to drop so that people on the wait list could get in. My Pre-General Studies major hasn’t been to class yet. I feel shocked.
Saturday, August 4 - Men's 10k Finals Watch the race on NBC, set to air at 4:15 p.m.
Wednesday, August 8 - Men's 5k Preliminaries Watch recaps of the race, anticipated to air on NBC at 10:45-11 a.m. and 1:15-2 p.m., or watch a live video stream of the event at 3 a.m. online at nbcolympics.com.
Saturday, August 11 - Men's 5k Finals The 5k final is anticipated to be shown during NBC's primetime coverage from 8 p.m. to Midnight. A live video stream of the track finals, including the men's 5k, can be seen on nbcolympics.com beginning at 11:45 a.m.
* The title is drawn from Firesign Theatre’s Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers. In middle-age, I’ve found that professional jealousy tends to keep many people from tooting the horn for others, so if I toot my own horn here at vX, at least I’ll try not to take it too seriously.
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