Thought this was cool: What is the funniest research paper you have ever read?
“A Mathematical Model for the Determination of Total Area
Under Glucose Tolerance and Other Metabolic Curves”
In 1993, a nutrition scientist at NYU claimed to have invented a novel and highly accurate method for determining the area under metabolic curves. She named the method after herself and dedicated it to her parents.
Tai’s model was developed to correct the deficiency of under- or overestimation of the total area under a metabolic curve. This formula also allows calculating the area under a curve with unequal units on the X-axis. The strategy of this mathematical model is to divide the total area under a curve into individual small segments such as squares, rectangles, and triangles, whose areas can be precisely determined according to existing geometric formulas. The area of the individual segments are then added to obtain the total area under the curve.
The paper was published in the peer-reviewed journal Diabetes Care, which is run by the American Diabetes Association and has a very respectable impact factor of 8.087. The paper currently has 173 citations, mostly from the diabetes literature.
Most people with high school math will realize that Tai is describing the trapezoidal rule, a classic method attributed to Newton, i.e. circa 1600s.
A year later, in response to what must have been significant amounts of backlash, Tai wrote an emotional letter to the journal defending herself:
While a doctoral candidate working on my dissertation at Columbia University in 1981, I needed to calculate total area under a curve. During a session with my statistical advisor, and after examining several alternative methods, I worked out the model in front of him. The concept behind it is obviously common sense, and one does not have to consult the trapezoid rule to figure it out. The trapezoid rule is really not Nobel Prize material, such as the double helix or jumping genes. I also used the formulas to calculate the areas of a square or a triangle without knowing whose rules were being followed. Fortunately, I do not have to answer that for you.
I never thought of publishing the model as a great discovery or accomplishment; it was not published until 14 years later, in 1994. Because of its accuracy and easy application, many colleagues at the Obesity Research Center of St Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center and Columbia University began using it and addressed it as “Tai’s formula” to distinguish it from others. Later, because the investigators were unable to cite an unpublished work, I submitted it for publication at their requests. Therefore, my name was rubber-stamped on the model before its publication.
My intention in publishing the model is therefore to share, rather than to gain honor or glory with its publication, because there is none. Many other investigators probably thought about the same thing, but maybe they did not bother to follow up or produce a model (or the same model). You indicated that I probably did work this out on my own and I am grateful for your “probability,” because I did indeed do so with a witness present. Maybe I can address the model as my creation based on fact rather than your doubtful “probability.” Besides, if I do not address the model as “Tai’s,” other investigators who wish to cite it will.
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