Falling star

November 18, 1994

The University of Glasgow has good and bad news from John "Fred" Brown, professor in the department of physics and astronomy. The bad news is that he feels "obliged to resign my post" and fellowship of the Royal Astronomical Society over a "shameful faux pas" he committed in the scientific literature.

He attributed an apocryphal story to Sir Fred Hoyle that was in fact a real statement made by Sir Arthur Eddington, who said: "in a not too distant future we shall be competent to understand so simple a thing as a star." The good news is that Professor Brown may use his letter of retraction, which was published in The Observatory, to count towards Glasgow's next research assessment exercise. He suggests "as a parting gesture to the integrity of my subject" that the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council introduce an ASAI (Apocryphal Story Authenticity Index) in future assessments.

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