The ‘Aldrich reaction’

Do you have a star or an asteroid named for you? Me neither. Nor have I discovered anything new on this planet of ours or in this universe or even so much as published a book that is “soon to be a major” anything.

Thinking on this sometimes leaves me feeling a little empty inside, so thanks for depressing me today, me.

There are many ways of achieving the immortality, or really, a slightly more famous mortality, that I desire. One of them, a Twitter bot named VanityScience, made its debut last week. The product of the imagination of a mathematician and columnist for Wired magazine named Samuel Arbesman, it promises one randomly generated “eponym” per hour. If you are a follower of the account, you will be awarded an eponym and thus have something named for you. Eponym is the word for the person for whom a discovery is named, like Alzheimer’s disease or Friedreich’s ataxia. But it can be good things, too.

The most recent eponym generated while I was writing tonight is this:

Yes, it is mine. All mine. The “Aldrich reaction” in the field of sociology. Named for me. For the length of time we like to call forever.

(I requested neither the field nor the type of discovery or previously unnamed phenomenon. The bot coincidentally came up with what may be, for me, the very best one possible. It may do the same for you.)

The laws in physics or corollaries in sociology (my field of expertise, as it turns out, so please refer all your sociology questions to me, @here) or principles in mathematics that the VanityScience bot names for its followers are not specified. That is why it is free, available only on Twitter, and has the word “vanity” in its name. But I do not think that this means the “Aldrich reaction” does not truly exist in the world or is not a recognizable reaction in society. I, a lover of humanity and all whom I meet student of humankind’s social structures, and a longtime encounterer of people, certainly have reactions.

I think the Aldrich reaction is an observable fact in sociology and thus worthy of study. In fact, I would say that it has been my life-long endeavor to make the world understand the Aldrich reaction.

There are many Twitter bots out there, from Tofu, which I do not fully understand as I have not played with it, to the grand Pentametron, which scours the Twitterverse for tweets that happen to be written in iambic pentamter and rhyme with one another, pairs them, and then re-tweets the resulting random couplet.

What happens when Twitter bots follow each other? Do we all become characters in Philip K. Dick story? Are we not already?

The creator of the Vanity Science bot explained his project in a blog post for Wired, “Vanity Science: Eponyms, Knowledge, and Twitter,” a title that in its precision actually obfuscates what it is about. The title should have been, “Vanity Science and the Arbesman Pride Rule (psychology): I Have Invented the Greatest Twitter Bot.”

Please comment here. Thank you, Mark.

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