Notorious Star Trek: Voyager episode forms basis of fake scientific paper

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Feb 16, 2018

An episode that many fans consider a low point for Star Trek: Voyager has now proven to be somewhat useful.

The episode in question is "Threshold," which aired as the 15th segment of the show's second season back in 1996. In that painful hour of television, ship's helmsman Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill) manages to break the Warp 10 speed barrier for the first time in a shuttlecraft, except that doing so somehow causes him to mutate into a new form of life that eventually comes to resemble an amphibian.

As if that isn't bad enough, mutated Tom kidnaps Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and takes her on a Warp 10 joyride, which turns her into an amphibian as well—and then the two mate and produce three little amphibians who are sadly left behind on a planet when a method is found to revert the parents back to human form.

Pretty ridiculous, which makes it even more mind-boggling that somebody actually managed to get a fake paper based on the same idea accepted by four different scientific journals and published by one of them.

According to (via io9), an unnamed biologist came up with the paper as a way to show how easy it is these days to get fake science into so-called "predatory" scientific journals, which accept money to publish papers without bothering to check them for the quality of their writing, research or even basic accuracy.

The anonymous scientist submitted the paper, titled “Rapid Genetic and Developmental Morphological Change Following Extreme Celerity," after seeing a similar treatise about the infamous midichlorians from the Star Wars prequels show up in three different supposedly peer-reviewed journals.

The Voyager-themed paper was clearly a fake: the scientist penned it under the names of six Voyager characters, made mention of breaking the warp barrier and thanked both Voyager producer Brannon Braga and the United Federation of Planets at the end, among other references. Yet with all these glaring red flags, it was still published by the American Research Journal of Biosciences, which has since yanked the paper after being shamed by the media.

Apparently the subject of scientific journals publishing poorly written and researched papers has been under investigation since 2015, and the fact that completely made-up papers based on sci-fi stories have managed to get published twice in the past two years shows that the problem isn't going away anytime soon.

But if "Threshold," which Braga himself (who wrote the thing) once called a "royal, steaming stinker" on its DVD commentary track, has helped bring more attention to the issue, then it's possibly redeemed its miserable existence.