Vol. 3, Issue 1, Jan 2013

Dec 312012

We are proud to present the fifth issue of the Journal of Unsolved Questions. In this issue titled “Scientific Labor” you can read first-hand reports of what “doing science” means to different scientists. In our leading article C. Attaccalite and S. Barland have investigated trends in condensed matter physics and ask themselves if research is going faster and faster. And just maybe you can find an answer to our open questions like: “Who Was the Sexologist ‘Carl van Bolen’?” or “Is Henderson’s Theorem Practically Useful?”.

Enjoy the new issue and let us know what you think in the comments!

— David Huesmann on behalf of the Editorial Board

Journal of Unsolved Questions, Volume 3, Issue 1, Jan 2013
Dec 312012

“Science is what scientists do, and there are as many scientific methods as there are individual scientists.”
— Percy W. Bridgman

To the public, ‘science’ is primarily an abstract authority in questions of knowledge. Mostly, contact with this authority is limited to the products of scientific work, while the inner workings of science usually remain hidden behind the walls of research institutions, laboratories, and offices. What do people actually do when they ‘do science’? The actual day-to-day work behind the scenes is most often not nearly as organized and systematic as the finished products in academic journals and by far not as glamorous as contemporary scientific mega-conferences may suggest. Doing science is first and foremost a mere form of labor, a mundane but complex practice, a way of going about things and getting things done which depends on the right time, place, people or mood to produce scientific knowledge. For this issue of JUnQ, we asked scholars from various disciplines to share their experiences and views upon the labor of science and invited them to reflect upon and give us an insight in their daily work as a scientist or scientific writer. What does ‘good’ scientific labor mean to those who do it? What, in their eyes, makes for ‘good’ (enough?) scientific work?

Read more: Scientific Labor

Dec 312012

Dear Reader,

This issue’s editorial note marks a transition: The editorial responsibilities are hereby handed over to the next generation of editors. For this reason, the editorial note is divided into two parts: First a JUnQ “veteran” will explain what it meant to put JUnQ together in the past years — in other words, what the “Labor of JUnQ” entailed. Then a JUnQ “apprentice” will present his point of view.


When I think about the actual labor of putting together an issue of JUnQ, my thoughts jump around a bit, hit the ceiling, and like popcorn in the microwave they fall back down to where they came from: My desk at home, untidy as usual. As always when working for JUnQ it is evening after 8 o’clock and I am sitting here trying to write a decent — or let’s be honest: awesome — piece of text. In these moments my little bathing duck called Ente Einheitswurzel, which – for lack of a big bath tub – ended up here, stares at me reassuringly. “Come on”, it seems to say “do it for JUnQ”. Ever since we put together the very first issue of JUnQ its glance has been unvarying in these moments. What has changed since then are the challenges that Ente Einheitswurzel’s cheer refers to.
Trying to assemble the first issue, the most difficult and important task was to convince potential authors of writing an article or open question for us. I sometimes say tongue-in-cheek that we promised friends home-made cake to charm them into making a contribution. This is imprecise: In actuality, we made a lot of friends by asking new acquaintances whether they could write a piece. With some it immediately sparked and we found ourselves discussing the significance of negative results for the next three hours.
At a certain point these long discussions about negative results and honesty in science started to include the whole Federal Republic of Germany. During the plagiarism scandal involving Minister of Defense zu Guttenberg more newspapers and radio stations wanted to talk with JUnQ, this grass-root project that promotes honesty, elaborateness, and truthfulness in science, than we ever thought existed. Interview after interview was given and we argued, discussed, debated, elaborated the virtues and advantages of our newly born journal.
The talking paid off. It solved the problem of having to actively search for authors and we could concentrate on the more creative part of making JUnQ — writing. From the second issue on the most laborious task of a JUnQ issue has been the creation of a journalistic part. Finding a topic that appeals to lots of readers, composing interviews, articles, essays, and proofreading what other editorial board members wrote are to this day the most time-consuming but to me also the most rewarding aspects of the labor of JUnQ — if you overcome this nasty “angst of the blank page”.
By the second issue of the second volume the “angst of the blank page” had entirely turned into a “concern of the blank future”. As the founding generation of JUnQ was approaching their last few months of Ph.D. work a new generation of editors had to be found and trained. Professionalization of procedures and structures and the search for new editorial board members were the distinctive features of this period and we are very proud to have succeeded. We are happy to welcome David Huesmann, Stephan Köhler, Stefan Kuhn, Robert Lindner and Felix Spenkuch as new members of our main editorial board. Another addition to our team is junior- professor Thomas Kühne, our newly appointed senior editor, whose help is already most valuable to us.
I hereby gave the reader a real, genuine, open-hearted account of my labor for JUnQ. The problem with every real and genuine account is, though, that it lies in human nature to make a coherent story out of anything. Details that do not support the narrative are easily discarded and forgotten. The account stays true — no lies told — but there is most certainly never a one-to-one correspondence with reality. The present issue deals with exactly this area of conflict. In “Scientific Labor” scientists from different disciplines give their real and genuine account of how science is actually done and how science works behind the scenes. I would like to thank them for their willingness to face this unusual task and for the wonderful results.
For me it is now time to say goodbye to JUnQ. New challenges lie ahead and starting from January I will merely have “advisory” status in the JUnQ editorial board. But you can be sure that Ente Einheitswurzel and I will be cheering for JUnQ forever.

— Leonie Mück


As a freshly minted editor for JUnQ it is my duty and pleasure to address you here. As I am a theoretical physicist by training I have only little experience in writing texts that are not highly technical. So I apologize for the sudden change in style you might be experiencing. But don’t be alarmed, just take your usual dose of JUnQ and you will get used to it in a few issues.
It was the possibility to experience what working for a scientific journal entails, that drew me to JUnQ. I attended my first editorial meeting blissfully unaware of the day to day business of running a journal. Sure, I knew about the peer review system and about null results and their importance, a large amount of which I picked up during events organized by the previous editorial board, but the correspondence with authors, coming up with a topic for the journalistic part and many other minutiae were nothing I had actively thought about before. So I spent the first couple of editorial board meetings trying to soak up the working culture of an editorial board, making mental notes of all the things that have to be dealt with in order to produce the finished product you are holding in your hands, or more likely, reading on your computer screen, right now.
In the following months I was systematically confronted with the duties of an editor: judging contributions and then finding referees to evaluate them in detail, formatting and proof reading the contributions and finding interesting questions for our weekly blog. During this last task the previously mentioned fear of the blank page struck. How was I supposed to come up with a good questions that readers might find interesting? I spend nearly two days looking around the internet but couldn’t find anything. Then, on my way home from work I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts. The hosts were discussing a topic I might just be able to work into a question. It was not from my field, so I had to spend quite a bit of time reading up on it to feel reasonably comfortable writing about it. Since then I came across more questions to write about and in my second run the whole process was already much faster.
One of the things I find most interesting in my work for JUnQ is the broad spectrum of disciplines that are covered. As you can read in the rest of this issue, topics ranging from the theory of soft matter to masturbation are covered. This is a fascinating opportunity to get an idea of what other researchers do. Or in the case of the current issue even how they do it, a perspective that one doesn’t get during the everyday lab work. Usually a researcher’s view is very narrow and a physicist is already considered interdisciplinary if he is working with physical chemists. It is more than easy to imagine how often I would come across research from e.g. the humanities if it weren’t for JUnQ.
I don’t have a guardian duck (yet) encouraging me from my desk, only a cheat sheet for my research project is glaring at me from below my monitor. But still, I am hoping the new editorial board can continue to produce a journal that you, the reader, finds interesting. My fellow editors and I at least are excited about the opportunity to continue the journey.

— Stephan Köhler

Dec 302012

Raffaello Potestio

Max-Planck-Institut für Polymerforschung, Mainz, Germany

JUnQ, 3, 1, OQ, 13-15, 2013 (Received 07.12.2012, accepted 23.12.2012, published online 30.12.2012)

Henderson’s theorem states that two potential energy functions that produce the same radial distribution function (RDF) can differ only by a constant. In the daily business of coarse-graining, though, we often face the fact that remarkably different poten- tials give rise to RDF’s which are indistinguishable within the available numerical accuracy.

Read more: Is Henderson’s Theorem Practically Useful?

Dec 302012

Wolter Seuntjens

Dutch Academy of ’Pataphysics, Amsterdam

JUnQ, 3, 1, Open Questions, 9-12, 2013 (Received 25.11.2012, accepted 6.12.2012, published online 30.12.2012)

Masturbation is often accompanied by fantasizing. Anecdotal evidence suggests that at least some people cannot fantasize about the person they are in love with while they masturbate. This putative phenomenon, the Masturbation Fantasy Paradox (MFP), may be a particular case of a more general principle put forward by Sigmund Freud in 1912.

Read more: The Masturbation Fantasy Paradox: An Overlooked Phenomenon?

Dec 302012

Johannes Beller and Juela Kazazi

Institute of Psychology, Technische Universität Braunschweig, Braunschweig, Germany

JUnQ, 3, 1, OQ, 5-8, 2013 (Received 21.08.2012, accepted 14.12.2012, published online 30.12.2012)

In German the generic masculine refers to a generalizing denotation which is grammatically masculine. For example, in the sentence “Wissenschaftler führen Studien durch” (engl. “scientists conduct studies”) “scientists” is meant to be a generic masculine, because usually one implicitly refers to both “Wissenschaftler” (“male scientists”) and “Wissenschaftlerinnen” (“female scientists”) but uses only the masculine form “Wissenschaftler”. Since the 1970s, the use of a generic masculine language, as a sexist one, has been highly debated and alternatives like a gender-fair language have been suggested, with the term gender-fair language referring to the use of formulations, which imply an equal linguistic treatment of men and women — such as in the sentence “Wissenschaftler und Wissenschaftlerinnen führen Studien durch”…

Read more: Is there an Effect of Gender-Fair Formulations in the German Language?

Nov 052012

C. Attaccalitea and S. Barlandb

aInstitut Néel, CNRS/UJF, 25 rue des Martyrs BP 166, Bâtiment D 38042 Grenoble cedex 9 France

bUniversité de Nice – CNRS UMR 7335, Institut Non Linéaire de Nice, 1361 route des lucioles, 06560 Valbonne, France

JUnQ, 3, 1, Articles, 1–5, 2013 (Received 30.08.2012, accepted 04.11.2012, published online 06.11.2012)

In this paper we study research trends in condensed matter physics. Trends are analyzed by means of the number of publications in the different sub-fields as function of the years. We found that many research topics have a similar behavior with an initial fast growth and a next slower exponential decay. We derived a simple model to describe this behavior and built up some predictions for future trends.

Read more: Trends in Condensed Matter Physics

Aug 232012

Wolter Seuntjens

Dutch Academy of ’Pataphysics, Amsterdam

JUnQ, 3, 1,Open Questions, 1-4, 2013 (Received 06.06.2012, accepted 27.06.2012, published online 23.08.2012)

In the 1950s five books on sexology — in a broad sense — were published in German under the name of ‘Carl van Bolen’. However, the man and the author ‘Carl van Bolen’ never existed. Who then wrote the books? My preliminary investigation did not yield an answer. In fact, during my research the mystery only deepened.

Read more: Who Was the Sexologist 'Carl van Bolen'?