The Rowan Sarchasmic Index

The World’s Fair invites us to make a bid for scientific immortality:

… this meme asks that you come up with your own scientific eponym. What’s that exactly? Well, first read this excellent primer by Samuel Arbesman, which basically provides a step by step description of how to do this effectively. Then have a go at your own blog. If all goes well, I’d like to create a page at the Science Creative Quarterly, that collects (and links to) the good ones.

Janet, Chad, ScienceWoman and Steve have already taken up the challenge. Appropriately enough, I’ve just been reminded that my tendency to be ever-so-slightly sarcastic can be lost on some people, so it’s clear that the world is crying out for a way of quantifying the “sarchasm” – the perceptive gap that makes the person you’re talking to take even patently ridiculous statements seriously. Hence Rowan’s Sarchasmic Index:


A small or negative &DeltaS means that you are on the same wavelength, and witty repartee can ensue; a large &Delta&S means that there is a substantial risk that the person you are talking to will insist on thinking that you actually mean everything you say, with all the blank stares and possible drink-throwing that might imply.
The ironic susceptibility – a person’s ability to pick up on sarcasm – can be shown to rely on a number of factors:


Obviously, if someone knows you well they are more likely to understand where you’re coming from. Britain is the home of deadpan humour and irony, so time spent there will give you a better familiarity with the conventions of the genre. Most importantly, interactions with creationists, woo-meisters and denialists of all stripes, who are in the habit of making utterly ridiculous statements which they do actually mean, causes serious damage to irony meters, which then need to be recalibrated by a period of exposure to rational people.
Clearly, then, my social ineptitude is their fault.

Categories: bloggery

Comments (5)

  1. NJ says:

    For those of us on the other side of the pond, you might have to include a term for the amount of exposure to British culture.
    I didn’t really develop a good sense of irony and dry humor until I started dating a girl in high school (Fiona, her name was!) whose parents were British expats.
    In comparing meals with my family versus hers, it was clear the ‘sarchasm’ was oceanic indeed.

  2. Kim says:

    I love it. 😀
    I especially like the e^-Td term… which implies that every encounter with a denialist sets one’s ironic susceptibility back to zero, and make the sarchasm equal to the cynicism of the speaker! (And also that effect takes an infinite amount of time to completely disappear.)
    This explains why I am entirely incapable of recognizing snark about geology (particularly climate change and the age of the earth): I encounter at least one denialist student every year.

  3. Laelaps says:

    Very nice. I’m working on formulating the “Switek Effect” (I would prefer an “effect” over a “rule” or “law,” although a “dictum” wouldn’t be half bad).

  4. Stefan says:

    There is a time constant missing in the exponential for the ironic susceptibility 😉

  5. BrianR says:

    Love it…nice work.