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Is it unprofessional to write (in a paper) that something is "really cool", for example, when describing a colliding black hole simulation?

  • If you simply want to transfer to the reader the experiment is cool you can use other words. Conider explaining why it is cool. It may make you paper more robust. – raam86 Sep 30 '12 at 1:01
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    Would it be okay to write that colliding black holes are groovy? Keen? Fab? Gear? Phat? Spiffy? Ace? Grouse? The bee's knees? The cat's pajamas? Totally bitchin? The new hottness? Hella wicked? Da bomb? Off the chain? All that and a bag of chips? – JeffE Sep 30 '12 at 1:53
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    You could say that something is "cool" if it has a relatively low temperature, "really cool" if there is some possibility of doubt but you can prove that it is true. – Joel Reyes Noche Sep 30 '12 at 2:17
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    Similarly, you could say that something is "groovy" if it has a lot of grooves. – Joel Reyes Noche Sep 30 '12 at 2:21
  • @JeffE I am now trying to think of experiments in which I might reasonably be able to work in one or more of your terms. – StrongBad Sep 30 '12 at 10:08
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In addition to Dave's answer, I'd say that in general, subjectivity is not very professional when writing academic papers. The point is to convince the reader by presenting only objective argument. Somehow, if I read a paper with something like "it's cool, it's amazing, that's the best, etc", then I might think that the author just ran out of objective arguments.

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    +1 The main problem here is with subjectiveness, not (only) - with informal language. Even referring to one's own results as 'interesting' or 'valuable' may be unprofessional. Anyway, if it's 'cool' for someone, you don't need to write it; if it isn't - such claims sound ridiculous. Moreover, it may show lack of distance/objectiveness on one's own work. – Piotr Migdal Sep 29 '12 at 17:49
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    I don't think this is a matter of subjectivity alone. Subjective descriptions of other people's work are common. For example, it's perfectly legitimate to describe someone else's paper as a breakthrough. The primary issue here is that it is unprofessional to praise your own work. (And even for other people's work, "really cool" is too informal. You could easily get away with saying "User 17670's remarkable simulations of colliding black holes", but not "User 17670's really cool simulations...".) – Anonymous Mathematician Sep 30 '12 at 15:44
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It sounds unprofessional and unscientific. Imagine also your readers in 30 years, what will they think? They may not even take the paper seriously. Indeed, current potential readers may not take the paper seriously.

What would you think if you read an old paper that describes a black hole simulation as "groovy"?

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    I can see where you are coming from (thanks for the answer by the way). However, isn't the appreciation of the 'coolness' of 'theory x' independent from the scientific rigour that 'theory x' is subject to? How could one convey, in a more professional manner, that something is cool? Or is this best avoided entirely as being too 'emotional' for academic (esp. scientific) publication? – User 17670 Sep 29 '12 at 16:19
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    You could write in a way that conveys your enthusiasm. Most stuff we do is intrinsically cool, albeit to a small group of people (sometimes just one person). – Dave Clarke Sep 29 '12 at 16:32
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    @User17670 My go-to word for "really cool" is elegant. 'This elegant simulation of the dynamics of a black hole captures...' – Fomite Sep 30 '12 at 1:38
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    You're off here. The word cool has been cool for generations, and will probably remain so for quite some time. It has staying power. That doesn't mean it's appropriate in a scientific paper, but the probability is that it won't date nearly so badly as groovy. – TRiG Sep 30 '12 at 2:03
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    @TRiG: Yeah, sure. Tell it to the Marines. – JeffE Sep 30 '12 at 20:49

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