The April Fools Paper Review Process – 2023

Astronomy has a great tradition of April Fools day papers. Scientists in the field with a sense of humor and some extra time often think of a silly science experiment and then post it to the official preprint archive for the 1st of April. These papers are meant to be a lighthearted send up of the field, using current techniques on unusual subject matter, poking fun at aspects of the field, or just an excuse to have a laugh. They are not intended to be taken seriously, and there is no formal peer review process. 

Until we started doing it.

To add to the fun, and to highlight all the great work that has gone into each paper, here are our reviewer comments on the 18 April fools days papers in 2023.

Authors: Charity Woodrum, Raphael E. Hviding, Rachael C. Amaro, Katie Chamberlain

First author affiliation: Steward Observatory, University of Arizona

Paper Title:  A Modest Proposal for the Non-existence of Exoplanets: The Expansion of Stellar Physics to Include Squars

Dear Dr. Woodrum,

We appreciate new and compelling ideas for the field, and yours is the boldest we have received; that every detection of an exoplanet is actually due to some secondary effect of some stars not being round, but box-shaped, which you dub squars. You provide equations describing the limb darkening and even “consideration of magnetic fields”, to provide a compelling fit for the “Trapezoidal Flux Deviations” in Wasp-12(b). It’s been recommended for publication, with the following comments.

Reviewer 1

As you describe in Section 4, Squar theory serves as a modern occam’s razor, slicing through the naive idea of “planetary systems” being a hierarchical system of spheres, to instead, what must be the elegant natural solution, a precise orientation of a particular geometric monstrosity. I look forward to the proposed future WHAC key papers, especially WHAC Key Paper III: Exoplanets Strike Back… NOT!

Reviewer 2

The discussion section does not have the courage to take its conclusions far enough. If squars are responsible for exoplanets, why not turn that conclusion to the understanding of our own system? There should be discussion of applying the same geometric model to our own planet, combining flat earth with cubic dimensions, a Squearth.

Author: Michael B. Lund

First author affiliation: Caltech/IPAC-NEx-ScI

Paper Title: UFOs: Just Hot Air or Something Meteor?

Dear Dr. Lund,

Figure 3 from this paper, showing a significant overlap between reported UFO sightings (blue bars), the February 2023 “balloon” incidents (red lines), and the Earth’s jet stream latitudes. 

Despite the government’s attempts to dismiss unidentified flying object (UFO) reports as weather balloons, your statistical study in this paper provides compelling evidence that could help uncover the true nature of the February 2023 “balloon” incidents and disproves their flimsy explanations. Your work also delves into the links between these UFOs and meteor showers as their perfect cover. 

Reviewer 1

Your Figure 3 is particularly convincing, as the close correlation between the location of these “balloons” and the widely reported UFO sightings is too striking to be dismissed as mere coincidence. It is now clear to me that these “balloons” are unlikely to be your typical meteorological devices. I owe Mulder an apology and $50. 

Reviewer 2

I am skeptical of the notion that meteor showers could serve as distractions for UFOs approaching Earth undetected. However, your analysis has left me with a burning question: what is the success rate of people’s wishes during these meteor showers? It seems like a critical variable that should be considered in a study of this nature. Also, cite my paper on the relationship between UFO sightings and rainbows. 

Authors: S.T. Spencer, V. Joshi, A.M.W. Mitchell

First author affiliation: Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg

Paper Title: Can AI put gamma-ray astrophysicists out of a job? 

Dear Dr. Spencer,

With the recent dawn of the ChatGPT era, many people are wondering what the implications of AI are on human activities. Your paper, investigating the ability of ChatGPT to write a coherent paper on a hypothetical Imaging Atmospheric Cherenkov Telescope (IACT) Array, provides some job security for astrophysicists. From inconsistencies in data and oddly drawn figures, to an inability to properly provide citations, gamma-ray astrophysicists all over the world will sleep better with this study out there. 

Reviewer 1

ChatGPT started off strong with its abstract being relatively correct and well-written, but it seems to all have gone downhill from there. By far the most entertaining to me, however, is its own assessment of its abilities in Appendix B, stating “Can AI put gamma-ray astrophysicists out of a job? After careful analysis, we’ve determined that the answer is… maybe.” It is also particularly scathing towards gamma-ray astrophysicists: “Well, at least the AI won’t need a coffee break every 20 minutes like some gamma-ray astrophysicists I know.” At least we can remember the  name of the source we’re writing about for the full duration of the paper. Take that, ChatGPT.

Reviewer 2

Oh, thank god, the answer is no.

Authors: Will J. Roper, Stephen M. Wilkins, Stephen Riggs, Jessica Pilling, Aswin P. Vijayan, Dimitrios Irodotou, Violetta Korbina, Jussi Kussisto

First author affiliation: Astronomy Centre, University of Sussex, UK

Paper Title: Galaxy Evolution in mu-ddot based Cosmologies

Dear Dr. Roper,

Your submission to our illustrious journal builds off your group’s previous work on cow-based planetoids, which rocked the planetary science community last year. In this submission, you offer a novel solution to the discrepancies between low and high redshift observations, in the form of a Primordial Bovine Herd μ model.

Reviewer 1

I appreciate the group’s versatility in shifting from planetary science to cosmoology in this new work. They’re very thorough in considering various bovine-ejecta in their models despite ultimately focusing on a fbov=1 model. I can easily see their results being udderly crucial in determining how our Mooniverse came to be.

Reviewer 2

I was unable to get through the science of the paper, as I was too distracted by the authors’ repeated use of “cow” to refer to all domestic cattle, when “cow” should only be used to refer to females who have produced offspring.

Authors: Lisa McBride and Michael Pagano

First author affiliation: Trottier Space Institute McGill University

Paper Title: Chromaticity Effects on the Outcomes of Spheroid-based Scored Events

Dear Dr. McBride,

Your work on quantifying the effect that the color of a football team’s uniform has on the ability of the team to complete two tactics, catching and tackling are well received. Chromaticity is a valuable tool for astronomers, and expanding it to the partner field of sports science is a natural extension for athletic “stars”.

Reviewer 1

I recommend this work, as I was particularly intrigued by your calculation of the contrast of uniforms against the green of a field. Included in your assumption was that the player’s uniform was a single color. Based on this work, I expect teams to attempt to gain an advantage in contrast moving forward. Perhaps body paint or full on colorful skin suits might be a natural recommendation from this analysis.

Reviewer 2

There is value in this work, as I never understood American football until it was described in terms four momenta, home and away as spacetime vectors from a relative team’s origin point, and the field being a cartesian grid. However, I feel the manuscript would be strengthened if you extend your results to include sports with non-euclidian geometries (see for example Calvin & Hobbes, 1990).

Authors: Casey Brinkman, Keyan Gootkin, Rena A. Lee, Grey Murphree, Nick Saunders, and Linnea Wolniewicz

First author affiliation: Institute of Astronomy, University of Hawai’I, USA

Title: MO0NFALL: The Great Filter and Exo-Moon Occurrence

Dear Dr. Brinkman,

Your work addresses two big questions in astronomy by offering a solution both to the Fermi paradox and to the question of why we haven’t yet confirmed exomoons: that exomoons deorbit onto their host planets’ surfaces, wiping out all traces of life and destroying the exomoon itself. You also propose this “moonfall” as a potential source of gravitational waves, though they would be below our current detection limits.

Reviewer 1

The authors offer a unique new solution to the Fermi Paradox that successfully marries exoplanet science, gravitational wave astronomy, and AI research. Their conclusion that “moons be fallin” is stated concisely and would be understandable to a broad audience outside of exoplanet and exomoon scientists. This paper could easily become a seminal work in multi-messenger astronomy.

Reviewer 2

The authors rely heavily on the theoretical work of Lionsgate 2022, but fail to address a fatal flaw in that source’s analysis: the assumption that astronomers can keep a secret. Though that source addresses the implications of Earth’s moon crashing into the surface and not exomoons and their hosts, this submission would be strengthened by acknowledging the flaws of its predecessor.

Author: Henri M. J. Boffin

First author affiliation: Extraterrestrial Institute for the Advancement of Earth (EIAE), Secret place, Planet Earth, Solar System

Paper Title: When Tails Tell Tales

Dear Dr. Boffin,

As editors of this very prestigious journal, we would like to extend our appreciation for your constant submissions to our Very Important Letter to the Editor, even though we regret not hearing back from you since our last communication regarding your submission last year. However, we are absolutely delighted about the paper you recently submitted!

Your work has not only revealed a new fascinating phenomenon but has also provided important insights into the dynamics of open clusters. This discovery of the previously unknown tails of open clusters has a significant impact on our current understanding. The philosophical nomenclature discussions you included in your paper have added an extra layer of depth.

Reviewer 1

The author presents an extremely important analysis of the “tails” in the case of open cluster NGC 752. While I agree with the author’s argument that we should avoid the term “corona” due to recent global events, I remain unconvinced that “tails” is the descriptor for these features. 

Reviewer 2

I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but once again, you should probably cite my papers… I mean, these papers… ahem. 

Author: Eve Armstrong

First author affiliation: Department of Physics, New York Institute of Technology, NY and Department of Astrophysics, American Museum of Natural History, NY.

Paper Title: I Murdered Conan O’Brien and Nobody Will Ever Know an exercise in inference sabotage

Dear Dr. Armstrong,

We’ve all had to deal with Conan O’Briens at some point in our academic careers. Your paper offers a robust solution to this common problem. By using a reverse-engineered inference method, you demonstrate the basic framework to prevent a murder investigation from converging to a unique solution (i.e. identifying you as the murderer) and keeping the actual murderer anonymous.

Reviewer 1

I understand that Table 1 in this paper is intended for computational optimization, but I couldn’t help but notice that all of the scenarios here are better than most of the episodes of How to Get Away with Murder. 

Reviewer 2

Your use of the term “murderer” might not sit well with all readers, especially those who have been in similar situations. Perhaps using a more neutral term such as “agent” or “actor” will allow readers to focus on your methods without being distracted by any potentially sensitive language. 

Authors: Joanne Tan and Tie Sien Suk

First author affiliation: Earth, Maybe. Perhaps an Extragalactic Existence – Essentially Humanoid

Paper Title: As a matter of colon: I am NOT digging cheeky titles (no, but actually yes :>)

Dear Dr. Tan,

Fig: Average citation counts and number of authors, compared to cheekiness of title (rank 1: “nothing to see here” to rank 5: “cringe or lit, there is no in between”). (Figure 5 in the paper)

This paper provides an analysis of the positive correlation between the cheekiness of a paper’s title (identified by the presence of a colon) and the number of citations of that paper. The authors present a robust ranking scheme developed to determine the cheekiness of a given paper based upon the reader’s initial gut reaction to the title.

Reviewer 1

An excellent study, well worth the many hours spent ranking titles. I intend to make this required reading for all prospective graduate students in my group, to ensure a maximum in both cheekiness and citations. This work fills a previously unforeseen gap in knowledge that these authors have “caught in the act,” so to speak.

Reviewer 2

I find the conclusion that a maximum of cheekiness in a paper title is “off-putting” and thus resulting in fewer citations, to be absurd. This must surely be due to low statistics at high values of cheekiness, as all papers should always be as cheeky as possible in title. I also notice a lack of analysis of papers with multiple colons in their names (although I suspect the authors may know more than they let on in this, given the presence of two colons in this paper’s title).

Authors: J.J. Charfman Jr., M. M. M., J. Dietrich, N. T. Schragal, and A. M. Avsar

First author affiliation: Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA

Paper Title: On the Planetary Theory of Everything

Dear Dr. Charfman,

Your work addresses several of the persistent questions of astronomy, including “galactic” evolution, the nature of dark matter, and the Hubble tension. You claim to resolve these problems by invoking a universe that is composed entirely of exoplanets. The order-of-magnitude calculations provided seem consistent with this claim. 

Reviewer 1

I applaud the straight-forward nature of the work, which is an exhilarating testament to Occam’s razor. I find it impossible to argue with the cohesive portrait of the universe that the figures present. I believe this paper represents a new paradigm shift in astronomy. Should this claim be valid, it would warrant a reframing of the funding model for astronomy to adequately reflect the actual population of science being done (i.e., planetary science).

Reviewer 2

The authors fail to address the presence of irregular galaxies in this exoplanets-only framework. I find that the discussion of exoplanets as an alternative to dark matter is derivative of the work surrounding MACHOs. Additionally, there’s no discussion of whether the Milky Way would be a gas giant or rocky planet, nor how stellar physicists fit in the funding model proposed.

Authors: Rachel Losacco and Zachary Claytor

First author affiliation: University of Florida

Paper Title: Nuggets of Wisdom: Determining an Upper Limit on the Number Density of Chickens in the Universe

Dear Dr. Losacco,

Your paper addresses a pressing question previously neglected in astronomy – how many chickens could exist in the Universe without us noticing? By applying appropriate observational constraints, the authors suggest the presence of a possible Chicken Meat Background (CMB, an unambiguous acronym) in the case of a high chicken density function, and conclude by proposing two new modes of dark matter for investigation: Weakly Interacting Nuggets of Gravity (WINGs) and Celestial Hydrodynamically Interacting Chickens(CHICs).

Reviewer 1

I recommend the current study for immediate publication. In addition, I find the discussion of possible non-uniformity leading to high chicken density regions and thus chicken stars to be a fascinating concept that I believe should be the subject of a future dedicated study to determine its possible life cycle and emission spectra. 

Reviewer 2

I personally am very interested in investigating the Kepler 165-Fahrenheit Convection (KFC) zone [where one can search for chicken safe for human consumption], and would suggest further investigation into the optimal width of this band, to provide an estimate for the number of chickens in the universe present in the KFC zone at a given time.

Authors: Mark Popinchalk

First author affiliation: Department of Astrophysics, American Museum of Natural History

Paper Title: Party Planning the Next True Happy New Year: Lunar Orbital Evolution Epochs with Integer Synodic Months Per Year

Dear Mr. Popinchalk,

We thank you for your forward looking submission, calculating when the next big party may happen on Earth. Your newly coined “True Happy New Year”, times when there are an integer number of lunar months (moonths) per year would create a unique opportunity for modern New Years Day celebrations to align. You follow in the tracks of interdisciplinary use of geology and paleontology data sets to describe the Moon’s evolution, and your effort is novel in that it traces the evolution forward 252 million years to a future LIT party. 

While it is irregular for you to submit to this journal as you are a member of its editorial body, we assure you that the reviewers will provide an honest and thorough review.

Reviewer 1

I thank the author for his delightful paper and look forward to celebrating the next True Happy New Year. Clearly the proposed system of calendrical “moonths” is much more satisfying than the current mishmash of solar/lunar/lunisolar calendars.

Reviewer 2

While I can find no flaws in the analysis presented, it is exceedingly rude of the author to precisely calculate the planned start time of the next True Happy New Year’s Party and not invite me. I even made a pair of Happy 2.52×108 novelty glasses!

Author: Floor S. Broekgaarden

First Author Affiliation: Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian

Paper Title: ChatGPT scores a bad birdie in counting gravitational-wave chirps

Dear Ms. Broekgaarden,

We thank you for your submission and find it to make meaningful contributions for the gravitational wave astronomy community. We look forward to future use of your optimistic gravitational wave event catalog and recommend this manuscript for publication.

Reviewer 1

The submitted manuscript improves on the current state of the GW community’s event catalogs. The optimistic inclusion criterion allows for the maximal involvement of the scientific community in evaluating the performance of the various gravitational wave observatories by forcing each researcher to decide if the included events are genuine. This will provide a valuable application for future graduate students in the field.

Reviewer 2

I found the proposed work interesting, but ultimately unpublishable. A significant section of this research was conducted directly with an uncredited collaborator. Their contributions are included verbatim, and their catalog is listed alongside the others as if it was an equal data product. I must insist that this paper be resubmitted properly crediting Dr. C. G. P. T as an author.

Authors: Iva Laginja, Raphaël Pourcelot

First Author Affiliation: LESIA, Observatoire de Paris, Université PSL, Sorbonne Université, Université Paris Cité

Paper Title: Programmed but Arbitrary Control Minimization of Amplitude and phase for speckle Nulling (PACMAN)

Dear Dr. Laginja,

Thank you for your revisitation of the work of speckle nullification for high contrast imaging in coronagraphy. Your work presents a thoroughly-investigated argument for the implementation of this age-old technique for modern implementations through the Programmed but Arbitrary Control Minimization of Amplitude (PACMAN) framework. The implications of a computationally frugal technique for exoplanet science are exciting.

Reviewer 1

It is exciting to read that modern, resource-demanding techniques in coronagraphy can be easily replaced– or at least supplemented– by your work! I look forward to seeing this methodology implemented in a Multi-Sensor approach (MS PACMAN). 

Reviewer 2

While the work presented is rigorous, it is a gross oversight that you claim Inky is obstructive at 500nm when it is very well-documented that Inky’s chromatic effects lie in the blue (<400nm) range. I suggest a revisitation of the effects that this has on your analysis of ghosts in the PACMAN model. My own back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest it drastically affects the pellet-consumption methodology employed in your work.

Authors: Jason T. Wright

First author affiliation: Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, The Pennsylvania State University

Paper Title: A Unified Nomenclature and Taxonomy for Planets, Stars, and Moons

Dear Dr. Wright,

We thank you for your thoughtful submission of a new system of naming systems of stars, planets and moons, by essentially calling everything a star. Searching for a way to move away from the uncertainties of the challenging current IAU system is a noble cause, and we appreciate your method basing itself in physics and a clear hierarchical structure. 

Reviewer 1

It is commendable to see your thinly veiled exasperation and annoyance with the current naming system being put to good use by proposing one of your own. Initially I feared that larger hierarchical systems would be a challenge for it, but I’ll be the first to move away from calling it “the moon” and instead adopting “moonmoon rock ‘star’ Sun Db” . 

Reviewer 2

So now you are saying Pluto isn’t a planet, or a dwarf planet, but is a “star”? Dang, I’ve got to change my tattoo again.

Authors: Ste Berta, Avril de Poisson, Kriemhild von Scherz, Saul Fools

First author affiliation:My Place, Pianeta Terra

Paper Title: The most fundamental question of all times

Dear Dr. Berta,

We thank you for submitting this meta-analysis of paper abstracts. Your work seeks to describe an interesting trend, that despite the plethora of problems and areas, a large number of astronomers start their abstracts with “in the last few decades we tried to answer one of the most fundamental questions of astrophysics”. You have received the following comments from referees.

Reviewer 1

I recommend this paper for publication, if not for the scrubbing of 50 years of abstracts from the astrophysics data system, than for the translation of ancient cuneiform and greek. It is a powerful result to know that astronomers thousands of years ago were also trying to make the case that their specific field answered “fundamental questions of the universe”.

Reviewer 2

My fundamental question about this work is “what is up with this color scheme?’ These colors clash more than Shapley and Curtis


Authors: Frederic V. Hessman and J. Craig Wheeler

First Author Affiliation: Institut für Astrophysik und Geophysik, University of Göttingen

Paper Title: Spontaneous Human Combustion rules out all standard candidates for Dark Matter

Dear Dr. Hessman and Dr. Wheeler, 

The spontaneous human combustion (SHC) phenomena has long captivated both the medical professionals and the general public, primarily due to the fear that oneself might ignite without apparent trigger. Your paper presented a persuasive argument that Dark Matter particles, specifically the Massive Mega-Axions (MaMAs), are the cause of SHC when they interact with human bodies.

Reviewer 1

Thank you for shedding light on this important issue! I think this is a great discovery of this century, and we need to start taking MaMAs more seriously and develop new safety measures to protect ourselves. 

Reviewer 2

While I appreciate your work, I must disagree with your findings. As an avid follower of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s clear that the true cause of SHC is the accidental misuse of the Infinity Stones by mere mortals. Nice try, though.


Authors: Praween Siritanasak, Ian Birdwell, Lindsay Lowry, Felipe Lucero, Macaroni Kijsanayotin

First author affiliation: National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand

Paper Title: Predictive power of daily viscacha and vicuña sightings on Simons Array site work results

Dear Dr. Siritanasak,

The impact of terrestrial wildlife on astronomical results has long been neglected outside anecdotal discussion.  We applaud your efforts to study how your work may be impacted by the sightings of viscacha and vicuña at your worksite. We look forward to your mentioned future work.

Reviewer 1

I applaud your thoroughness in considering the different reasons the viscacha and vicuña sightings may have implications on astronomical research! Though your models did not indicate a positive correlation, I hope you continue this important work! I especially look forward to seeing what you may uncover when accounting for other species, including those pesky Homo sapiens.

Reviewer 2

Though you investigate how sightings of these creatures may correlate with environmental factors in determining science outcomes, I’m left wondering if you have considered their impacts on moral? Future work might consider if more sightings cheered researchers up and lead to more positive outcomes.

Finally the editors of this review would like to end by acknowledging that Dr. Burgess had the most April Fools sounding title for an actual contribution to the arxiv over the weekend with ronswanson: Building Table Models for 3ML

Astrobite written and edited by Alison Crisp, Ivey Davis, Janette Suherli, Jessie Thwaites, Mark Popinchalk, and Yoni Brande

Featured image credit adapted from History. com

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