In which I demonstrate my ignorance of world literature

Fred Buchanan, a student at Saint Anselm’s Abbey School, writes:

I’m writing a paper on the influence of Jorge Luis Borges in academia, in particular his work “The Garden of Forking Paths”. I noticed that a large number of papers from a wide array of academic fields include references to this work. Your paper, “The garden of forking paths: Why multiple comparisons can be a problem, even when there is no “fishing expedition” or “p-hacking” and the research hypothesis was posited ahead of time”, is one of these.

If you don’t mind, I would like to ask some questions about the work’s influence on you. Was your paper’s title directly influenced by the “The Garden of Forking Paths”? If the work directly influenced the title, what relation does the story have to the content of your paper? Since I’m not a statistician, I would appreciate if you could explain this in layman’s terms. If you have read the story, what was your opinion of it? When did you first encountered the story? Did you expect other people in your field to recognize the reference? If they did, what was their reaction?

My reply:

Yes, the title and concept came straight from the Borges story. But I have not ever read the Borges story; I’ve only heard of it. Also, some people recognize the reference but many people do not. Indeed, when we published our article in the magazine American Scientist, the editors insisted on changing the title because they thought it was too obscure.

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