Elsevier looking into how “unorthodox” paper featuring ancient astronauts was published

Elsevier is looking into how one of its journals published a paper which makes bizarre claims about the knowledge of the ancients and contains an acronym with unmistakable and horrific historical significance.

The article, “Puratana Aakasha-Yantrika Nirmana Sadhanavasthu (Ancient Aero-mechanical manufacturing materials),” appeared in a 2017 issue of Materials Today Proceedings and was written by a group of aeronautical engineers in India.

The abstract states:

Aerospace materials of ancient ancestors are more highly advanced than compared to that of modern. This paper introduces modern day rediscoveries and Reinventions from Vimana shasthra. Our team SWASTIK (Scientific Works on Advanced Space Technology Investigators for Knowledge) is group of researchers working on ancient science and technology. Our team’s works on different types of ancient materials properties for advanced space radiation, Raja Loha, A high-heat-absorbing alloy used for the bodies of various flying crafts, preparation, properties of each material in its compositions, and our research works on food, clothing of ancient astronauts and Materials for propulsion like sun crystal, Electromagnets reveal that it results in an advanced interplanetary aerospace materials and are deciphered by our team SWASTIK.

Unless you’re into Black metal (and if you don’t know this genre, Malcolm Gladwell has done the homework), invoking the Third Reich with your group name isn’t a great look. And please, everyone knows the swastika was a symbol long before Hitler and his gang appropriated it as their glyph of choice. Just because you have a right to call yourself something doesn’t mean you should. After all, no one has heard of the North American Zoological Informatics Society for a good reason.

So SWASTIK in the abstract should have given at least one editor over at MTP pause. But as commenters on PubPeer noted, a quick read of the manuscript would have revealed problems far deeper than a stupid initialism.

One quoted this passage:

Another direct quote from the article: “Ancient ancestors had 12 strand DNA, hence had more intelligence than modern humans. Ancient ancestors coded advanced science and technology in Sanskrit texts. In the process of giving their valuable information to the next generations of human race, Maharshi bharadwaja and several other ancient scientists or Rushis provided us Texts like Vimana shasthra.”

An Elsevier spokesperson told us:

This unorthodox paper was presented at the International Conference on Advancements in Aeromechanical Materials for Manufacturing (ICAAMM-2016). We are working with the Guest Editor to assess the process that led to its publication in the conference proceedings.

But another Elsevier exec, William Gunn, shrugged off the mess, tweeting (make sure to play the gif):

Failing to edit a journal is a good way to make sure those cracks are wide enough to fit the whole bull. And we’ll note this isn’t the first such case for Elsevier.

Asked about the name of the research group, Eshwar Reddy Cholleti, the corresponding author of the paper, told Retraction Watch cryptically:

Scientific Works on Advanced Space Technology Investigators for Knowledge – SWASTIK is our Research group formed my top Scientists, Engineers and Research scholars across the globe. This name will not cause any trouble to you personally i hope.

Bonus: If you’re looking for more unfortunate acronyms, look no further.

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19 thoughts on “Elsevier looking into how “unorthodox” paper featuring ancient astronauts was published”

  1. While the article is obvious bull the name “Swastik” wouldn’t raise any red flags given it came from a group in India. The word is Sanskrit and means “well being”.

    Both the word and the symbol were culturally appropriated by the NAZI’s. While the name and symbol obviously represent evil to many in the West it’s original meaning was just the opposite. For Indians that is still true to this day.

    The following article from NPR discusses how swastikas are put out during the Diwali, the festival of lights.

    https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2016/10/28/499475248/diwali-dilemma-my-complicated-relationship-with-the-swastika

      1. There is very little controversy about using the swastika symbol. The controversy is on other aspects of the Hindutva gang but the symbol itself is used ubiquitously. I am confident that the name would raise no connections with the Nazis.

    1. Cute but in today’s Hindu-hypernationalist climate the name SWASTIK *does* raise serious questions. You *and* NPR need to get up to date on how Hindu symbols are being coopted these days by ultra-rightwingers, aided and abetted by Modi’s government.

      1. To be fair, the OP posted a link from 2016 and NPR has more recently reported on this topic:
        https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2019/01/09/683298815/speakers-at-indian-science-congress-say-newton-was-wrong-ancient-demon-had-airpl

        I am more bothered by Elsevier’s flippant response to complaints about their publication of this propaganda piece. They’ve given legitimacy to a nationalist agenda of ethnic superiority. It’s not a joke, and they should retract with an apology for their failure to uphold any kind of scientific integrity.

        1. Bill Gunn’s role at Elsevier seems to be being snarky about serious issues on Twitter while also mocking any critics as having insufficient standing to address someone of his status.

  2. For the record, not all “black metal” is NSBM or neo-nazi. So labelling a link in this article to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Socialist_black_metal as generally “black metal” is misleading. NSBM is a subset of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_metal which is a subset of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heavy_metal_music … I have no respect for NSBM or any music that promotes hate. I respect but don’t listen to black metal. And I listen to heavy metal (among other genres) on a daily basis.

  3. The guest editor is A. Koch… what did you expect from him?

    (Yes, I know the correct pronunciation spoils the humor)

  4. Just for the record, I appreciate the sharp eyes of all the people who notice and report these things. No journal has a spotless record, but when it comes to maintaining research integrity, the more eyes, the better.

  5. The very first line of the abstract “Aerospace materials of ancient ancestors are more highly advanced than compared to that of modern.” needs proof. Any sensible reviewer doesn’t need more than that to reject the paper.
    Allowing conference proceedings to enter as journal articles is exactly the root cause of many ethical issues, not just this one.

  6. The paper is obviously nonsensical, and it should not have been published. That being said, I’m puzzled at the focus on “swastika” in this post. This seems to represent a degree of Eurocentrism and cultural insularity, and an inability to understand how certain symbols may be perceived in other cultures . The Nazis appropriated a lot of symbols … for example, they called themselves “socialists” and surely no one would argue that progressive politicians today shouldn’t use the same term because of the Nazis. The focus on Swastika weakens the broader argument against the paper and Elsevier’s lack of standards. It may be better to remove that part of the argument (perhaps leaving it in as a footnote with an explainer for Western readers who may lack understanding of the broader symbolism associated with the symbol.)

  7. There is a clockwise and an anti-clockwise swastika. I only discovered today that *both* are ancient symbols – and they form a kind of yin and yang piar. The nazi party, I suppose deliberately, adopted the dark side: “the counterclockwise symbol … called sauvastika, symbolizing night or tantric aspects of Kali”. On the other hand “the symbol with arms pointing clockwise is called swastika, symbolizing surya (sun), prosperity and good luck”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swastika

  8. You can’t possibly expect everyone in the world to be aware of Western cultural senstivities, especially when the symbol *continues to be* a ubiquitous religious symbol in India. Not only is that pretentious, but you totally miss the point in the process. From the quoted text of the article, it’s evident that the acronym should be concerning because of the attempt to pass the supernaturalism of Hindu texts as science, not because of connections with Nazism the authors were unlikely to know about.

  9. On the contrary:

    1a. The connection between the swastika and Naziism isn’t a “Western” cultural sensitivity. Naziism was quite at the center of a world war with enormous consequences for the entire globe, including the Indian subcontinent.

    1b. The swastika is perfectly fine in Hindu and Buddhist religious contexts. But this journal isn’t publishing on religious or cultural studies, and the acronym isn’t situated in a religious context.

    2. The argument that the authors were “unlikely to know about” the connections between the swastika and Naziism is not a good excuse for its usage. The authors are publishing a paper that is intended to be disseminated to others, including those in the West; as with any paper, the authors should be mindful of their audience. In any case the editor should have noticed.

  10. You people are going bonkers over a total scam. A group of “aeronautical engineers” concocts a totally ridiculous paper, (as if this has never happened before) to get a rise out of folks sitting thousands of miles away. It is funny how the whole scam got possibly intelligent people to worry about Hindu nationalism and the use of Swastika as a deranged nationalistic symbol to be used in politics. For the uninformed, the word Hindu originally meant a resident of India, owing its origin in Sindhu which is (was) an Indian river. Many languages still use the word Hindu for Indians. Only after the “benevolent visit” of brits (lower case intended) did the division of Indian populations by religion was introduced. Over 80% of the current population of India subscribe to the culture described as Hinduism. If these people decide that they are as fond of their land as Canadians of theirs, or Germans of Deutschland, (or I as an American used to be of the once united USA), there is nothing wrong. People, lighten up. Don’t you see you have been scammed? Stop attributing motives and introducing politics in this discussion. If I were not so sure that the writers of the paper were fooling around I would be upset too. How dare these vicious Indian aeronautical engineers talking about “black loh” (means iron in Hindi) bring disgrace to science? Why indeed are we so stupid that we begin attributing motives?

  11. https://areomagazine.com/2018/10/02/academic-grievance-studies-and-the-corruption-of-scholarship/

    Beth Smith,et.al, Newer Tools to Fight Inter-Galactic Parasites and their Transmissibility in Zygirion Simulation ARC Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 2018, 4(3) : 8-12

    L. P. Prince Characterizing the Morphologically Distinct Regions of Comet 67P/ Churyumov-Gerasimenko Proceedings of the Natural Institute of Science SOFD | Volume 1 | Paper 8 | November 25, 2014

    I could go on. In fact Retraction Watch has provided me links to many hilarious articles that got published in supposedly serious journals. I always look forward to the leader board to see if any of my friends and colleagues will show up. Alas, I may lose access to Elsevier journals as my employers could not reach an agreement with them. After the above discussion I must say I will miss the fun.

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