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Category: Science
Stephen Hawking is on the Mic
Posted by The Curator on Thu Apr 29, 2004
You may know Stephen Hawking as the brilliant theoretical physicist and best-selling author of A Brief History of Time. But did you also know that in his spare time the man is a gangsta rapper? Perhaps you're familiar with his album, A Brief History of Rhyme. Hawking's other career as a 'lyrical terrorist' is lovingly explored on this fan site, MC Hawking's Crib. Yeah, it's a hoax, but it's amazingly detailed, even including MP3 samples of Hawking's songs. (And thanks to Bill Boldt for gently pointing out to me my initial misspelling of 'Mic').
Dragon Hoax Was a Hoax
Posted by The Curator on Mon Mar 29, 2004
Back in January I posted an entry about what I called the Almost Great Dragon Hoax. It described a tiny dragon that had been found in a jar of formaldehyde in a garage in Oxfordshire. Supposedly the dragon had been created in the nineteenth century by German scientists trying to hoax their British counterparts, but the joke had been spotted by the British and placed in the trash... only to be recovered from there and end up years later in the Oxfordshire garage. Now it turns out that the dragon is actually of a much more modern origin. BBC News is reporting that author Allistair Mitchell created the story about…
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Dihydrogen Monoxide Claims A Victim
Posted by The Curator on Sun Mar 14, 2004
I didn't think there was anyone left who hadn't heard this joke already. It's the one about the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide, a chemical found in many toxic substances and often used as an industrial solvent. Sounds scary, but dihydrogen monoxide is, of course, simply the scientific name for water, or H2O. Apparently the city council of Aliso Viejo, California hadn't heard the joke before, because they were about to ban the use of styrofoam cups because dihydrogen monoxide was used in their production. Luckily someone clued them in before they embarrassed themselves even more. Their one comfort is that they're not the only ones to fall for this joke. Last year disc jockeys in Olathe, Kansas warned…
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Peppered Moth Evolution Kit
Posted by The Curator on Fri Mar 12, 2004
In 1953 Bernard Kettlewell performed a set of experiments that proved that predation by birds was responsible for the peppered moth population changing from mostly white to mostly black. The reasoning was that industrial pollution had caused the barks of trees to turn dark. Therefore black moths resting during the day on the darkened trunks of trees had a selective advantage over white moths, because the birds could see the white moths more easily and prey on them. Kettlewell released both white and black moths into the wild and demonstrated that the black moths survived at a higher rate in the polluted areas. Now you can duplicate Kettlewell's experiment with the
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Transgenic, hair-growing plants
Posted by The Curator on Thu Mar 04, 2004
New Scientist has published an interview with Laura Cinti, an artist who claims that she has collaborated with an unnamed genetics lab in order to create a transgenic cactus that grows human hair. Christopher Chauvin brought this to my attention, and, like him, I'm a bit skeptical of Cinti's claims. First of all, it seems like quite a scientific achievement to get a cactus to grow human hair. Second, it seems suspicious that the lab that did the work can't be named. Third, it doesn't appear that any independent scientists have actually examined these hirsute cactuses to see if all is as she claims it is. Cinti has a website,
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The Almost Great Dragon Hoax
Posted by The Curator on Wed Jan 28, 2004
A tiny dragon, pickled in formaldehyde, has been found in a garage in Oxfordshire. Its origins trace back to the 1890s when it was given to the British Natural History Museum by German scientists. Evidently the Germans were trying to play a joke on their British counterparts by getting them to believe that this tiny dragon was real. But the British didn't fall for it and threw the dragon away. Luckily someone saved it, and somehow, years later, it ended up in the Oxfordshire garage. Someone must have put a lot of work into creating the dragon, because it looks incredibly lifelike.
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Piltdown Man
Posted by The Curator on Sat Nov 22, 2003
Dr. Miles Russell argues that Charles Dawson had to be the sole perpetrator of the Piltdown Hoax, since Dawson had a long history of creating archaeological frauds.
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Science Hoaxes
Posted by The Curator on Fri Nov 14, 2003
Tim Radford has a piece in today's Guardian on his Top 10 favorite Science Hoaxes of All Time. The Piltdown Man comes in at number one. Strangely, he seemed to omit a number of very famous cases, such as the Great Moon Hoax of 1835, the Cardiff Giant, the Paul Kammerer 'Case of the Midwife Toad', William Summerlin and his painted mice, Shinichi Fujimura's Stone Age discoveries, and the recent Piltdown Chicken (of National Geographic fame). But then, it is his list, and I guess everyone would pick something different.
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Were there 2 Piltdown Hoaxers?
Posted by The Curator on Fri Nov 14, 2003
Here's even more stuff about the Piltdown Man (there's a lot of stuff about this because of the anniversary of the exposure of the fraud). The Independent reports that two academics are going to give a lecture in which they'll argue that two independent hoaxers were responsible for the piltdown frauds. But as far as I know, this theory has actually been floating around for a while.
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Piltdown Man on TV
Posted by The Curator on Thu Nov 13, 2003
Andrew Nixon sends word of a tv program that British hoax enthusiasts might want to watch. It's BBC2's special commemorating the 50th anniversary of the exposure of the Piltdown Man. It'll be titled "Britain's Greatest Hoax," airing Friday 21st November at 9pm.
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Happy 50th Birthday, Piltdown Man!
Posted by The Curator on Tue Nov 04, 2003
The Piltdown Man skull is being taken out of storage this month and put on display at Britain's Natural History Museum, as part of the Pfizer Annual Science Forum. They're putting it on display in order to mark the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the fraud (I guess it's better to celebrate when they discovered the fraud, rather than when the fraud was first perpetrated). The Washington Post has a good, informative article about the history of Piltdown Man.
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First Genetics
Posted by The Curator on Sat Sep 20, 2003
First Genetics: The website of the first laboratory to have successfully genetically engineered an ape to be able to communicate with humans via typing on a keyboard
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The Hoaxing of Margaret Mead
Posted by The Curator on Sun Sep 14, 2003
Thanks to Derek Freeman's work, a lot of people know that the anthropologist Margaret Mead was hoaxed into believing that young Samoan girls were far more sexually active than they actually were. But Mead made influential claims about other cultures as well, about which she apparently was just as wrong, according to this article in Front Page Magazine. For instance, she claimed that the Mountain Arapesh, a tribe of New Guinea yam gardeners, had no knowledge of the concept of war. Not quite. Other researchers later found that about half the adult male Arapesh had killed people in battle.
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Is Peter Lynds a Hoax?
Posted by The Curator on Sat Aug 16, 2003
Recently a 27-year-old New Zealander named Peter Lynds has been getting a lot of attention. He's been hailed as the next Einstein because he's come up with an entirely new theory of time. And he's done this without having any formal qualifications as a physicist. But suggestions that Peter Lynds may be nothing more than a hoax have been cropping up. Some have even doubted the guy's existence. The Guardian investigated and found that Lynds was real enough, but that his work hasn't exactly wowed everyone in the Physics community. And that thing about him being the next Einstein... that may trace back to an offhand remark by Lynds himself. Update 8/17/03: A visitor has…
Tasaday Revisited
Posted by The Curator on Mon Jun 30, 2003
There's a very good review of the Tasaday controversy by James Hamilton-Paterson in the Guardian. Like many, Hamilton-Paterson concludes that the Tasaday were not quite the hoax that everyone has assumed for the past two decades.
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