The Hoax Museum Blog
A Global Warming Hoax from 1874
Posted by The Curator on Mon May 21, 2012
I periodically receive emails from people who insist I need to add global warming to the site because it's the "biggest hoax in human history." I don't agree with that. Actually, I think global warming is something that definitely merits being worried about. However, I did just add a global warming hoax to the hoax archive, which might make the global-warming-is-a-hoax crowd happy. Except that this hoax occurred in 1874. It's a story that appeared in U.S. newspapers in February 1874. The premise was that scientists had discovered the earth was getting hotter and hotter. Europe was predicted to be tropical in 12 years, and soon after that the planet would become too hot to support life.…
The Fake Science Blog
Posted by The Curator on Tue Apr 24, 2012
Social Psychologist Fabricates Data
Posted by The Curator on Tue Nov 01, 2011
A committee at Tilburg University (in the Netherlands) has determined that the social psychologist Diederik Stapel is guilty of fabricating data in multiple studies. Staepl has admitted his guilt, saying he "failed as a scientist". From sciencemag.org: The panel reported that [Stapel] would discuss in detail experimental designs, including drafting questionnaires, and would then claim to conduct the experiments at high schools and universities with which he had special arrangements. The experiments, however, never took place, the universities concluded. Stapel made up the data sets, which he then gave the student or collaborator for analysis, investigators…
Margaret Mead Redeemed?
Posted by The Curator on Mon Dec 21, 2009
A new salvo has been fired in the ongoing controversy about whether the anthropologist Margaret Mead was "hoaxed" during her research in Samoa in 1925. I've got a brief article about the controversy in the hoax archive. To summarize: Mead traveled to Samoa, interviewed some teenage girls about their sexual behavior, and concluded that Samoan culture had very relaxed, easygoing attitudes about sex. Almost sixty years later Derek Freeman challenged her findings and claimed that the teenage girls had told her wild tales, which she had been gullible enough to believe. Freeman's claims were partially based on the testimony of one of Mead's interviewees, Fa'apua'a, whom he tracked down in Samoa.
Stalin, black orchids, and Eva Peron
Posted by The Curator on Wed Oct 21, 2009
Lorena writes to ask: You seem to know a lot about hoaxes so....I am doing some research, and I was asked if the story about Stalin sending black orchids to Eva Peron's funeral are a hoax. Problem is, I can't even find stories about it at all. Have you ever heard this? I'm flattered Lorena thinks I might be knowledgeable enough to have the answer to this, but unfortunately I've never heard the story before and can't find any references to it. In a July 28, 1952 Associated Press article, "Mile-Long Lines View Remains," I found…
The Piltdown Man: The Play
Posted by The Curator on Wed Sep 23, 2009
A new play opening at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater, Fake by Eric Simonson, is based on the Piltdown Man hoax. It looks pretty good, but I can't find any indication if there are plans for it to go on tour and come to San Diego. In 1914, renowned mystery writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle invites four guests to his English country home. Each visitor has a connection to the infamous "Piltdown Man," purported to be the missing link between ape and man—later exposed as a hoax. Swinging back and forth through time,…
Are women getting more beautiful?
Posted by The Curator on Tue Jul 28, 2009
The Times Online reports on a recent study by University of Helsinki researcher Markus Jokela, who found that women are getting more beautiful: Scientists have found that evolution is driving women to become ever more beautiful, while men remain as aesthetically unappealing as their caveman ancestors. The article doesn't mention where Jokela published his study, so I'll have to go by the article's description of his work. But on the basis of that, his claim is absurd. Beauty isn't something like height that can be objectively tracked and measured over time. Standards of beauty change over time and…
Posted by The Curator on Mon Jul 27, 2009
A stain, shaped like a human body, can be found on the concrete floor of the Athens Mental Health and Retardation Center in Athens Ohio. According to legend, this stain marks the location where the body of a patient, Margaret Schilling, lay undiscovered for several weeks back in 1979. A team of forensic scientists recently tested the stain to determine whether it's a genuine human decomposition stain, or if it was created artificially. They published the results of their investigation in the Nov 2008 issue of the Journal of Forensic Sciences (vol 53, no. 6), "Analysis of Suspected Trace Human Remains from an Indoor Concrete Surface."
Geographical distribution of Bigfoot same as Black Bear
Posted by The Curator on Tue Jul 07, 2009
In its current issue, the Journal of Biogeography has published an article whose authors use ecological niche modelling software to predict the distribution of Sasquatch in western North America. The authors write: We were stimulated to write this piece as a tongue-in-cheek response to the increasing prevalence of ENMs in the literature and in papers presented at professional meetings. As in any rapidly developing field with the promise of exciting applications, there is the potential for the empirical acceptance of new approaches to outpace conceptual understanding. The point of this paper has…
Journal Accepts CRAP
Posted by The Curator on Thu Jun 11, 2009
Cornell grad student Philip Davis describes on Scholarly Kitchen an experiment he designed to test the peer-review process at Bentham Science, a publisher of "open-access" journals. (Open-access journals charge authors for publication, but make the articles available for free.) He used software to create an article full of computer-generated nonsense, such as, "we discuss existing research into red-black trees, vacuum tubes, and courseware . On a similar note, recent work by Takahashi suggests a methodology for providing robust modalities, but does not offer an implementation ." He told Bentham the manuscript had two co-authors from the Center for Research in Applied Phrenology (CRAP). Four months after submitting it, a Bentham…
The Science Channel’s Top 10 Science Hoaxes
Posted by The Curator on Fri May 29, 2009
The Science Channel has a list of the Top 10 Science Hoaxes. I'm giving it a thumbs down, because it's a pretty feeble list. It's the kind of thing someone who didn't know much about science or hoaxes might put together by surfing the web for a few hours. It starts off with Harold Miner's analysis of the Nacirema tribe at #10. This is a famous anthropological satire (Nacirema is American spelled backwards), but I wouldn't consider it a hoax, unless any comedy or fiction can count as a hoax. El Chupacabra comes in at #3. (Should El Chupacabra even count as science?) A better…
The Science of Whoopee Cushions
Posted by The Curator on Wed Mar 18, 2009
Science has determined the funniest whoopee cushion sound, based on a survey of 34,000 people. It is a long, whiny fart, lasting at least seven seconds. Young, European women tend to be most amused by fart sounds, relative to other demographic groups. And the noise of flatulence gets funnier the more you listen to it. The research was conducted by acoustics Professor Trevor Cox of the University of Salford, working in conjunction with the charity Comic Relief. My theory is that farts were the very first form of jokes. Cavemen sitting around and farting to make each other laugh. So by this time, our brains are pretty much hard-wired to find them amusing. (via…
What are women thinking?
Posted by The Curator on Tue Feb 03, 2009
A new study published in Psychological Science reveals that women are far more skilled at faking romantic interest than men. The experiment involved a speed-dating session. Observers were asked to guess how the men and women felt about each other. Turns out it was easy to guess how the men felt, but no one had a clue how the women felt. The researchers could have simply asked any average guy who would have told them that, most of the time, we have no clue what women are thinking. That's the feminine mystique. Link: Chicago Tribune.
Posted by The Curator on Thu Jan 29, 2009
I was planning on taking a hiatus from posting until February, but this one is too good to pass up. Thanks to everyone who emailed me about it. Back in the 1970s Elaine Murphy noticed an unusual condition, Guitar Nipple, described in the British Medical Journal. She suspected it might be a hoax, which inspired her to invent a similar bizarre condition, Cello Scrotum, which she detailed in a letter to the journal. She got her husband to send the letter in his name. Thirty years on the couple noticed someone had referenced their report, and so they decided it was time to come clean. Coincidentally, there is…
Animals That Lie
Posted by The Curator on Tue Dec 23, 2008
A NY Times article about the biology of deceit notes that among primates there's "a direct relationship between sneakiness and brain size." It offers this story: chimpanzees or orangutans in captivity sometimes tried to lure human strangers over to their enclosure by holding out a piece of straw while putting on their friendliest face. “People think, Oh, he likes me, and they approach,” Dr. de Waal said. “And before you know it, the ape has grabbed their ankle and is closing in for the bite. It’s a very dangerous situation.” Apparently dolphins are also capable of…