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The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: Science
Journal Accepts CRAP — 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 [10]. On a similar note, recent work by…
Posted: Thu Jun 11, 2009.   Comments (5)

The Science Channel’s Top 10 Science Hoaxes — 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…
Posted: Fri May 29, 2009.   Comments (6)

The Science of Whoopee Cushions — 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…
Posted: Wed Mar 18, 2009.   Comments (12)

What are women thinking? — 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…
Posted: Tue Feb 03, 2009.   Comments (3)


Cello Scrotum — 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…
Posted: Thu Jan 29, 2009.   Comments (15)

Animals That Lie — 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…
Posted: Tue Dec 23, 2008.   Comments (10)

The Turkey-Tryptophan Myth, and why do big meals make you drowsy? — Thanksgiving is approaching, which means the "turkey makes you tired because it has high levels of tryptophan" urban legend shall once again be heard at tables throughout America. Baylor College of Medicine dietitian Rebecca Reeves debunks this legend in an interview with the Houston Chronicle: Q: So the tryptophan in turkey doesn't make you sleepy, right? A: I am not sure how (that) gained wide acceptance. The urban legend is that the tryptophan in turkey is what makes you sleepy on…
Posted: Sun Nov 23, 2008.   Comments (12)

Nintendo Wii Truth Experiment — University of Memphis psychologist Rick Dale used a Nintendo Wii in an experiment to show that the human brain is wired to believe before it doubts. I don't think this is a new finding. It makes sense that the brain has to assume all incoming info is true, in case a quick reaction is needed. For instance, it wouldn't be wise to stand around debating with yourself whether the tiger leaping out of the jungle is real or fake. Doubt, therefore, takes second place in the brain's hierarchy of…
Posted: Mon Nov 17, 2008.   Comments (3)

The Sun and the Moon — My doctoral dissertation was partially on the subject of the Great Moon Hoax of 1835. I never finished writing the dissertation, but I did spend a LOT of time researching the moon hoax, and I always thought that it would make a great subject for a general-interest book -- using the moon hoax as a window on New York City and America in 1835. Turns out I waited too long. Someone beat me to it. Matthew Goodman has recently come out with The Sun and the Moon: The Remarkable True Account of…
Posted: Thu Nov 06, 2008.   Comments (3)

Will the sun rise for 36 hours on October 17, 2008? — A very strange astronomical rumor is circulating: Coming October 17, 2008 the sun will rise continuously for 36 hrs (1.5 days). During this time the US countries will be dark for 1.5 days. It will convert 3 days into 2 big days. It will happen once in 2400 yrs. We're very lucky to see this. Forward it to all your friends. This rumor appears to have come from India, so it means to say that the sun will rise for 36 hours over India, and the Americas will be dark for the same amount of…
Posted: Mon Sep 29, 2008.   Comments (48)

Darwin Smudge Draws Evolutionists — I couldn't resist linking to this piece from The Onion: A steady stream of devoted evolutionists continued to gather in this small Tennessee town today to witness what many believe is an image of Charles Darwin—author of The Origin Of Species and founder of the modern evolutionary movement—made manifest on a concrete wall in downtown Dayton... Despite the enthusiasm the so-called "Darwin Smudge" has generated among the evolutionary faithful, disagreement remains as to its origin. Some…
Posted: Wed Sep 10, 2008.   Comments (6)

The Fishing Lures of Faith — Not to be outdone by Christian fundamentalists, Islamic fundamentalists have come out with their own anti-evolution treatises. Among the most prominent of these is the Atlas of Creation by Harun Yahya. It's a long work (and more is on the way) consisting primarily of page after page of examples showing that modern-day species can be found in the fossil record. This is supposed to demonstrate that evolution hasn't occurred. Volume 1 contains the example of the Caddis Fly. The…
Posted: Thu Jul 24, 2008.   Comments (6)

What is it? — I was working in my backyard this weekend, when I turned over a rock and discovered this creepy-crawly. Anyone have an idea what it is? I wasn't about to mess with it. Looked like it had a stinger on its tail. Update: Thanks to Robin Bobcat for identifying it as a Jerusalem Cricket. According to the San Diego Natural History Museum: "this nocturnal cricket is actually non-aggressive and possesses no poison glands, although its jaws can inflict a painful bite." Even if it's…
Posted: Sun Jun 29, 2008.   Comments (24)

Uncontacted tribe not so uncontacted — Thanks to everyone who emailed me about the Uncontacted Brazilian Tribe hoax that's now making headlines (and is already noted in the forum). I was at the library all yesterday, so I didn't have a chance to post anything. Anyway, to summarize: Last month the Brazilian government released photographs of an "uncontacted" tribe living in the Amazon. At the time I noted it would be very strange for a tribe to be truly uncontacted, and sure enough this week brings the revelation that…
Posted: Tue Jun 24, 2008.   Comments (6)

Diesel Trees — With the price of gas going through the roof, there's been a lot of interest in alternative fuel supplies. For instance, various schemes to use water as a fuel have been getting renewed interest. But a new idea (at least, new to me) is the Diesel Tree. This is a tree that directly produces diesel fuel. All you have to do is tap the tree (just as you would tap a maple tree for its syrup), then fill up your tank with the oil, and you're good to go. From treehugger.com: the Brazilian…
Posted: Fri Jun 06, 2008.   Comments (4)

Brunus edwardii — I recently received a nice letter from a reader in England: Dear Mr. Boese, I have enjoyed the Museum of Hoaxes greatly. I do not know if you want any more examples, but if not just throw this away. The Veterinary Record is the weekly journal of the Veterinary Profession, and I did the index for 36 years. So on 1st April 1972 I met some observations on the diseases of Brunus edwardii (Species Nova), Vet. Rec. (1972) 90, 382-395. It reads like a perfectly authentic scientific paper…
Posted: Wed Apr 30, 2008.   Comments (14)

Touch Illusions — A recent paper (available as a pdf file) by Vincent Hayward in Brain Research Bulletin lists more than twenty types of tactile illusions that can be experienced using very simple equipment available in any hardware store. Some of the descriptions of the illusions unfortunately are rather technical, but here's a summary of a few of them: The Aristotle Illusion: Cross your fingers and touch your nose. You may feel two noses. (It didn't work for me.) The Comb Illusion: Lay your finger on…
Posted: Mon Feb 18, 2008.   Comments (9)

Martian Pareidolia — With the Martian Bigfoot recently making headlines, Dr. Charles Lintott wrote an article for the BBC that traces the long history of Martian pareidolia. Something about Mars makes us see things that aren't really there. It began with early astronomers believing that the surface of Mars was covered with canals. During the 1960s, some astronomers reported seeing signs of vegetation on the planet's surface. The image below shows (on the top row) the Martian canals. The bottow row (from…
Posted: Mon Feb 11, 2008.   Comments (14)

Petrified Foot — Bob (aka Cranky Media Guy) sent me a link to an article about "Scientific Hoaxes" scanned from the Dec. 1931 issue of Modern Mechanix magazine. I love old popular-science magazines like this. They're a great source of strange information. Unfortunately whoever scanned this article missed two pages, so you skip from a discussion of the Central Park Zoo Escape straight into a discussion of the Cardiff Giant. Nevertheless, the image of a "petrified foot" on the front page caught my…
Posted: Mon Feb 04, 2008.   Comments (12)

Man Makes Fake Moon Dirt — Dr. James L. Carter has a weird job. He manufactures fake moon dirt. His company, ETSimulants, produces tons of it every year. His primary customer is NASA, who needs fake moon dirt to test machines that might need to operate on the moon. In an interview with Pegasus News Dr. Carter explains: "When you land on the moon, all this dry, dry dust blows into the space craft’s engines. The astronauts’ safety rests on this substance being correct. There can be no mechanical failures once…
Posted: Mon Jan 28, 2008.   Comments (5)

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