The Hoax Museum Blog
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…
The Turkey-Tryptophan Myth, and why do big meals make you drowsy?
Posted by The Curator on Sun Nov 23, 2008
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 Thanksgiving. Yes, the amino acid tryptophan is present in turkey, and in certain doses it…
Nintendo Wii Truth Experiment
Posted by The Curator on Mon Nov 17, 2008
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 information processing. Which is one reason (among others) why people fall for hoaxes. The particular design of Dale's experiment (via Silicon Republic):
The Sun and the Moon
Posted by The Curator on Thu Nov 06, 2008
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 Hoaxers, Showmen, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Man-Bats in Nineteenth-Century New York (published by Basic Books). From the…
Will the sun rise for 36 hours on October 17, 2008?
Posted by The Curator on Mon Sep 29, 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 time. Not…
Darwin Smudge Draws Evolutionists
Posted by The Curator on Wed Sep 10, 2008
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 believe the image is actually closer to the visage of Stephen Jay…
The Fishing Lures of Faith
Posted by The Curator on Thu Jul 24, 2008
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 illustration in the book shows the modern-day fly in the foreground. Circled in red in the background is the fossil analogue, preserved in amber. (No, they don't look similar to me either).
What is it?
Posted by The Curator on Sun Jun 29, 2008
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 non-poisonous, I'm glad I stayed away from it. And it's still out there in my backyard somewhere.
Uncontacted tribe not so uncontacted
Posted by The Curator on Tue Jun 24, 2008
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 anthropologists have known about the tribe's existence for almost one hundred years. From the Guardian:
Posted by The Curator on Fri Jun 06, 2008
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 Copaifera langsdorfii, to use its botanical…