The Hoax Museum Blog
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…
Posted by The Curator on Wed Apr 30, 2008
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 though the illustrations give the game away. So I suppose it…
Posted by The Curator on Mon Feb 18, 2008
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 top of the teeth of a comb. With your other hand, run a pencil back and forth against the teeth. You should…
Posted by The Curator on Mon Feb 11, 2008
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 left to right) is the "face on Mars" taken by NASA's Viking spacecraft in the 1970s; the fossils that NASA researchers claimed to have found in a Martian meteorite…
Posted by The Curator on Mon Feb 04, 2008
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 curiosity. The caption reads: "A water-worn stone was once offered to the Smithsonian Institute as a petrified foot. Note the striking resemblance."
Man Makes Fake Moon Dirt
Posted by The Curator on Mon Jan 28, 2008
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 you’re parked on the moon’s surface.” I'm sure he could make some good…
Sneezing Bus Stop
Posted by The Curator on Mon Jan 28, 2008