The Museum of Hoaxes
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The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: Science
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)

Sneezing Bus Stop — In order to educate the bus-riding public about the physics of sneezing, Science World created a Sneezing Bus Stop. Watch the video to understand: They also created posters that can be wrapped around trees to demonstrate how much beavers can eat.
Posted: Mon Jan 28, 2008.   Comments (6)

Is the Antarctic IceCube Telescope really an Alien Receptor Centre? — Down in the Antarctic researchers are building an "ice cube telescope" to detect neutrinos. It's one of the stranger telescopes ever built. Popular Science provides this description of it: Using a five-megawatt jet of hot water, technicians are melting two-foot-wide holes 1.5 miles into the Antarctic ice near the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. Before the water refreezes, they insert a cable strung like a set of Christmas-tree lights with globular camera housings. By the time the…
Posted: Tue Jan 22, 2008.   Comments (7)

Still No Sex In Space — Ever since humans first made it into space, there have been rumors of sex-in-space experiments. Such rumors are doing the rounds again, and this time it's the Russians who are the focus of them. Russian officials decided they should go on record to deny them: "There is no proof ... that on any mission cosmonauts had sex," the deputy head of the Institute of Bio-Medical Problems, Valery Bogomolov, told a news conference in Moscow. "Cosmonauts, too, are regular people, but ... I have not…
Posted: Thu Dec 06, 2007.   Comments (7)

Sell My Dna — SellMyDna.com offers to help you sell a sample of your DNA to a research company, New Line Genetics, who will then obtain a patent for it. They pay $5000! Better yet, you can even sell your friend's DNA, because once a cell leaves their body, it no longer belongs to them. From their website: SellMyDNA.com does not condone the patenting of other’s DNA without their permission. However, what better way to surprise your loved ones for a birthday or holiday event than giving the gift of…
Posted: Wed Dec 05, 2007.   Comments (0)

China Moon Controversy — Last week Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao released the first photograph taken by the Chang-e 1 lunar probe. The picture showed the surface of the moon. Wen declared, "Chinese people's dream of flying to the moon for more than 1,000 years has started to materialize." But then people on the internet started to point out that the picture looked an awful lot like a NASA picture from 2005. In fact, the two photos looked almost identical. So now the Chinese lunar probe programme is…
Posted: Mon Dec 03, 2007.   Comments (14)

Robot Roaches Coated with Pheromones — Jose Halloy, a biologist at the Free University of Brussels, created little robot cockroaches that he programmed to behave in ways similar to real cockroaches. For instance, he could program the robo-roaches to prefer a light or dark shelter. The interesting part is that when he coated these robot roaches with roach pheromones, other roaches seemed to accept them as one of their own, and even would follow their lead: Halloy initially programmed the robots to have the same darkness…
Posted: Sun Nov 18, 2007.   Comments (3)

Bat Bugs Have Fake Genitals — National Geographic has an article about a "hotbed of deception" in the natural world. It involves the genitals of a small, reddish-brown parasite called the bat bug. In order to protect themselves from the unwanted advances of male members of the species, female bat bugs have evolved a region on their body similar to a fake genital: Researchers have long known that male bat bugs ignore females' conventional parts and instead use their sharp penises to stab the females' abdomens,…
Posted: Thu Sep 27, 2007.   Comments (2)

Best of the forum - 21st September 07 — Due to my ongoing computer problems and personal situation, this is again brought to you by Madmouse. Peruvian Meteorite (eovti) An apparent meteorite landing in Peru has led to reports of illness amongst locals. Original suggestions for the cause of the sickness included radiation poisoning, but that seems unlikely. Sign Language Translator (Madmouse) There’s been a lot of discussion in the forum about this story. A group of UK students have developed a system to translate spoken…
Posted: Fri Sep 21, 2007.   Comments (0)

Top 20 Most Bizarre Experiments — I've posted a list of the Top 20 Most Bizarre Experiments of All Time. The descriptions are all summarized from longer accounts that can be found in my new book, Elephants on Acid. Basically, although the list can stand on its own, it's meant to be one big ad for the book. My hope is that people might be intrigued enough by what they read in the list to want to find out what else can be found in the book. (They'll either be intrigued or horrified. When people hear about some of these…
Posted: Wed Aug 29, 2007.   Comments (8)

Cheap wine in a fancy bottle — Cornell University researcher Brian Wanskin arranged to give diners at a prix-fixe restaurant a complimentary glass of wine. The diners were shown the bottle before the wine was poured into their glass. Some of the diners were shown a wine bottle apparently from a fancy California winery called "Noah's Winery." Others were shown a bottle from a North Dakota winery. But in all cases the wine they were served was actually the same. It was a cheap Charles Shaw Cabernet (familiar to Trader…
Posted: Wed Aug 08, 2007.   Comments (12)

“The Secret” — Yes, it's another questionable literary enterprise. You've probably heard of "The Secret," a self-help book/cultural phenomenon. As with any such thing, it's Oprah-approved. "The Secret" claims to reveal a Secret of the Universe, which is (SPOILER ALERT!) that you can have whatever you want, if you just think about it REALLY HARD. OK, that's a wee bit flip, but that really is the gist of the "secret." Well, you also have to be a good person and you can't wish for bad stuff, but…
Posted: Tue Jun 26, 2007.   Comments (32)

Jumping Germans — Inspired by the urban legend that if all the people in China jumped at once it would alter the orbit of the Earth, German scientists (working in participation with a German TV show) staged an experiment at a music festival. They arranged for all 50,000 people at the concert to jump at once, and then measured the results. They called it a "gang boing." Here's what happened: In the end, the hoppers created "a mini-mini-earthquake," according to Ulrich Grünewald, who produced the segment…
Posted: Wed Jun 06, 2007.   Comments (4)

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