The Hoax Museum Blog
Posted by The Curator on Thu Oct 28, 2004
I've been getting a lot of emails about Allerca, the company that claims it will start selling genetically engineered hypo-allergenic cats in 2007. It may be that they never manage to do what they claim they will do. Or at least, they never manage to do it in commercially viable quantities. But I'm pretty sure they're very serious about trying to do it. But I think they should lower the price a bit. At $3500 a pop, these cats are only going to be for the very rich, considering that you can pick up a cat for free at the pound, and as they themselves admit, female cats are far less allergenic than male cats anyway.
Fake Mathematical Proofs
Posted by The Curator on Wed Aug 18, 2004
Not being very mathematically inclined, these had me puzzled for a while. The first proof shows that 64=65. It's quite convincing, until you actually get graph paper out (like I did) and try to do it yourself. Then you'll discover that the parts don't match up as nicely as they do in the animation. A more complicated fake proof can be found here, where 1 is shown to equal 2. I started to go glassy-eyed when I began to analyze the equation, so I quickly broke down and peeked at the answer explaining why the proof is wrong. (via Metafilter)
Tunguska UFO Hoax?
Posted by The Curator on Fri Aug 13, 2004
What caused the Tunguska Event, that massive, nuclear-bomb-strength blast that occurred in Siberia in 1908? A meteorite, is the standard answer. But a few days ago Russian researcher Yuri Lavbin claimed to have discovered "blocks of an extraterrestrial technical device" in the Tunguska area. Lavbin's theory is that a meteorite was headed for the earth, but it was blasted apart by an alien spaceship, thus causing the massive explosion. Why aliens blasting something out of the sky caused an alien technical device to fall to the ground isn't clear to me. Lavbin announced this discovery in Pravda (which is kind of like announcing a major scientific…
Posted by The Curator on Mon Jun 28, 2004
If you've studied any biology at all, then you probably believe that DNA is a two-stranded molecule shaped like a double helix. How foolish you are! Toby Alexander has revealed that DNA is actually a 12-stranded molecule. There are two visible strands, and then 10 'etheric' strands. Toby laments that scientists have never learned about the 10 other strands because scientists "have to rely on physical observations and can only validate things that they can see with their eyes and microscopes." Ah, yes. Those silly old scientists relying only on their eyes and microscopes. But Toby, armed with a B.S. in Computer Science (and a natural flair for B.S. in…
The Long Fall of Jan Hendrik Schon
Posted by The Curator on Fri Jun 11, 2004
Here's a guy who has fallen a long, long way down. Back in 2002 Jan Hendrik Schön was the soft-spoken boy wonder at Bell Labs, thought to be on a fast-track for a Nobel Prize. He had apparently solved the problem of how to construct a transistor out of a single molecule, which is like the holy grail for building a super-powerful nano-computer. But then his career collapsed when it turned out that 16 out of 21 of his published papers contained bogus data. Remarkably, as investigators studied his articles more carefully, they realized that he had used one particular chart in totally different contexts in a variety of his papers…
The Power of Prayer
Posted by The Curator on Fri Jun 11, 2004
Back in October 2001 the prestigious Journal of Reproductive Medicine published an article titled "Does Prayer Influence the Success of in Vitro Fertilization–Embryo Transfer?" (the journal appears to have removed this article from its server). The apparent answer to the question posed in the title was 'Yes!' In other words, empirical research appeared to demonstrate that praying could help infertile women conceive. So tough luck if you were an infertile atheist. But a recent article in The Observer reveals that this prayer study was nothing more than a sham. The author of the article, Daniel Wirth, is a serial con-artist, now living under house arrest in California, who possesses no scientific credentials whatsoever. It boggles the mind why…
Riemann Hypothesis Proven or Hoax?
Posted by The Curator on Thu Jun 10, 2004
A June 8 press release from Purdue University announced that one of its professors, Louis De Branges, has proven the Riemann Hypothesis (don't ask me what that is). This isn't just of academic interest because there's a $1 million prize that'll go to the first person who proves it, so the announcement has gotten some media coverage. The press release cautions that the professor's proof hasn't yet been peer-reviewed, but states that De Branges has posted the proof on his web page so that everyone can see it. But the MathWorld site notes that "both the 23-page preprint cited in the release (which is actually from 2003) and a longer preprint from 2004 on…
Posted by The Curator on Tue Jun 08, 2004
If I just saw this picture randomly out of context, I'd swear it was fake. After all, I've never in my life seen clouds that look like that. But according to the Astronomy Picture of the Day site (which I trust), the picture is real. They're Mammatus Clouds that appeared over Monclova, Mexico. Apparently such clouds sometimes form in turbulent air near thunderstorms.
Impact in June
Posted by The Curator on Mon Jun 07, 2004
Head for the hills. The end of the world is near. For the past month conspiracy-theory sites have been all abuzz with the latest scare story: that a comet surrounded by a cloud of dust is going to hit the Earth this month and trigger an end-of-the-human-race scenario. Word of the approaching comet was first leaked on the internet by someone using the screen name 'Aussie Bloke,' who claimed to be an Australian astronomer. You can look at some of his posts over at Bushcountry.org (thanks to Marco Langbroek for sending the link). They make pretty dramatic reading. For instance, here's where he…
Posted by The Curator on Thu Jun 03, 2004
A couple of people have sent me links to this meteor hoax that the AP fell for. The AP reported that a meteor about the size of a small car hit near Olympia, Washington early this morning. Its source for this story was one Bradley Hammermaster, supposedly an Astronomy professor at the University of Washington, who called in a report of the meteor to Seattle's KIRO radio. The AP later had to admit that, "No one by the name of Hammermaster is known to the astronomy department, and the description given by the caller to the station of the object... was clearly bogus." However, it does appear that there really was meteor activity over Washington state,…
Posted by The Curator on Tue May 18, 2004
The cicadas have returned, and with them the rumor that researchers at Johns Hopkins University will pay up to $1000 for specimens of rare blue-eyed cicadas. Unfortunately, the rumor simply isn't true. In fact, no researcher at Johns Hopkins even studies cicadas, let alone insects, though back in 1947 the university did employ a Biologist, William D. McElroy (who later moved out to UC San Diego), who announced that he would pay kids twenty-five cents for every 100 fireflies they could catch. McElroy was always criticized for this by people who said that he was somehow contributing to the depletion of the firefly population, though I doubt the kids ever…
Giant Skeleton Unearthed
Posted by The Curator on Thu May 13, 2004
A remarkable photograph reveals archaeologists unearthing a massive (and when I say massive, I mean massive... we're talking a 50-foot behemoth here) skeleton at a site in Saudi Arabia. Of course, the Saudi military is keeping this all very hush, hush. The public couldn't handle knowing about such a remarkable discovery. If you get your news from The New Nation, 'Bangladesh's Independent News Source,' you might think this was an actual piece of news. But of course, it's totally false. The picture comes from a Worth1000 photoshop contest. The original, undoctored source of the image was a Cornell-sponsored dig of a mastodon…
Stephen Hawking is on the Mic
Posted by The Curator on Thu Apr 29, 2004
You may know Stephen Hawking as the brilliant theoretical physicist and best-selling author of A Brief History of Time. But did you also know that in his spare time the man is a gangsta rapper? Perhaps you're familiar with his album, A Brief History of Rhyme. Hawking's other career as a 'lyrical terrorist' is lovingly explored on this fan site, MC Hawking's Crib. Yeah, it's a hoax, but it's amazingly detailed, even including MP3 samples of Hawking's songs. (And thanks to Bill Boldt for gently pointing out to me my initial misspelling of 'Mic').
Dragon Hoax Was a Hoax
Posted by The Curator on Mon Mar 29, 2004
Back in January I posted an entry about what I called the Almost Great Dragon Hoax. It described a tiny dragon that had been found in a jar of formaldehyde in a garage in Oxfordshire. Supposedly the dragon had been created in the nineteenth century by German scientists trying to hoax their British counterparts, but the joke had been spotted by the British and placed in the trash... only to be recovered from there and end up years later in the Oxfordshire garage. Now it turns out that the dragon is actually of a much more modern origin. BBC News is reporting that author Allistair Mitchell created the story about…
Dihydrogen Monoxide Claims A Victim
Posted by The Curator on Sun Mar 14, 2004
I didn't think there was anyone left who hadn't heard this joke already. It's the one about the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide, a chemical found in many toxic substances and often used as an industrial solvent. Sounds scary, but dihydrogen monoxide is, of course, simply the scientific name for water, or H2O. Apparently the city council of Aliso Viejo, California hadn't heard the joke before, because they were about to ban the use of styrofoam cups because dihydrogen monoxide was used in their production. Luckily someone clued them in before they embarrassed themselves even more. Their one comfort is that they're not the only ones to fall for this joke. Last year disc jockeys in Olathe, Kansas warned…