Measurement-Themed April Fool's Day Hoaxes
Mme. Pompadour’s Metric Measure.
Merle Blanc, a humorous Parisian newspaper, laid a trap for André Perate, curator of the Versailles Palace. They sent him a letter, using the aristocratic signature "Madame de Mesnil-Heurteloup," offering to donate a "double decimeter measure in rosewood" once used by Mme. de Pompadour. They suggested it could be placed in the recently reopened Pompadour apartments in Versailles.
The newspaper later reproduced a facsimile of the curator's reply, noting that he had failed to realize that Mme. Pompadour died thirty years before the metric system was invented. They suggested that they might seek space in French museums "for Napoleon's automobile, a bracelet worn by the Venus de Milo, and
The Village of Spiggot Boycotts Metric System.
Westward Television, a British TV studio, produced a documentary feature about the village of Spiggot whose residents were refusing to accept the new decimal currency recently adopted by the British government. The feature included interviews with local officials from Spiggot. The documentary prompted an outpouring of support for this rebellious village from the British public, and many people expressed a willingness to join it in its anti-decimal crusade. Unfortunately for this burgeoning rebellion, the village of Spiggot did not exist.
Australia's This Day Tonight revealed that the country would soon be converting to "metric time." Under the new system there would be 100 seconds to the minute, 100 minutes to the hour, and 20-hour days. Furthermore, seconds would become millidays, minutes become centidays, and hours become decidays. The report included an interview with Deputy Premier Des Corcoran who (participating in the prank) praised the new time system. The Adelaide townhall was shown sporting a new 10-hour metric clock face. The show received numerous calls from viewers who fell for the hoax. One caller wanted to know how he could convert his newly purchased digital clock to metric time.
The News of the World reported that the two halves of the Channel Tunnel, being built simultaneously from the coasts of France and England, would miss each other by 14 feet, the reason being that French engineers had used metric specifications, whereas the British had used imperial feet and inches. The error would cost $14 billion to fix.
Alabama Changes the Value of Pi.
The April 1998 issue of the New Mexicans for Science and Reason newsletter contained an article claiming that the Alabama state legislature had voted to change the value of the mathematical constant pi from 3.14159 to the 'Biblical value' of 3.0. Before long the article had made its way onto the internet, and then it rapidly made its way around the world, forwarded by people in their email. It only became apparent how far the article had spread when the Alabama legislature began receiving hundreds of calls from people protesting the legislation. The original article, which was intended as a parody of legislative attempts to circumscribe the teaching of evolution, was written by physicist
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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.