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April Fool's Day, 2009
Tartan Sheep. (2009) The London Times ran a photo of "tartan sheep" said to have been bred by Grant Bell of West Barns, East Lothian. However, the Times warned, "Before you complain of being fleeced, check out the baa-code for today's date."
Guinness Reversed. (2009) Guinness ran a print ad showing its famous dark beer reversed (foam on bottom, beer on top). The caption on the ad read, "For Today Only."
Gmail Autopilot. (2009) Google unveiled Gmail Autopilot, a feature that automatically reads and responds to your email, saving you the time of doing this. It boasted that Autopilot could mirror any communication style, could also work for Gmail chat, and would work even if both sender and recipient had Autopilot on:
"Two Gmail accounts can happily converse with each other for up to three messages each. Beyond that, our experiments have shown a significant decline in the quality ranking of Autopilot's responses and further messages may commit you to dinner parties or baby namings in which you have no interest."
Pinanas. (2009) British supermarket chain Waitrose placed ads in newspapers announcing the availability of a new fruit, the pinana (a combination of pineapple and banana). The text of the ad read:
Pinanas. Fresh in today and exclusive to Waitrose. If you find that all Waitrose pinanas have sold out, don't worry, there's 50% off our essential Waitrose strawberries."
Association of Swiss Mountain Cleaners. (2009) The Swiss Tourism Board announced it was seeking volunteers to join the Association of Mountain Cleaners. It claimed, "The Association of Mountain Cleaners... makes sure that our holiday guests can always enjoy perfect mountains. Using brooms, brushes, water and muscle power, they clean the rocks of any bird droppings." Visitors to myswitzerland.com were invited to take a Mountain cleaner aptitude test and submit their name for a chance to win a week's holiday in Switzerland.
Bolivia Forced to Adopt Daylight Savings Time. (2009) The Democracy Center posted on its website that Bolivian President Evo Morales had accused the United States of engaging in a clandestine effort to force Bolivia to adopt Daylight Savings Time. The article quoted Morales as saying, "We have seen the government of the U.S. try to undermine our democracy, block us from the lawful export of coca products, and smuggle in munitions. But now we see that these conspirators also have their sights set on changing our clocks. We denounce this before the world community." The news was reposted as fact by a few blogs, including the Huffington Post, before it was identified as a joke.
Organic Air. (2009) The American grocery chain Whole Foods Market revealed a new product on its website: organic air. It came in .02 oz bottles in four varieties: original, sea breeze, mountain wind, and salt & vinegar. The grocery chain also announced that it was opening a new store in Antarctica, and that it was offering a free spider with every purchase of 50-lbs of organic bananas.
Smellr. (2009) The website "smellr.com" debuted, describing itself as "like Flickr, but for your nose":
"Your smell. Deeply personal yet very social, it says so much about you. And now there's a social network for your nose, a friendspace for your fragrance, a place to share your opinions on perfumes and vote for your favorite smells. We call it smellr and it's online now."
Free Childcare at Political Offices. (2009) An advertisement that appeared on page five of the Australian newspaper claimed that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had volunteered the use of the electorate offices as a child-minding service: "Each MP's electorate office will today be accepting newborns for a free child minding service. This is another example of Labor's commitment to working families." The advocacy group Get Up later claimed responsibility for the ad.
$99 Flights to Mars. (2009) Internet-based travel site Expedia.com announced it was offering flights to Mars for only $99, which it calculated to be a savings of $3 trillion for travelers. "In this economy, you can't afford NOT to go!" it declared.
Magnetic Tow Technology. (2009) BMW unveiled "Magnetic Tow Technology."
"The unique system, developed in conjunction with NASA, works via a discreet unit located in the front valance that projects an enhanced magnetic beam 20 metres in front of the BMW. Once a suitable target car is located and the BMW is magnetically locked on behind it, the driver is then able to take his foot off the accelerator, turn off the engine and let the car in front do all the work. The towing car will not notice any change in manoeuvrability."
Silent Crisps. (2009) The Daily Mail revealed that Walkers Crisps had collaborated with acoustics experts at the London Institute of Sound Performance (LISP) to design noise-free crisps, to be marketed as "Ready Silent Cri-sshhp." The crisps allowed people to "eat loud snacks in the cinema without disturbing the person next to you." The crisp was said to have "the same flavour and crunchiness, except it comes already crushed."
Alpine Legend. (2009) Microsoft announced the release of a new game for the Xbox: Alpine Legend. It featured the tagline, "Join the Global Yodel." Players competed online by yodeling and blowing on an alpine horn:
"Take your band through all the alpine rights of passage: a mountainous village tour, recording sessions in a log cabin studio, overcoming throat soother addiction, and even competing in a live yodel off."
Mannequins for Climate Justice. (2009) On March 31, a mannequin was found chained to the doors of a Bank of America branch in Boston. The mannequin wore a sign, "The real dummies evict people & fund climate chaos." A group calling itself Mannequins for Climate Justice took responsibility, saying it was getting a head start on Fossil Fools Day, an initiative to use April 1st as a day to mock and resist the fossil fuel industry.
Free internet access through digital radio. (2009) Australia's Courier Mail reported that the roll-out of digital radio in Queensland had the unintended side effect of making high-speed internet access freely available through old radio receivers. The paper interviewed the University of Queensland's head of frequency physics Prof Sayd al Lio who said, "the technicians had tapped into something that had eluded researchers for decades." To access the free internet, readers were instructed to place a radio on a surface outdoors in a direct line towards the Mt. Coot-tha radio towers:
"Tune in to any AM station with a moderate volume, not so loud it annoys the neighbours. Place your laptop behind the radio receiver, again in a direct line with the towers, and open your favourite internet browser. Experts say that today, April 1, otherwise known as April Fool's Day, should produce the strongest signal."
TomoToday—Instant Virtual Friends. (2009) The Japan Times profiled a new social-networking service called TomoToday that would provide people with instant virtual friends, recruited from the ranks of unemployed temp workers. The service complemented sites such as Facebook by providing "a short cut to a substantial social-media presence."
"TomoToday subscribers will be able to choose from strategically selected sets of virtual friends, dubbed 'InstaNakama,' tailor-made to nurture the user's desired online identity. Say you're a shy young man, in need of pointers and ice-breaking intros. The Wingumen are at your service... Other readymade TomoToday circles include: Jetto Setto (multilingual friends from all over the globe); OB-Gun (long-lost school chums); Power Ranchers (for the corporate networks); and Geek Gumi (for socially challenged otaku)."
YouTube Flipped. (2009) YouTube flipped its videos upside-down. The effect displayed for visitors who opened the home page and then went to a video from there. It was also possible to activate the effect by adding the code &flip=1 to the end of a youtube URL. YouTube wrote that it had introduced the new format because, "Our internal tests have shown that modern computer monitors give a higher quality picture when flipped upside down—kind of like how it's best to rotate your mattress every six months." To see the new format, it advised viewers to either 1) Turn your monitor upside-down; 2) Tilt your head to the side; or 3) Move to Australia.
Helium-Filled Chocolate Bars. (2009) Candy shop A Quarter Of announced it would soon be selling the Chokle, a chocolate bar filled with helium gas:
"It's a chocolate bar that tastes great, makes you squeak and makes everyone else laugh... pure genius! Take a small bite and your voice goes up a little, eat a whole bar in a single mouthful and you approach your maximum Mickey Mouse squeakiness!"
The Kodak eyeCamera 4.1. (2009) Kodak debuted the "eye camera," which featured a "what you see is what you get" viewfinder, Facial Recall Assistant (handy for parties and reunions), Image Stabilizer (perfect for taking pictures after a glass of wine or two), Digital X-Ray Vision (developed in partnership with the Superman Corporation located in the Fortress of Solitude), and a SuperZoom attachment.
Cyclone Dairy. (2009) The website of Cyclone Dairy appeared online in late March 2009, purporting to represent "the first dairy brand to offer great-tasting products made exclusively from cloned cows." The smiling family featured on the site's front page included a young boy missing his front teeth.
On April 1st, ice cream-maker Ben & Jerry's revealed it had created the site, hoping to raise "consumer awareness of the government's recent approval of cloned milk and meat within the human food supply chain."
Ideological Search Engine. (2009) Yahoo! unveiled an "ideological search engine" that filtered results to fit your personal political beliefs. Users could select between the Democratic and Republican ideology. Democratic results displayed in blue. Republican in red.
Concorde Flies Again. (2009) The French Museum of Air and Space announced on its website that Concorde was scheduled to return to the air for a special two-hour flight in June. The supersonic plane had not flown since 2003, but the museum explained that one of two Concordes given to it had been kept flight-ready. The announcement was picked up by the French news agency AFP, which later had to retract it when the museum admitted the news was a hoax. The museum explained that it perpetrated the hoax in order to publicize its hope that one day Concorde really would fly again.
Fake Panda Bear Scandal. (2009) The Taipei Times reported that pandemonium broke out at the Taipei Zoo when it was discovered that the zoo's two panda bears, received as a gift from China, were fakes. They were really "Wenzhou brown forest bears that had been dyed to create the panda's distinctive black-and-white appearance." The fraudulent pandas prompted comparisons to the recent contaminated milk scandal, in which milk watered-down with melamine had sickened 300,000 victims across China.
Buckingham Palace For Rent. (2009) Vacation rental agency Holidaylettings.co.uk posted a listing on its site for Buckingham Palace:
"This stunning accommodation offers deluxe living in the heart of England's capital city. A gated property with secure parking and armed guards, this is the perfect property to relax in complete luxury. Exquisitely furnished with many priceless antiques, royal collections and rare artefacts. 400 people work at the Palace to cater to your every need, including domestic servants, chefs, footmen, cleaners, plumbers, gardeners, chauffeurs, electricians, and two people who look after the 300 clocks."
Invisible Car. (2009) The Daily Express reported that a British inventor had built an invisible car, designed to fool speed cameras:
"It is beautiful in its simplicity... The plastic film appears completely normal to the human eye. But the flash of the camera reacts with molecules in the film and light is reflected outwards to make the car appear invisible in pictures."
The inventor admitted that the one problem was also covering the wheels and developing an invisible suit to wear.
Free Range Turtle Wax. (2009) Turtle Wax announced that in order to improve its product it had decided to remove all its turtles from battery farms and allow them to go free range:
"The turtle shell extract is the unique ingredient that makes Turtle Wax products last longer and provide improved shine and protection. Increased exposure to the outside elements is proven to enhance the rigidity of the carapace (upper shell) and ultimately, the hardening of the shell improves the overall performance of the wax. For that reason (and obviously to ensure our turtles enjoy their lives more) we've gone free range and moved all of our turtles from battery farms into outdoor pens."
Whale Farming. (2009) The hosts of NPR's All Things Considered read a sample of listeners' comments about a previously-aired story involving a plan to use farm-raised whales as an alternative source of energy. The whales were being raised on a farm in Bellesville, Illinois in "hundreds of acres of wide pools as far as the eye can see."
One listener remarked that there was nothing remarkable about such a farm since "Cetaceaculture, or whale farming, is already a big business in Europe."
In reality, NPR had never aired such a story, nor had it received any of the comments that were read. But for a while after the segment, "farm-raised whales" was the top search on Google.
GM and Chrysler ordered out of NASCAR. (2009) Car and Driver Magazine revealed that the White House had ordered GM and Chrysler to stop participating in NASCAR by the end of the 2009 season, deeming it an "unnecessary expenditure." Failure to comply would disqualify them from receiving any additional bailout money from the government.
NASCAR was said to be exploring other options, such as inviting Korea's Hyundai corporation to compete in GM and Chrysler's place.
Jacqui Smith Goes Shopping. (2009) The Daily Mail ran a photo (doctored) of Home Secretary Jacqui Smith walking out of a lingerie store. The headline above it read, "Oh Jacqui, surely that can't be you?"
Jacqui Smith had recently been embroiled in a scandal after her husband downloaded two pay-per-view adult films, the cost of which Smith had included as part of an MP expenses claim.
Melbourne Cricket Grounds Renamed. (2009) Australia's Herald Sun newspaper reported that a Chinese company, Mekong Industries, had submitted a multi-million dollar proposal to buy the naming rights to the Melbourne Cricket Grounds, renaming the stadium the Mekong Cricket Grounds.
The report played on fears that Asian companies were rapidly taking over Australian industries, especially in the mining sector, and provoked an angry response from readers. By midday, the story had attracted almost 200 angry comments such as “The Chinese corporate takeover of Australia has begun!” and “OZ Minerals, Rio Tinto, Fortescue Minerals, now the MCG. What next?” People suggested other names for the stadium, such as "Mainly Corporate Greed," "Mao's Cricket Ground" and "Melbourne Sports Ground (MSG)."
However, some did realize the story was a joke, noting that the spokeswoman's name was "April Fulton."
Playboy Invests in Rotorua. (2009) The tourism board of Rotorua, New Zealand (a town famous for having a rotten egg smell caused by sulphur released from hot springs) ran full-page ads in The New Zealand Herald and The Dominion Post noting that scientists from Italy's University of Naples had recently discovered a positive link between the town's smell and male sexual arousal. This was true. But the ads went on to claim that, as a result, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner had decided to invest in Rotorua by converting the Rotorua Museum into his Holiday Mansion. Although some locals were unhappy, the long-term tourism benefits were expected to be huge.
Melbourne makes bid to host Running of the Bulls. (2009) Melbourne Tourism Minister Tim Holding announced the city was making a bid to host the Running of the Bulls:
"For too long the people of Pamplona have monopolised this event, the Brumby Government is determined to grab the bull by the horns and snare this important event for Melbourne."
Holding said the bull run would "start in the historic theatre precinct at the Paris End of Collins Street, travel through Chinatown, across Swanston Street, through the quaint King Street district and end at a packed Etihad Stadium."
Qualcomm Wolf Pigeon. (2009) Qualcomm unveiled a plan to expand wireless coverage by implanting tiny base-stations into wolf-pigeon hybrids that would fly around, but also be self-defensible, form packs when needed, and go out as "lone wolves" to areas without coverage, thereby creating a strong network.
Unfortunately, the wolf-pigeons tended to overpopulate and cause havoc amongst the human population. This created a need for Shark Falcons, to keep the wolf-pigeons under control. Qualcomm engineers also anticipated a need for Crocodeagles to manage the Shark Falcons. Crocodeagles would be four times bigger than Shark Falcons, "so they're always going to win."
Squeez Bacon. (2009) Online retailer thinkgeek.com unveiled Squeez Bacon, 100% bacon paste that could be squeezed from a tube. It described it as "the world's most perfect food."
Squeez Bacon® is fully cooked 100% bacon. Due to the patented electro-mechanical process by which Squeez Bacon® is rendered, it requires no preservatives or other additives. Each serving is as healthy as real bacon, and equivalent to 4 premium slices of bacon!
Google gBall. (2009) Google Australia announced it had partnered with the Australian rules football league to develop the gBall.
This was a rugby ball with "inbuilt GPS and motion sensor systems to monitor the location, force and torque of each kick." Google could then provide users with "detailed online kicking tips, style suggestions and tutorials based on their gBall kicking data." As an added bonus, "Kicking data is also sent to national talent scouts and player agents. The gBall will vibrate if talent scouts or player agents want to make contact with the user."
Rechargeable Gum. (2009) The website HowStuffWorks described a new startup company, ReBubble, that was coming out with rechargeable chewing gum. The gum could be "recharged" by placing it in a special recharging station, the ReCHEWvenation Chamber, that plugged into either a standard power socket or connected to a computer via a USB cable. "After it finishes charging, the gum should have the same taste and texture as it did fresh from the package." The gum would eventually come in five flavors, although the only flavor currently available tasted like "grape with a hint of ozone." However, there were reportedly problems if people ate partially charged-sticks of gum. But the company was trying hard to prevent "catastrophic gum failure."
Econoland. (2009) The Economist magazine announced it would be building a new economics-themed amusement park on a former industrial estate in East London, as part of a strategy to "promote The Economist brand to a young and dynamic audience" by combining "the magic of a theme park with the excitement of macroeconomics."
The rides in Econoland would include the "currency high-roller," "Fiscal Fantasyland," and "Bankrupt Britain" (pit your wits against the government as you try to sink sterling and bring the country to its knees!).
Cling-Film Bandits. (2009) "Cling-film bandits" struck Melbourne, wrapping at least 400 cars in the city in cling film. They wrapped cars parked at shopping malls, railway stations, and in residential areas. A note attached to the cars read: "Happy April Fools Day love Evie."
The police did not investigate the prank because no damage had been done to the cars.
Animal Active Gyms. (2009) Virgin Active, Sir Richard Branson's health club chain, announced it would be opening the UK's first-ever animal-only gym, Animal Active. It would be "a haven for animals in need of exercise or lifestyle management."
"Trained exercise co-ordinators will run a series of group exercise classes which will include Pooch Paunch Buster, Puuuroebics, Wag Attack, Canine Crunch and Pawlates. There will also be a weigh-in area for all pet owners to come and check the weight of their pet. A full time vet and pet nutritionist will also be on hand to answer any health and diet queries."
World’s Longest Anthem. (2009) The Sun revealed that during the World Cup qualifying match against Ukraine, fans would have to stand as the world's longest national anthem played, the six-and-a-half minute version of Oi Ukrainy. Any fans who sat down during the anthem would be ejected from Wembley stadium. The anthem would be sung by the folk star Furstov Aprylova.
Lickverts. (2009) Russian Standard Vodka ran ads in UK newspapers claiming to have created the world's first "lickvert" — an ad dipped in vodka that could be licked to taste the drink. Readers were urged to "Lick Here," though also reminded to, "Please lick responsibly."
The vodka lickverts were a hoax. But real-life lickable ads had existed in the past. For instance, in 2008 Welch's grape juice ran a lickable ad in People magazine.
The Guardian Switches to Twitter. (2009) The Guardian announced it would become "the first newspaper in the world to be published exclusively via Twitter," thus rendering its printing presses obsolete. It also revealed an ongoing project to rewrite its entire news archive in the form of "tweets" (Twitter's text messages limited to 140 characters each). Examples included:
Fish Power. (2009) The London Telegraph revealed a plan to generate electricity by harnessing the power of fish migrating upstream:
"The project, codenamed 'Finetics', builds on Japanese technology that captures energy from people walking over pressure sensitive mats at train stations. Research found that a typical salmon, which zips through waters at a top speed of 12 metres (40ft) per second, can over a 100m (330ft) stretch generate enough electricity to make 18 cups of tea, while the more shy rudd will only trigger enough power for three cups. Multiplied many times over by the millions of fish that thrive in rivers and waters across England and Wales, the Environment Agency scientists estimate the amount of electricity generated could power around 30,000 homes a year."
The article quoted Gavin Roach, "a world-leading specialist in green technologies based at the Université de Poisson d'Avril in Paris," as saying, "The Environment Agency team has made a very exciting breakthrough. Finetics clearly has the potential to create significant amounts of power by simply harnessing the power of nature."
Russian President’s Nuclear-Proof Limousine. (2009) The Moscow Times revealed details of the new limousine used to transport President Dmitry Medvedev. It was said to be far more secure than "The Beast" (the nickname of the limousine used to transport U.S. President Obama).
"The Russian car has a 12-centimeter-thick titanium plated roof that is so strong a T-72 tank can drive over it without causing any real damage... Its windows are made of glass that will withstand a direct hit from a rocket-propelled grenade, while its wheels automatically turn into caterpillar tracks when going over rough terrain... The Kremlin official noted that the car's occupants could survive a small nuclear attack, but only if the wind was blowing in a certain direction."
A number of news outlets reported the story as fact, including The Guardian. Der Spiegel and three media outlets in South Korea contacted The Moscow Times seeking more details.
Ocean Youth Association. (2009) Yachting Monthly inserted a joke item in its April issue about the Ocean Youth Association, an organization that supposedly allowed children to compete in world sailing stunts. What Yachting Monthly didn't realize is that the name of their fictitious organization was similar to the names of several real organizations, Ocean Youth Trust and the Association of Sail Training Organisations, both of which subsequently began to receive inquiries from people seeking clarification about the Yachting Monthly article.
Hotline for Mr. Don Key. (2009) Anticipating the annual flood of prank calls on April 1st, the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines set up four hotlines that pranksters were invited to use. The hotlines were for "Mr. Albert Ross," "Mr. C. Lyon," "Ms. Anna Conda," and "Mr. Don Key." Each hotline played a prerecorded message to let callers know they'd been fooled.
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