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August 2003
Recently a 27-year-old New Zealander named Peter Lynds has been getting a lot of attention. He's been hailed as the next Einstein because he's come up with an entirely new theory of time. And he's done this without having any formal qualifications as a physicist. But suggestions that Peter Lynds may be nothing more than a hoax have been cropping up. Some have even doubted the guy's existence. The Guardian investigated and found that Lynds was real enough, but that his work hasn't exactly wowed everyone in the Physics community. And that thing about him being the next Einstein... that may trace back to an offhand remark by Lynds himself.

Update 8/17/03: A visitor has posted an interesting theory that Peter Lynds is really a 17-year-old radio student who's been sending out press releases about himself under the pseudonym of Brooke Jones. I guess Peter Lynds could resolve this whole issue by just making a public appearance somewhere. Of course, it could be that he's waiting for an invitation.
Categories: Identity/Imposters, Science
Posted by Alex on Sat Aug 16, 2003
Comments (0)
There's been not one, but two articles in the past few days about the phenomenon of Fake Friendsters. Apparently many people using the new online service Friendster — a service that allows you to meet new people by making connections with the friends of your friends — have been creating fake identities, identities such as God, Giant Squid, or Jackalope. Friendster is fighting back by trying to delete all the fakes. Of course, this is like fighting the tide. Just ask any postmodernist and they'll tell you that the concept of identity is itself inherently illusory. So to insist that only 'real' identities are allowed on the service is absurd. Personally, if I were to create an account on Friendster, I'd want all of my friends to be fake.
Categories: Sex/Romance, Technology
Posted by Alex on Sat Aug 16, 2003
Comments (2)
How do you know if your house has a mold problem? Well, you could hire a mold-sniffing dog to find out. But be warned. Mold Consultants, LLC says the mold-dog industry is a scam.
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Sat Aug 16, 2003
Comments (0)
To all users of Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL, etc. If you ever get an email claiming to be from your service provider warning you that you need to forward the email you just received "so that we know you are still using this account," then it's a hoax. Variations of this hoax have actually been around a long, long time, but people are still falling for it.
Categories: Email Hoaxes
Posted by Alex on Thu Aug 14, 2003
Comments (3)
This story is five years old (dating back to 1998) but someone just sent it to me anyway. It details what appears to be a case of extreme gullibility. But a search on Lexis-Nexis for any newspaper report of this scam occurring in the past twenty years turned up nothing—except for skeptical references to this same email. So I've got to conclude that the case this email describes is just an urban legend. This person posting on SpaceFuture.com's message board back in 1998 agrees. Here's the text of the email:

More than 600 people in Italy wanted to ride in a spaceship badly enough to pay
$10,000 a piece for the first tourist flight to Mars. According to the Italian
police, the would-be space travelers were told to spend their "next vacation on
Mars, amid the splendors of ruined temples and painted deserts. Ride a Martian
camel from oasis to oasis and enjoy the incredible Martian sunsets. Explore
mysterious canals and marvel at the views. Trips to the moon also available."
Authorities believe that the con men running this scam made off with over six
million dollars.
Categories: Exploration/Travel
Posted by Alex on Thu Aug 14, 2003
Comments (2)
This has gotten a lot of attention. A LiveJournal user, Siamang, posted an entry about how his pet rabbit Grendel died. So (he claimed) he decided to skin and eat his beloved pet. After all, burying or cremating him seemed so impersonal. This was accompanied by pictures of Grendel both alive and served up on a plate. Predictably, the entry got a huge response. But it seems that Siamang wasn't being entirely honest. In a separate journal entry he refuses to say whether his story is true or false. He plays very coy, writing that online journals "can be fact or fiction and are almost always an extremely subjective hybrid of the two." In other words, the story probably isn't true. A lot of people have pointed out that what he claims is rabbit meat looks an awful lot like chicken.

rabbit  
cooked rabbit

Grendel before... and Grendel after
Categories: Food
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 13, 2003
Comments (0)
To the list of fictitious characters campaigning to become Governor of California we can now add Terry Tate, the 'Office Linebacker' in those ads by Reebok. Terry Tate is played by actor Lester Speight, but it's Tate that's running, not Speight. So we now have Gollum and Tate running, as well as Gary Coleman, Gallagher, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the pornstar Mary Carey, Angelyne, and Larry Flynt. All elections should be this fun!
Categories: Politics
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 13, 2003
Comments (0)
A cool set of Baron Munchausen trading cards. I'm sure it would cost a lot of money to buy the complete set.

Update 8/14/03: I didn't intend to suggest that these cards are a hoax, as a few people queried me about. I linked to them because Munchausen (the fictional character) was a famous teller of tall tales, so the cards appealed to me as an example of hoax memorabilia.
Categories: Folklore/Tall Tales
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 13, 2003
Comments (1)
outhouse springs Stuart Elliott, in today's edition of his NY Times email newsletter, writes about a hoax product that recently became a real product. It goes by the name Outhouse Springs water. This brand of bottled water was dreamed up by an advertising agency that wanted to gauge how effective outdoor billboard ads could be. So they put 40 billboards advertising the fictitious Outhouse Springs Water up around Charleston, South Carolina. The billboards sported slogans such as "It's #1, not #2!" People definitely noticed the ads and actually started asking for the stuff at retailers. Demand became so intense that the ad agency eventually made a deal with a bottled-water company to produce a limited run of Outhouse Springs Water. It's on sale now at Piggly Wiggly's in Charleston. This product reminds me of Olde Frothingslosh Pale Stale Ale.
Categories: Advertising, Food
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 13, 2003
Comments (0)
How do people react when their expectations built up by advertising collide with reality? That was the question two Czech film students set out to answer. They flooded Czech media with advertisements for a new 'hypermarket'—Cesky sen— offering goods at rock-bottom prices. New TV sets for $19, for instance. Eager shoppers flooded to the hypermarket's address, shopping bags in hand, only to find a large empty scaffold bearing a banner fluttering aimlessly in the wind. (Story via Paul Farrington)
Categories: Advertising
Posted by Alex on Tue Aug 12, 2003
Comments (0)
A frustrated visitor asks: "If you don't know whether it's real, or a hoax, then why in the world did you include it on this site of 'hoaxes'!" I assume they were referring to those pictures of the skinny models. Well, as vast as my knowledge is (note: sarcasm intended), sometimes I just don't know whether the weird things that pop up on the news or on the internet are real or false. But when I list things here, usually someone will write in with info that'll point the way towards the truth. That's the great thing about the internet. So to answer the question, I list things here even if I don't know if they're real or not, in order to find out what other people might know. But everything in the museum galleries (as opposed to this weblog portion of the site) has been clearly identified as either a hoax or real.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Tue Aug 12, 2003
Comments (0)
A brand new air guitar and drum set. Bid on it now at eBay.
Categories: eBay
Posted by Alex on Tue Aug 12, 2003
Comments (1)

Talk about a pain in the neck. Photoshop has made this guy look a bit like a giraffe, or E.T.

This photo has been circulating via email for a few months. It's usually titled 'They finally captured E.T." or some variation of that. I think it's fair to conclude that the neck and stomach of the man being led away by the police officer have been digitally enlarged. Note the boxy pixellation where the photoshopper cut-and-pasted to lengthen the neck:



(thanks to Karen Robinson for sending this).
Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue Aug 12, 2003
Comments (2)
Here's the latest entrant to the California recall election: Gollum, from Lord of the Rings. Considering the other candidates running, he just might have my vote.
Categories: Politics
Posted by Alex on Mon Aug 11, 2003
Comments (0)
A dance hit by Cherie Blair, wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, is taking the clubs by storm in Spain. Or, um, maybe not. (Thanks to Keith Brogan for emailing me about this).

Update 8/14/03: According to this article, maybe it's not a hoax.
Categories: Politics
Posted by Alex on Mon Aug 11, 2003
Comments (0)
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