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June 2004
image Alien Abductions, Inc. can provide you with your very own alien-abduction memories. As their website says: "The fact of the matter is that most people will probably never have the opportunity to be abducted by aliens. And even those elite few who are selected for abduction receive no assurances that they will fully remember their experience--much less a guarantee that their abduction will be everything that they hoped it would be. So why wait? Why wonder if they're ever going to come for you? Why even invest the time, trouble, and expense involved in an actual abduction when the highly trained and professional staff at Alien Abductions Incorporated can provide you with personalized, realistic memories of the alien abduction that you have been waiting for your entire life?" Their basic package offers implanted abduction memories, but I figure that if you're going to sign up for this, then at the very least you'd also want to get the 'front yard crop circle' add-on. (Submitted by Sam)
Categories: Extraterrestrial Life, Websites
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 15, 2004
Comments (0)
image Nick and Emily discovered a ghoulish secret while perusing the latest edition of the Victoria's Secret catalog: a disembodied hand resting on the shoulder of one of the models. Very creepy. Either the model has a hand growing out of her shoulder, or there was originally someone standing next to her in the picture. The question is, was the hand left in there by mistake, or was it left in there on purpose... the mischievous signature of some disgruntled photo retoucher?
Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 15, 2004
Comments (10)
image Ripley the Cat has a weblog, and he writes all the entries himself. But I don't think it's a hoax, because my cat writes the exact same kind of stuff on the computer. Maybe it's some kind of secret language that we humans have yet to decode. (via The Presurfer)
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 14, 2004
Comments (9)
From the Hoax Forum: The weblog of Bill Clinton. Apparently his nickname for Hillary is the 'dragon lady.'
Categories: Politics
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 14, 2004
Comments (12)
The phrase 'penis-melting Zionist robot combs,' while not widely known, does seem to be growing in popularity. The phrase refers to a mass panic that swept through Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, in September 2003. The people of Khartoum feared that a Satanic foreigner was going around shaking hands with Sudanese men and thereby causing their penises to melt upwards inside their body. In one case a man reported that he was approached by a stranger at the market. The stranger handed him a comb and asked him to comb his hair. "When he did so, within seconds... he felt a strange sensation and discovered that he had lost his penis." The Sudanese journalist Ja'far Abbas interjected a note of scientific rationality into the growing hysteria by making this observation in his column in the Saudi daily Al-Watan:

No doubt, this comb was a laser-controlled surgical robot that penetrates the skull [and passes] to the lower body and emasculates a man!!
I wanted to tell that man who fell victim to the electronic comb: 'You jackass, how can you put a comb from a man you don't know to your head, while even relatives avoid using the same comb?!' ... That man [i.e. the mysterious stranger], who, as it is claimed, is from West Africa, is an imperialist Zionist agent that was sent to prevent our people from procreating and multiplying.


James Taranto wrote about this case of mass hysteria in the Wall Street Journal's Best of the Web Today column (October 2003), and he's credited with the first use of the phrase 'penis-melting zionist robot combs' (although I can't actually see where in the article he uses that specific phrase). I think people mostly just like repeating the phrase because it sounds cool, but I guess it could also be used to refer to any instance of extreme gullibility. For instance, one might say to a friend, 'that's a rather penis-melting-zionist-robot-comb-like belief you hold.'

Incidentally, shrinking-penis fears are centuries old, and there's even a term to describe them: Koro, or (more scientifically) 'genital retraction syndrome.'
Timothy Hall has an interesting analysis of this syndrome on his UCSD webpage.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Mass Delusion
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 14, 2004
Comments (14)
image The Cult of the New Eve appears to be an organization that celebrates the physical transformation of humans through biotechnology and genetic engineering. Their 'New Eve' is the name they use to refer to the unknown donor whose DNA was sequenced by the Human Genome Project. They vigorously oppose any kind of ethical or religious opposition to bioengineering, proclaiming that 'humankind is not spiritual - it is material.' In reality, the site isn't the homepage of some extreme scientific cult. It's the creation of an art group known as the Critical Art Ensemble. They've created another site called The Society for Reproductive Anachronisms (not totally safe for work), that appears to be the polar opposite of the Cult of the New Eve, being an organization opposed to any kind of genetic alterations. The Critical Arts Ensemble has been in the news recently because one of its members, Steve Kurtz, is being charged with the illegal possession of biological agents, even though Kurtz insists these 'biological agents' were nothing more dangerous than you'd find in a high school biology lab, and that he uses the material in his art.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Websites
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 14, 2004
Comments (1)
image Birdman Weapons Systems offers "unfriendly products for an unfriendly world." For instance, they sell the ShotCaller2000 9mm Telephone (it'll fire one shot into the ear of whoever answers it), the Mountain Dew Shotgun (in case you have the urge to fire cans of Mountain Dew at high velocity), and, of course, the Nuke 50 Micronuclear ("a mind bending MicroNuclear blast  in a tiny, convenient and affordable package"). Definitely check out the video of the Nuke 50 in action. Unfortunately it looks like their site hasn't been updated in a while. (Submitted by Sam)
Categories: Military, Websites
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 14, 2004
Comments (4)
It's prom time, and parents of seniors at Newfield High School all received a letter in the mail offering their child a free 'protection package' comprised of condoms and lubricant to help them celebrate the night in a fun, but safe, way. The letter was a prank, and a very successful one if judged by how much it managed to annoy school authorities. The School Superintendent fumed that the prank demonstrated "inexcusable and reckless behavior that diminishes every student in the senior class." I'm pretty sure that's exactly the reaction the pranksters were hoping for.
Categories: Pranks
Posted by Alex on Fri Jun 11, 2004
Comments (2)
image 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 (would it have really killed him to whip up some new fake charts in excel?). Now Schön's alma mater in Germany has stripped him of his doctorate. Ouch. Talk about kicking a guy when he's down.
Categories: Science
Posted by Alex on Fri Jun 11, 2004
Comments (5)
image Nokia offers a product they call the 'Walk and Talk Hoax Caller.' Their ad copy describes it as a hands-free voice changer for your mobile phone. "Prank call Anonymous Calls Winding up your mates and enemies. The fun really begins when you plug in the Hoax Caller and switch the unit on." Yeah, buy this product and you too can be just like the creepy-looking loser in their ad making obscene phone calls to young teenage girls. I wonder what marketing genius picked out this sinister scenario to sell the product? (via Red Ferret Journal)
Categories: Advertising, Technology
Posted by Alex on Fri Jun 11, 2004
Comments (10)
image A photo of a curious fish with one head but two bodies has been doing the email rounds. Is it real, or is it Photoshop? It's real, if the Texas Reptiles website can be trusted (and they sound like they know what they're talking about to me). The picture shows a siamese Northern Pike caught by Donald Tayer on the Ottertail River in North Dakota. The Texas Reptiles site also has an interesting gallery of other 'freaks of nature,' including a photo of an 18-foot alligator supposedly found on a construction site in Florida (the picture is real, but the gator was only 13.5 feet long).
Categories: Animals, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Fri Jun 11, 2004
Comments (9)
image The Society for the Protection of Plants wants you to know that cutting or injuring plants in any way is Murder. So stop mowing the lawn or walking across the grass, for crying out loud. This anti-vegetarianism ad was created by Max over at Maxigumee Land. And yes, of course, it's a spoof. He has a full gallery of these anti-vegetarianism ads. (via Adrants)




Categories: Advertising, Food
Posted by Alex on Fri Jun 11, 2004
Comments (7)
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 the JRM ever published something like this. As Bob Carroll of the Skeptic's Dictionary points out, never mind that the research was fraudulent. The entire premise of it was self-contradictory. He notes:
If prayer works by influencing God to influence the outcome of an experiment, then God can interfere with the laws of nature at any time. If God can interfere with the laws of nature at any time, then no controlled, double-blind study can be sure of the meaning of whatever outcome results. Any result could be the result of direct influence by God. In other words, the assumption the study is based on is self-defeating. No science at all would be possible if God could be interfering with the laws of nature at will. Science requires a backdrop of lawfulness in Nature in order to discover any causal connection between anything and anything else.
Categories: Birth/Babies, Religion, Science
Posted by Alex on Fri Jun 11, 2004
Comments (1)
Here's the latest hoax warning that's going around via email. Actually, it may be quite old, but I've only come across it recently. So here it is:

I hate those hoax warnings, but this one is important! Send this
warning to everyone on your e-mail list.
If someone comes to your front door saying they are conducting a survey
and asks you to take your clothes off, do not do it.!!! This is a scam;
they only want to see you naked. I wish I'd gotten this yesterday. I feel so
stupid and cheap now.....
Categories: Email Hoaxes, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Thu Jun 10, 2004
Comments (5)
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 de Branges's home page seem to lack an actual proof. Furthermore, a counterexample to de Branges's approach due to Conrey and Li has been known since 1998. The media coverage therefore appears to be much ado about nothing." (via Gene Expression)
Categories: Science
Posted by Alex on Thu Jun 10, 2004
Comments (1)
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