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September 2005
Status: True
image Given the urban legend about kids eating pop rocks and soda, and then having their stomachs explode, I wouldn't have believed that mixing Mentos and soda could cause such a violent reaction. But after watching the video posted on WLTX's website, I do. (You need Windows Media Player to view it, and I had to click the "Trouble Viewing" button to make it work.) To summarize what the video shows, three Mentos are dropped into a bottle of soda, causing a geyser of soda to shoot up about three or four feet high out of the bottle. This really makes me wonder what would happen if you drank a can of soda and then downed a pack of Mentos. Personally I'm not planning to find out. I'm sure it wouldn't kill you, but I imagine it would fizz up into your throat and nose. WLTX provides this scientific explanation for the phenomenon:

Mentos contains a chemical known as ARABIC GUM (this is the ingredient that makes the mint "chewy"). This ingredient causes the surface tension of the water molecules to break even more easily, releasing more carbon dioxide gas at an astounding rate! .....The gas causes pressure to rapidly build inside the bottle which thrusts the soda upwards in a wonderful fountain-like BLAST!
Categories: Food
Posted by Alex on Fri Sep 23, 2005
Comments (186)
Status: Real (but it's a conceptual art project)
image Denmark now has a wireless phone service called You're Kidding Me!? that allows you to pretend you're having a conversation with someone on your cellphone:

The automatic service is designed to assist people at conferences, gallery openings and other places where being socially disconnected is no fun. After dialing the service number, users can choose between two types of conversations: a 'casual' or an 'important' conversation. The user is subsequently guided through a series of words and sentences that - when being repeated - makes it look and sound like a real conversation is taking place!

The homepage for the service is in Danish, but its creator has written up an English-language explanation of what it does (which is what I quoted from). And strangely enough, although the service is based in Denmark, it operates in English. Its creator, Sebastian Campion, explains that "The service is based on a conceptual artwork called dialogue that I created some time ago. Now, in collaboration with my colleagues at 1508 the concept has been refined and is fully operational! Try it out: +45 7015 1508 (local charge)." (via OhGizmo!)
Categories: Technology
Posted by Alex on Fri Sep 23, 2005
Comments (4)
Status: Hoax
image Babycage.net has been selling "infant confinement" products (i.e. cages in which you can lock up your child) since 2001. Or so it claims. It also offers a Teenager Cage, which looks like it could be very useful. The company's philosophy is straight-forward:

At BabyCage.net we believe that the most important tool you need in life to succeed is discipline. Without discipline and structure, a child may become succeptible to liking rock and roll, doing drugs, or in an extreme case believing in liberalism.

Given that all the company's products are pet cages that have been rebranded as baby cages, I'm pretty confident the site is a joke. I'd categorize it in the modest proposal genre. (Thanks to azog for the link.)
Categories: Birth/Babies, Websites
Posted by Alex on Fri Sep 23, 2005
Comments (29)
Status: Pathetic, but true
Fanatical Gambian soccer fans chartered a jet and faked the need for an emergency landing so that they could watch their team play:

The plane, claiming to be low on fuel, landed Tuesday in Peru's northern coast city of Piura, where Gambia played Qatar in the FIFA Under-17 World Championships later that night. Emergency crews were scrambled ahead of the Lockhead L1011 Tri-Star's unscheduled landing. It was to have landed in the capital, Lima. The fans were allowed to watch the soccer game in Piura, which Gambia won 3-1. The fans apparently would have been late or missed the game if the flight had first gone to its scheduled destination of Lima, 550 miles to the south. "It truly was a scam," said Betty Maldonado, a spokeswoman for Peru's aviation authority, CORPAC. "They tricked the control tower, saying they were low on fuel."

I think there was a TV show on recently about the lengths some fans go to in order to see their teams play. But I can't remember the name of it.
Categories: Sports
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 22, 2005
Comments (4)
Status: Unlikely (though the people who think it does won't care what I say)
image Along I-75 in Ohio there stands a 62-foot-tall fiberglass and styrofoam statue of Jesus, his hands raised into the air. It's very visible from the highway. Nicknames for it include Super Savior, Touchdown Jesus, Drowning Jesus (because it's located in front of a reflecting pool), and Jeeebus. It was completed last summer, and according to rumor there have been no accidents along the stretch of highway in front of it, although previously many accidents occurred there. Apparently Giant Jesus made the highway safe. Can this be true? According to an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, it is true that section of I-75 used to be quite deadly:

Officials at the Ohio Department of Transportation say about 87,000 vehicles pass the statue each day, and they agree that it was a deadly section of highway. In 2000 and 2001, the agency’s records show, 14 people were killed.

And since the arrival of Jesus, the deaths have stopped. So interpret that however you want. But the Department of Transportation isn't attributing the declining accident rate to divine intervention:

To halt the deaths, the state spent $1.1 million to install a cable that runs down the median. The cable barrier is designed to stop vehicles before they can cross into oncoming traffic. "Ten fatalities were crossover accidents," said Jay Hamilton, the highway agency traffic engineer who designed the barrier. "It was a highly deadly stretch of Ohio highway. Not anymore."... "I honestly think that Jesus can perform miracles, but I don’t think the statue was the miracle out here," he said. "It was the barrier."
Categories: Places, Religion
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 20, 2005
Comments (21)
Status: Old wives' tale disproven by science
At last I can return to my nocturnal cheese-eating ways, now that I know eating the stuff won't cause me nightmares... Actually I had never heard any rumor associating cheese with nightmares, but apparently researchers at The Dairy Council had, because they designed an experiment to disprove the fallacy. With the help of 200 volunteers they determined "cheese may actually help you have a good night's sleep." But stay away from Stilton, which caused an uptick in odd and vivid dreams. Cheddar made people dream about Jordan and Johnny Depp (which sounds to me like nightmare material).
Categories: Food, Psychology
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 20, 2005
Comments (30)
Status: Strange, but apparently true.
A pair of images showing a urinal with a fake fly etched into the porcelain is doing the rounds. (I'd guess it's been circulating for at least two years.) The images are accompanied by this caption:

In Amsterdam, the tile under Schiphol's urinals would pass inspection in an operating room. But nobody notices. What everybody does notice is that each urinal has a fly in it. Look harder, and the fly turns into the black outline of a fly, etched into the porcelain. It improves the aim. If a man sees a fly, he aims at it. Fly-in-urinal research found that etchings reduce spillage by 80%. It gives a guy something to think about. That's the perfect example of process control.

Apparently this is true. Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam does sport fly urinals. (Though I'd be interested in getting first-hand verification of this.) The Straight Dope reports that New York's Kennedy airport is considering using the same fake-fly technology.

image image
Categories: Animals, Gross
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 20, 2005
Comments (39)
Status: Fake; an example of the Weekly World News Effect.
I've received a couple of emails about this article on Yahoo! News detailing a cosmic "chaos cloud" that will obliterate the earth in 2014:

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Scared-stiff astronomers have detected a mysterious mass they've dubbed a "chaos cloud" that dissolves everything in its path, including comets, asteroids, planets and entire stars -- and it's headed directly toward Earth! Discovered April 6 by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, the swirling, 10 million-mile- wide cosmic dust cloud has been likened to an "acid nebula" and is hurtling toward us at close to the speed of light -- making its estimated time of arrival 9:15 a.m. EDT on June 1, 2014.

If it's not immediately obvious by its subject matter that the story is a joke, then it's source (the Weekly World News) should be a giveaway. It joins the time-traveling insider trader and the bogus japanese-to-english phrase book as examples of WWN stories mistaken as news, thanks to Yahoo!'s policy of not listing them as satire in their news feed.
Categories: Journalism
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 20, 2005
Comments (18)
Status: Authentic
image In my hoax photo gallery I display a picture of the body of Abraham Lincoln lying in a casket and explain that the photo is fake because the army didn't allow any photos of Lincoln's body to be taken. But I just received an email from Rich noting that there is one authentic picture of Lincoln's corpse, and he's right. A photographer did manage to snap a shot of the dead Lincoln as he was lying in state in Manhattan's City Hall. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton had the photograph confiscated, and it was supposed to be destroyed. But instead, Stanton kept it, and it was found by historians almost 100 years later. It's the only true Lincoln death photo in existence.
Categories: History, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 20, 2005
Comments (29)
I received an email today from the person who runs the Online Gamers Anonymous site (about which I once posted an entry):

Please remove On-Line Gamers Anonymous from you hoax website.
Please inform me when this has been done.
This is a REAL service provided for people who are addicted to computer/video games and have no where else to go.


Their concern is that when people do a google search, they see the name of the site in question followed by "Museum of Hoaxes," which could imply that the site is a hoax. This issue has come up before, and it's a legitimate concern for people with real sites, so I think I need to do something to clarify the status of things I post about. For items that aren't a hoax, I'll add "Not a Hoax" right in the title (so that people will see the status when they do a google search). And for everything else I'm thinking of adding some kind of status line, stating exactly what I think it is (i.e. "Real picture, fake caption," "crackpot conspiracy theory," etc.).
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 19, 2005
Comments (29)
Michel sent an email asking whether the Lesbian Phone Call site is for real or not. A description, from the site, advertises that:

LesbianPhoneCall.com delivers you a phone call from a genuine lesbian!
For $10 one of our professional lesbians will call anywhere in the US or Canada. A member of our diverse lesbian staff will call you within three business days. Simply supply a name, telephone number and tell us what sort of lesbian you'd like. We do the rest! Order a lesbian call for mom!


It's hard to know if this was ever anything more than a joke. (They're currently not taking orders... if they ever did... so you can't call to find out.) I suspect it's a joke created by uncoolcentral.com, to whom the domain name is registered.
Categories: Websites
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 19, 2005
Comments (12)
image About a year ago I posted an entry about cup stacking, since I found it hard to believe it was a real sport. Now after watching this video of Emily Fox stacking cups (requires windows media player and also viewable at speedstacks.com), I've got to say it's not only real but pretty impressive. I don't think I've ever seen cups move that fast. Assuming, that is, the video hasn't been speeded up.
Categories: Photos/Videos, Sports
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 19, 2005
Comments (23)
Michael Maffei sent me some giant crocodile pictures that have begun doing the rounds. They're accompanied by this caption:

Now this is a Crocodile ! This crocodile was found in New Orleans swimming down the street. 21 FT long, 4,500 lbs, around 80 years old minimum. Specialists said that he was looking to eat humans because he was too old to catch animals. This crocodile was killed by the army last Sunday at 3:00 pm, currently he is in the freezer at the Azur hotel. The contents of it's stomach will be analyzed this Friday at 2:30pm.

The pictures are real enough, but they're weren't taken in New Orleans. These are pictures of the Monster Crocodile of Pointe-Noire (in the Republic of the Congo). They've been circulating for over two years. David Emery notes that the crocodile was really estimated to be 16 feet long and weighed about 1874 lbs. That's still a lot bigger than I'd ever care to encounter.

image image image
Categories: Animals, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Sat Sep 17, 2005
Comments (132)
No, Google is not unveiling a new erotica search engine, despite what this press release posted on pressbox.co.uk (and now linked to by a number of blogs) claims:

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – September 15, 2005 – Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) announced today its plans to enter the lucrative adult content market with a new search engine that will be kept separate from its main line of search services.
Called Grotica, the new service uses sophisticated image processing tools to automatically categorize still photos and movies according to subject matter and degree of explicitness. Google's powerful keyword search functions have been further enhanced for this application with over 3000 synonyms for anatomical terms and erotic activities.
Categories: Sex/Romance, Technology
Posted by Alex on Sat Sep 17, 2005
Comments (11)
Here's a great example of satirical prophecy (defined as a joke becoming a reality). Back in February 2004 The Onion lampooned the razor industry with a spoof article, supposedly written by the CEO of Gillette, declaring that his company was going to one-up the competition by inventing a five-blade razor with two lubricating strips:

Stop. I just had a stroke of genius. Are you ready? Open your mouth, baby birds, cause Mama's about to drop you one sweet, fat nightcrawler. Here she comes: Put another aloe strip on that fucker, too. That's right. Five blades, two strips, and make the second one lather. You heard me—the second strip lathers. It's a whole new way to think about shaving. Don't question it. Don't say a word. Just key the music, and call the chorus girls, because we're on the edge—the razor's edge—and I feel like dancing.

A year-and-a-half later, Gillette really does unveil a five-blade razor with two lubricating strips. What's next? A seven-blade razor? I've said it before. Double, triple, quadruple, and now quintuple bladed razors are just a scam to justify charging more for blades. I think a single-bladed razor works just fine (and is also less irritating to your skin).
Categories: Business/Finance, Technology
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 15, 2005
Comments (26)
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