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November 2005
Status: Bogus (almost definitely)
image Altmann tube-o-lator lacquer is a coating-compound that you can rub on semiconductor chips found in devices such as CD-players, DVD-players, Preamplifiers, or Power-Amplifiers. And somehow this coating will change the way those chips process sound. Whereas before the sound was cold and harsh, after rubbing a bit of tube-o-lator lacquer on, the sound is warm and rich. The tube-o-lator website states:

The ALTMANN “TUBE-O-LATOR" lacquer is applied only on the top surface of plastic semiconductor packages of AD-converter-chips, DA-converter-chips, OP-amps and discrete transistors. After application, the overtone spectrum of these active devices changes immediately and permanently. The new sonic signature will be natural, full and tube-like. The ALTMANN “TUBE-O-LATOR" lacquer electromechanically balances the resonance-spectrum of the plastic chip package and semiconductor itself in such a way, that a natural sounding overtone- spectrum of the treated active device will be generated.

Why would rubbing a bit of lacquer on top of a semiconductor chip have any effect on the sound quality? The tube-o-lator people are disarmingly honest. They have no idea:

We are not able to provide an accurate description why the "Tube-o-lator" stuff actually works. Maybe some of you guys out there will solve this mystery and tell us.

Not being an audio engineer, I don't feel qualified to state definitively that this stuff couldn't work. But I can't imagine why it would work. Anyway, it's no longer for sale (demand must have been too high), so it's not possible to get any of this to test it out.
Categories: Technology
Posted by Alex on Tue Nov 08, 2005
Comments (15)
Status: Documentary
A Dutch TV station, omroep.nl (I think it's a TV station), has an interesting documentary online about the Paul Is Dead hoax. The documentary is in English, but with Dutch subtitles. I had to select the Real Player option to get the video to play.

The documentary contains interviews with many of the key players in the events of 1969, including Russ Gibb (the Detroit DJ whose broadcast about the Paul is dead rumor brought it to the attention of a national audience), Tom Zarski (the kid who called Russ Gibb and told him to play Revolution 9 backwards), and Fred LaBour (the student journalist whose article first presented many of the clues to readers... LaBour is dressed as a cowboy in his interview because he's now a member of a western music group called Riders in the Sky). At the end of the documentary Russ Gibb claims to know a piece of information about the origin of the rumor that he's not yet willing to share with the public. Very mysterious. One can only speculate about whether he really does know something, or if he's full of it.
Categories: Death
Posted by Alex on Tue Nov 08, 2005
Comments (9)
Status: Art Project
The website of the SMA (Silent Movie Actress) Archive claims that:

We are a small and dedicated organisation based in Baltimore, USA. Our aim is the ‘resurrection’ of actresses from the Golden era of silent cinema. To do this we are securing a large body of quality genetic material from a variety of sources which is subjected to rigorous testing to ensure its validity. Samples range from small tissue and blood samples to full bones and several preserved organs.

Is this real? Well, the site it's located on, bonetrade.gregorywhitehead.com, is so elaborate that it would be easy to believe it was real. It delves into all kinds of bizarre aspects of "corporeal memorabilia," which is the trade in the body parts of dead celebrities. Now, I realize there definitely is a market for body parts of famous people (see Rasputin's penis). However, the elaborate corporeal memorabilia of the SMA Archive and everything else on bonetrade.gregorywhitehead.com is fictitious. It's the creation of artist Gregory Whitehead. He wrote a short movie called The Bone Trade about Walter Sculley, a (fictional) dealer in corporeal memorabilia. In the movie, Whitehead plays Sculley. (Also check out this mp3 file of Whitehead interviewing Sculley.) The website about corporeal memorabilia appears to be an outgrowth of the movie. For more weirdness by Whitehead, you can read his article in Nth Position Magazine about bibliovoria (people who love to eat books). (via The Presurfer)
Categories: Body Manipulation, Celebrities, Death
Posted by Alex on Tue Nov 08, 2005
Comments (4)
Status: Most likely a free energy scam
An article in the Guardian about Dr. Randall Mills, founder of Blacklight Power, has been generating a lot of debate in the blogosphere. For instance, there's discussion of the article over on Slashdot, and a link to it also got posted in the hoax forum. I wanted to add a few comments here because, although many people might be hearing about Mills for the first time (thanks to the Guardian article), the guy has actually been lurking around since the early 1990s, claiming to have discovered a limitless source of cheap energy. (I recognized Mills because he's discussed in Robert Park's book Voodoo Science, published in 2000.)

Mills's theories originally developed out of his interest in cold fusion, though he insists he's not proposing a rejiggered form of cold fusion. Instead, what Mills claims to have discovered is a way to get a hydrogen atom to move to an energy level below the ground state. The ground state is the lowest energy level a hydrogen atom can sink to (according to modern physics). But Mills is saying it can sink even lower (i.e. the electron can move even closer to the proton). When a hydrogen atom sinks to this sub-ground level, it supposedly emits an enormous amount of energy and transforms into what Mills calls a "hydrino". If Mills is right, pretty much all of modern physics is wrong. Which is why Mills probably isn't right.

Of course, Mills could be a genius whose theories are going to completely revolutionize modern science (and modern industry). That's what his supporters claim. But that's what the supporters of ALL free-energy schemers claim. The fact is that for almost fifteen years Mills has been promising that practical applications of his hydrino technology are just around the corner. But nothing ever materializes. And meanwhile he keeps luring in new investors with his wild promises of limitless energy. So it seems to me that Mills and his hydrinos match the familiar free-energy pattern of big promises, but no results.
Categories: Free Energy
Posted by Alex on Tue Nov 08, 2005
Comments (28)
Status: Photographs with blurry objects in them
Edna Barrie sent me this series of images that's circulating around. It's accompanied by the caption:

If You Don't Send This to at Least ten People in the Next 2 Hours You will Forever have Bad Luck.....If You do...Something Good Will Happen to you in the Near Future!!!! Good Luck.

What I can't understand is why over-exposed and double-exposed images would cause anyone bad luck. But as it is, I'm slated for permanent bad luck because I waited over two hours to post these on the site.

image image image
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Categories: Paranormal, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Mon Nov 07, 2005
Comments (29)
Status: Real
The Sunday Mirror ran an article about a device, called the Mosquito, that promises to allow shopkeepers to get rid of the crowds of surly youths who like to congregate outside their shops. The article states:

The machine, which is hidden within the lights of corner shops, uses ear-splitting ultrasonic soundwaves. It is being hailed as the answer to clear away underage drinkers and vandals from the doorways of late-opening stores. The 9in-high device - called the Mosquito - has a range of 20 to 30 metres and emits a piercing sound only clearly audible to under-20s. The sound is said to be "extremely unpleasant", but not harmful.

The website of Compound Security Systems, maker of the Mosquito, further explains:

Mosquito is essentially a sounder unit that emits a very high (ultra-sonic) tone that is completely harmless even with long term use... Research has shown that the majority of people over the age of 25, have lost the ability to hear at this frequency range... The longer someone is exposed to the sound, the more annoying it becomes. Field trials have shown that teenagers are acutely aware of the Mosquito and usually move away from the area within just a couple of minutes. The field trails also suggest that after several uses, the groups of children / teenagers tend not to loiter in the areas covered by the Mosquito, even when it is not turned on.

I'm not sure about the science here, but it does seem plausible to me that younger people would be able to hear high-pitched sounds more easily than older people. If this does work, I would definitely consider installing it to annoy my college-age neighbors who enjoy playing basketball in their backyard at midnight. (Thanks to Eric for the link.)
Categories: Technology
Posted by Alex on Mon Nov 07, 2005
Comments (35)
Status: Interesting theory
It's long been argued that when people report seeing sea serpents, they might actually be seeing floating logs, strange waves, or shadows on the water, and mistaking these things for sea serpents. Now Dr. Charles Paxton has come up with an interesting extension of this theory. He argues that people might also be misidentifying whale penises as sea serpents. He presents this theory in the current issue of the Archives of Natural History. As an example he uses the case of an eighteenth-century missionary named Hans Egede who reported a sighting of a sea serpent, and drew a picture of the creature. Paxton demonstrates that Egede's picture closely resembles what a whale's aroused penis rising from the water might look like. The abstract of Paxton's paper is as follows:

A re-evaluation of the “most dreadful monster” originally described by the “Apostle of Greenland” Hans Egede in 1741 suggests that the missionary’s son Poul probably saw an unfamiliar cetacean. The species seen was likely to have been a humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), a North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) or one of the last remaining Atlantic grey whales (Eschrichtius robustus) either without flukes or possibly a male in a state of arousal.

So if Egede mistook a whale penis for a sea serpent, it's logical to assume others might also have done so. This theory has the ring of truth to it.
Categories: Cryptozoology
Posted by Alex on Sat Nov 05, 2005
Comments (24)
Status: Patent the A is satire; patented storylines is serious
The Ecchi Patent Company claims to hold a patent on the letter A:

The rights lie with us for all forms of the letter A, including, but not limited to, uppercase, lowercase, accented, Cyrillic, put in a little circle (e-mail users please note), in code, and in any form we may not have thought of already.

Supposedly you need to obtain a license from them in order to use the letter A in any form: "we will soon begin prosecuting people who fail to purchase a license and continue to use the letter A." Of course, this is a joke. Unless you invented the letter A, you wouldn't be able to patent it. The creator of 'patent the A' admits it's a joke on another site he's created.

But in a similar case, Andrew Knight has filed an application to patent a fictional storyline (he says it's the first time anyone has ever sought to patent a storyline), and he doesn't seem to be joking about this. Here's the highly original story Knight seeks to patent:

The fictitious story, which Knight dubs “The Zombie Stare,” tells of an ambitious high school senior, consumed by anticipation of college admission, who prays one night to remain unconscious until receiving his MIT admissions letter. He consciously awakes 30 years later when he finally receives the letter, lost in the mail for so many years, and discovers that, to all external observers, he has lived an apparently normal life. He desperately seeks to regain 30 years’ worth of memories lost as an unconscious philosophical zombie.

Seems to have shades of Rip Van Winkle, to me. Anyway, I truly hope Knight doesn't succeed in his effort (if he is actually serious about it), since if authors are able to patent storylines, it would seem to me to spell the end of literature. Plus, it's often said that there are only three basic storylines: man vs. man, man vs. nature, and man vs. self. So no story is truly original, and therefore shouldn't qualify for a patent.
Categories: Law/Police/Crime, Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Fri Nov 04, 2005
Comments (14)
Status: Real
image My wife emailed me this image, wondering if it was real. Yes, it's real. I think it's been circulating around for a while. It's one of those once-in-a-blue-moon kind of emails in which all the information is actually correct:

New Grand Canyon Sky walk
* Scheduled to open Jan. 1, 2006 Hualapai Indian Reservation
* Juts about 70 feet into the canyon, 4000 ft above the Colorado River
* Will accommodate 120 people comfortably
* Built with more than a million pounds of steel beams, and includes dampeners that minimize the structure's vibration.
* Designed to hold 72 million pounds, withstand an 8.0 magnitude earthquake 50 miles away, and withstand winds in excess of 100 mph
* The walkway has a glass bottom and sides...four inches thick


A hi-res version of the image (which is a drawing, not a photograph) can be found at destinationgrandcanyon.com. I'm not sure I could go on this skywalk. I don't consider myself afraid of heights, but the last time I was at the Grand Canyon I had a lot of trouble getting too close to the edge without feeling sick to my stomach.
Categories: Places
Posted by Alex on Fri Nov 04, 2005
Comments (47)
Status: Real
Most people, I assume, are aware of Strunk & White's Elements of Style. It's hard to get through high school without being exposed to it. Now, at long last, that classic grammar and style guide has been put to music. Composer Nico Muhly created an operatic song cycle based on the book. He calls it "The Elements of Style: Nine Songs," and it was performed last month at the New York Public Library. When I first heard about this I thought it was some kind of early April Fool's Day joke. But no. It's quite real. The songs have titles such as "Be Obscure Clearly!", "Overly Over," and "Hyphens." A Newsweek reviewer who attended the event wrote that:

Unfortunately, the operatic style of the piece rendered the lyrics all but unintelligible to this listener—in ironic contrast to the simplifying ethos of "Elements"—though that may be more the fault of the acoustics of the library venue, which was, after all, designed for silence.

Maybe Muhly can make a name for himself by putting all kinds of different reference works to music. What about Oxford English Dictionary: The Musical, or Love Songs Inspired by Roget's Thesaurus?
Categories: Entertainment
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 03, 2005
Comments (7)
Status: Real Wall, Fake Breasts
Retailers are always coming up with new gimmicks to help their customers. I'm surprised none of them have thought of this before (reported in the Hindustan Times):

Men who want to woo their ladies by buying them sexy-scanty upper garments, but don't know their sizes, need not look confused anymore, as a designer in Netherlands has made their job much easier by creating a wall of fake breasts to help male shoppers buy bras that fit their wives or girlfriends. Wendy Rameckers, who works at the Piet Zwart Institute for Retail and Design in Rotterdam, has made a wall consisting of rows of silicon breasts in all sizes. She believes that by look and touch, male shoppers can work out the right size.

Unfortunately I haven't been able to locate a picture of this breast wall. But why stop at a wall? Why not display differently proportioned mannequins to help men find the right size?
Categories: Body Manipulation
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 03, 2005
Comments (13)
Status: Parody
image Panexa is a drug you need to take, no matter what may, or may not be, wrong with you. As the Panexa site states:

No matter what you do or where you go, you're always going to be yourself. And Panexa knows this. Your lifestyle is one of the biggest factors in choosing how to live. Why trust it to anything less? Panexa is proven to provide more medication to those who take it than any other comparable solution. Panexa is the right choice, the safe choice. The only choice.

Now, Panexa is pretty obviously a parody of pharmaceutical advertising. For those to whom this isn't immediately clear, the Important Safety Information listed on the site should remove all doubts. (Side effects include: shiny, valuable feces composed of aluminum and studded with diamonds and sapphire... everything you think you see becomes a Tootsie Roll to you... inability to distinguish the colors 'taupe' and 'putty.') The Panexa site was created by Jason Torchinsky, who's a member of the comedy group the Van Gogh-Goghs and a contributor to Stay Free! Magazine (which interviewed me a couple of months ago, though I don't know if the interview ever ran in the magazine).

However, the parody was apparently lost on CafePress, which Stay Free! Magazine was using to sell Panexa t-shirts. Carrie McLaren, the editor of Stay Free!, reports that:

After a reader sent me a note wondering what happened to our Panexa merchandise, I noticed that Cafepress has removed it due to copyright and trademark infringement!... Apparently, one of the genuises in Cafepress's police division thinks Panexa is an actual product and that we are infringing. I sent Cafepress an email about this and am awaiting a response.

Maybe there are new copyright laws that prohibit anyone from making fun of pharmaceutical companies. Wouldn't surprise me a bit. (via J-Walk)
Categories: Health/Medicine, Websites
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 03, 2005
Comments (15)
Status: Art Project
image Mindbending Software claims to offer programs that will insert subliminal messages into the favorite computer games of your kids, thereby reprogramming them, as they play the games, to do as you wish. Their website states:

Mindbending Software Inc. is a company specialized on psychological conditioning software packages for children. With the newest technologies our products infiltrate the computer games of your kids and mingle various subconscious or conscious conditiong messages and images in the game contents. The technology can be compared with the subconscious pictures in the TV program, and if you don’t know about them, ask yourself why are you buying all those things you don’t need. You see it works ! Our software uses the same and some other patented methods to condition your kids. Try it out, if you aren’t satisfied you’ll get your money back!

Their subliminal control programs include the Tranquilizer™, Intellectualizer™, Selfesteemizer™, and Professionizer™. So is this real? Not really. It's an art project created by Robert Praxmarer. But what gets me is that he actually will allow people to buy the products listed on the site. Or, at least, he'll take their money. Click on the 'Add to Cart' button, and you'll be taken to a PayPal screen that will transfer money to his account. Most hoax sites, by contrast, carefully avoid taking anyone's money, because if they do take money and don't deliver what they've advertised, that's fraud. So maybe Praxmarer really will send some kind of "subliminal" software to people who pay for it. (He wants, on average, over $1000 per program.) But he could still be opening himself up to charges of fraud if the software doesn't work as advertised.
Categories: Psychology, Websites
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 03, 2005
Comments (6)
Status: Hoax claims victim
image In my Gallery of Hoax Websites (which I created about four years ago, and which has since been superceded by the Hoax Websites category of the weblog), I list the website of Boilerplate, the Victorian Era Robot. The site details the history of a robot named Boilerplate who was supposedly created during the 19th century in order to replace humans in combat. I admit that the site had me going for a while, and that I only realized it was a hoax when I tried to check the bibliographic references, none of which referred to real books. It seems I wasn't the only one to be taken in by Boilerplate. The New York Times reports that comedian Chris Elliott, believing Boilerplate was a nineteenth-hoax (not a modern one), incorporated the robot into his historical novel, The Shroud of the Thwacker. Only when the creator of Boilerplate threatened to sue him for copyright infringement did Elliott realize his mistake. If only Elliott had checked my site, he would have known better.
Categories: Literature/Language, Technology
Posted by Alex on Wed Nov 02, 2005
Comments (4)
Status: Hoax
I find this very strange. A Chinese company, King Win Laurel, has filed paperwork with the SEC indicating that it's planning to make a bid to buy oil giant Exxon for $450bn. But analysts are dismissing the bid as a prank, since King Win Laurel doesn't have the kind of money necessary to make good on such an offer. Apparently King Win Laurel has a history of making hoax bids. Last year, for instance, it made a fake bid to buy Telstra. It also tried to buy a New Zealand firm called Restaurant Brands, but that offer was rejected by local regulators. So what we have here is a Chinese firm that simply likes making fake offers to buy companies. I have no idea what it's possible motivation could be.
Categories: Business/Finance
Posted by Alex on Wed Nov 02, 2005
Comments (5)
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