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|•||Chilis Narrowly Avoids Funding Anti-Vaxxers 04/08/2014|
|•||Dutch April fools jokes 04/02/2014|
|•||Japanese stem cell breakthrough exposed as a fabrication 04/02/2014|
|•||April First - April Fools Day 04/01/2014|
|•||Cloned dinosaurs? 03/31/2014|
|•||US ‘psychic’ Cynthia Miller jailed for $1.2 million fraud 03/29/2014|
|•||Test of intelligence. Person calls police to report their cannabis plant stolen 03/25/2014|
|•||Malaysia air disaster 03/22/2014|
|•||Fred Phelps is gone 03/21/2014|
|•||Iran building fake aircraft carrier 03/20/2014|
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Status: UndeterminedThe following technique to relieve nasal congestion by massaging points on your nose has been widely linked to (especially after getting posted on digg.com). Supposedly this technique will provide immediate relief from congestion. Here's what you're supposed to do: I haven't tried this, but I'd be willing to bet that it doesn't work for me. Massaging my nose might feel good and temporarily relieve some pressure, but I can't imagine it would actually clear up congestion. For that I rely on drugs. If I have an allergic reaction, zyrtec works pretty well for me. (Claritin does almost nothing.) If I have a cold, I use Nyquil. Though I've heard Nyquil doesn't work as well as it used to since ingredients have been removed so that it can no longer be used to manufacture home-made methamphetamines.
Status: Fake flavorsThe latest scandal in the world of French gourmet cuisine: the use of artificial bottled flavors (aka arômes artificiels) to substitute for high-end ingredients such as truffles, wild mushroom, caviar, prawn, crab, shallot, scallop, saffron, and even wine. The London Times reports: Many of these aromes can be purchased at chefsimon.com. Their pictures of the flavorings, such as the artificial wine powder, are kind of interesting. But their product page also bears the warning: USONS SANS ABUSER! (Let us use without abusing!)
Status: Weird News (doesn't seem to be a scam)A few days ago a Burger King restaurant in the Netherlands debuted a new dish: frog salad. The first customer of this dish, a 23-year-old woman named Astrid Roek, had not realized what she had ordered. ABC News reports: So just to clarify: Burger King hadn't intended for the frog to get in the salad, but somehow it got there anyway. They're not really serving Frog Salad. (Though that item might go over well in France.) The question is, did the woman put the frog there, or was it Burger King's fault? It sounds like BK is taking the blame for this incident. Given the frequency of these gross-stuff-found-in-food stories, I think I'll soon need to devote a separate page to them. (Thanks to Stephen for the link.)
Status: HoaxTodd emailed me a link to this Phoenix New Times article about rogue chef "Kaz" Yamamoto, whose specialty is creating dishes from "meat, game and vegetation that's considered off limits, immoral or even illegal." We're talking about dishes such as Tenderloin of Bichon Frise, monkey brain stew, Arizona saguaro cactus salad, Yosemite brown bear, rhino genitals, giraffe tongue, Sea World sea lion (supposedly obtained by bribing a Sea World employee), etc. Yamamoto even claims to serve human flesh, obtained by paying Mexican immigrants a handsome sum for their kidney, arm, or leg. These delicacies are all served to a rich and powerful clientele who have a taste for forbidden food.
As Todd points out, this sounds a bit farfetched (and very reminiscent of the plot of The Freshman), but then again the Phoenix New Times is a real, credible paper. So why would they be making all this up? The answer is that the Phoenix New Times occasionally likes to print hoax stories. Back in 2004 I posted about their article on human taxidermy, which described a company that offered freeze-drying of corpses as an alternative to burial or cremation. (You could stand freeze-dried Grandma in the corner of your living room.) Human taxidermy was a hoax, and so is the extreme cuisine of Kaz Yamamoto. Clues (besides the outlandish nature of the article itself) are the photoshopped pictures (such as the one of Yamamoto cutting down a protected saguaro cactus) and the "Details" box which reads "Special Reports: As If. . .".
Status: Weird NewsI'm not quite sure what's going on in this story, but it's not often that a wild goose chase literally happens, so I thought it was worth posting. Chris Kaye reports for KSL local news in Utah: So did the dispatcher send Sergeant Spencer to pull over the car with the goose as a joke? Or had some people really stolen a goose from the Utah Botanical Gardens? And if so, why?
Status: RealA video on YouTube shows a MacBook Pro that has supposedly been hacked to rapidly change applications whenever it's smacked on the side. (Thanks to Kathy for sending the link.) I have to admit that when I first saw it, I thought it was fake. I figured the guy was probably pushing a button to make the applications change. However, after reading Erling Ellingsen's description on Medallia blog of how the SmackBook was created, I'm now pretty sure it's real. He writes: More importantly, he also provides the code so that anyone else can hack the Mac's built-in motion sensor and create a SmackBook, if they desire. And a few people have reported successfully replicating the SmackBook. It's a cool little trick, but I don't see it having that many practical applications.
Status: Probably fakePeter Wenker sent along this picture of a giant jellyfish. He doesn't think it's real, and I'd agree. I know that giant jellyfish do exist, such as the ones that recently appeared off the coast of Japan, but those were about the size of a washing machine, not the size of a truck. I've never heard of a jellyfish this big. So is this picture another product of Worth1000?
Update: Accipiter found a version of this same photo minus the diver, which would seem to indicate that the version with the diver has been photoshopped. (Unless it was the diver who was photoshopped out, but that seems very unlikely to me... [Wait a second, on a closer look it does seem that something might have been removed from the version without the diver. This will require more investigation.] ) The page he linked to also had some interesting jellyfish trivia, such as "The largest jellyfish ever found was a lion’s mane, with a bell 2m (7ft) across, and tentacles extending more than 35m" and "A collection of jellyfish is known as a smack."
Status: Case of mistaken identityIt's not quite as dramatic as the cases of humans raised with wolves, but it's interesting nevertheless. Rolo the Sheep was raised with collies, and now seems to believe that she's a dog. The BBC reports: I'm not sure what my cat thinks she is. She definitely considers herself better than other cats, but also better than us humans. She probably considers herself a deity.
Status: Strange but trueHere's the scene: a high school criminology class on a field trip to the local park. Their teacher has created fake bodies for them to find. But wait a second. One of those bodies looks awfully real. The AP reports: Reality has a strange way of doing that, intruding on our make-believe games. But I predict that it's only a matter of time before this particular event gets refictionalized as part of the storyline of a TV crime drama (probably CSI).
Status: Strange but truePoor Prince Philip never seems to get that much attention, overshadowed as he is by his famous wife, the Queen. But he can console himself with the knowledge that the residents of Tanna, a volcanic island in the Pacific, worship him as a god. UPI reports: It's the line about wrinkle removal that gets me. Are the Yaohahnen especially concerned about their wrinkles? And why would they think Prince Philip would be able to remove them, given that he's not exactly the smoothest-faced person in the world?
On the subject of cargo cults, Smithsonian Magazine ran an interesting article a few months back about them, specifically a group of South Pacific islanders who worship an American named John Frum.
Status: UndeterminedApparently the movie 40 Year-Old Virgin should have been set in Japan, if the new study ("Male and Female Life and Awareness") by the Japan Family Planning Association is to be believed. It found that "7.9% of the men in the 40-45 age segment claimed they have yet to experience sex." That seems like an awfully high figure, and without knowing any details about the study (how were the questions phrased, how many people were questioned, etc.) it's difficult to know whether to take it seriously. Kunio Kitamura, director of the JFPA, blames this figure on poor male-female communication in Japan and widespread performance anxiety among Japanese men: "Their concerns, over things like being unable to achieve erection, or enabling their partner to reach orgasm, became so oppressive they decided to avoid sex altogether." I've searched, but I can't find any more details about this study other than this lone article. (My lack of knowledge of Japanese obviously hindered my search.) But my gut feeling is that this study probably isn't too reliable.
Status: Strange, but trueCalifornia realtors have devised a new way to sell homes. They're hiring actors to play "happy families" during open houses: My wife and I often go to open houses in our neighborhood, partially because we like seeing what other people have done with their homes and partially because we're thinking of moving. Just last week we went to one in which the homeowners were there with their kid. They seemed like nice people, but now I'm wondering if it was all fake. Maybe they were just actors.
My favorite part of the article is this line: "A second show day at the development, which features three to five-bedroom homes from $500,000 (£280,000) to $610,000, is planned for Saturday. The cast will be the same except for Miss Chen, who has a previous engagement and will be "changed out" for a new mum." This immediately brought to mind Lucy Clifford's short story "The New Mother", in which misbehaving kids learn that their poor suffering mother is going to be changed out for a new mother (a mechanical one with a rat's tail). So I'm thinking that parents who visit the Centex open houses can now warn their kids that if they misbehave they'll be sent to live with one of these fake happy families. That would scare me if I were a kid. (via J-Walk)
Status: Probably RealAn anonymous contributor sent me a link to this image depicting an ancient Huichol Indian labor pain relief technique. The text reads:
Do the Huichol Indians really have such a custom? I assumed it was a joke, but after googling for a bit I came across a scholarly article that mentions this practice and also provides a source to back up the claim. The birthing tradition is mentioned at the very end of the article (I don't know who the author is): So, given that the scrotum-tied-husband custom is apparently mentioned in Kathleen Berrin's Art of the Huichol Indians, I'm inclined to believe that the custom is real. Though, of course, the Huichol woman who created the yarn painting may have intended it as a joke. I'll need to do more research to get to the bottom of this.
Status: HoaxThe latest false celebrity death rumor going around concerns Jaleel White (best known for playing Urkel on Family Matters). Supposedly he committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. This rumor is old. It was first posted on my site over half a year ago (in the comments to my post titled 'Is this Jaleel White?'). It's no truer now than it was then. I have no idea why it's begun circulating again, but here are the main highlights from the hoax AP report: Like I said, this was all posted on my site over half a year ago. Which means that when people did a Google search for info about Jaleel White committing suicide, my site was one of the first they found. Because of this, my page about Jaleel White started to receive huge amounts of traffic. So much traffic that it was not only slowing the entire site down, but was also slowing other sites that were located on the same server at my web host. Nevin, the technical guy at my web host, has been exchanging emails with me about it all day. What we've done to try to ease the strain on the server is to automatically route people visiting the comments for that old Jaleel White thread to my page about false celebrity death rumors (which is a static page and therefore uses less of the cpu).
Status: TrueMost people think rock music got its start as an identifiable genre in the 1950s with artists such as Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, and Elvis Presley. Not so. As Paul Collins points out in the current issue of The Believer, there was a thriving tradition of rock music during the nineteenth century. In fact, rock music was invented in 1785 by a retired sailor named Peter Crosthwaite in the Lake District village of Keswick. Of course, the nineteenth-century version of rock music was a bit more low-key than its twentieth-century successor, since it involved music played with rocks, as opposed to guitars and drums.
When I first saw Collins's article, I thought he had to be joking. But no, a little research confirmed that Victorian rock music was quite real. I found an article in the Galphin Society Journal (Aug, 1989) about the "Till Family Rock Band," a group that toured quite widely during the 1880s, written by a modern-day member of the family, A.M. Till. He writes: Below is a picture of the Till Family Rock Band, posing with their rocks. They look like rockers to me.