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June 2008
One day I'm sure it'll be possible to receive holographic messages on your iPhone. But not yet. Which means that this video showing (what appears to be) an iPhone displaying Holotext messages is a fake.

I kept expecting Princess Leia to pop up and say, "Help me, Obi-Wan. You're my only hope."
Categories: Photos/Videos, Technology
Posted by Alex on Sun Jun 29, 2008
Comments (5)
NOVA interviewed Hany Farid, the world's leading digital forensics expert. If you want to know if an image is real or fake, he's the guy to ask. To accompany the interview, they posted a nine image real-or-fake challenge. Each image shows NOVA host Neil deGrasse Tyson posing with a different celebrity. You have to figure out which images are fake, and which are real. Farid then gives the answer in an audio clip and explains what clues you should have looked for.

It's a good quiz. I got one wrong. But on a few of them I guessed and got lucky.
Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Sun Jun 29, 2008
Comments (8)
I was working in my backyard this weekend, when I turned over a rock and discovered this creepy-crawly. Anyone have an idea what it is? I wasn't about to mess with it. Looked like it had a stinger on its tail.

Update: Thanks to Robin Bobcat for identifying it as a Jerusalem Cricket. According to the San Diego Natural History Museum: "this nocturnal cricket is actually non-aggressive and possesses no poison glands, although its jaws can inflict a painful bite." Even if it's non-poisonous, I'm glad I stayed away from it. And it's still out there in my backyard somewhere.
Categories: Animals, Science
Posted by Alex on Sun Jun 29, 2008
Comments (24)
I saw this image posted on Gizmodo (who got it from pixdaus). They claim to know nothing about it, except that it shows the Dani people of Papua, New Guinea.

Is it real, or has the Sony Vaio been photoshopped in? My hunch is that it's real. I'd guess that the laptop belongs to a photographer or researcher who handed the laptop to the guy with the big headdress in order to show him a picture. But that's just a guess.

I debated whether the image could be considered "not safe for work." But then I figured, No, it's too "National Geographic" to be considered sexual. (Though if this were the exact same scene with Caucasian women, I'm sure it would be considered NSFW... strange how that works.)

Only one question: What's with the disembodied hand reaching out from behind the headdress?
Categories: Photos/Videos, Technology
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 25, 2008
Comments (38)
There's one final news item I've received a lot of emails about in the past week -- and so deserves a place on the front page (though it's already in the forum). The Gloucester Pregnancy Pact.

Seventeen girls at Gloucester High School are pregnant. According to Time magazine, they all made a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together. From Time:

School officials started looking into the matter as early as October after an unusual number of girls began filing into the school clinic to find out if they were pregnant. By May, several students had returned multiple times to get pregnancy tests, and on hearing the results, "some girls seemed more upset when they weren't pregnant than when they were," Sullivan says. All it took was a few simple questions before nearly half the expecting students, none older than 16, confessed to making a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together. Then the story got worse. "We found out one of the fathers is a 24-year-old homeless guy," the principal says, shaking his head.

My first thought was that this reminded me of the prom babies rumor I posted about last year. According to this rumor, girls try to get pregnant on prom night so they won't have to go to college. With the Gloucester pregnancy pact, we again have the notion of teenage girls conspiring to get pregnant.

Teenage girls (like teenage boys) are capable of incredibly stupid behavior, but the pregnancy pact has the whiff of urban legend. Sure enough, school officials are now throwing cold water on the idea, claiming they never heard of such a pact until it appeared in Time. Which isn't to say that group psychology didn't play a powerful role in influencing the girls' behavior. It obviously did. But did the girls make a premeditated pact, and then act on it? That seems highly unlikely to me.
Categories: Birth/Babies, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 24, 2008
Comments (13)
I'm still catching up on all the recent hoaxes... So here's another one that a lot of people have emailed me about. The fake foot that washed up on a beach in British Columbia.

Five human feet have washed up on beaches in British Columbia during the past year, generating a lot of media interest. After all, who do these feet belong to? It's a mystery. But a sixth foot that washed up turned out to be a hoax. From

A sixth foot believed to have washed ashore on Vancouver Island was not human, although it was found inside a sock and running shoe, according to the B.C. Coroners Service. "A forensic pathologist and an anthropologist have examined the shoe and remains, and determined a skeletonised animal paw was inserted into the shoe with a sock and packed with dried seaweed," BCCS said in a statement Thursday. The foot had been found inside a size-10 black Adidas shoe.

I've posted about similar hoaxes. For instance, back in 2003 I wrote about police in Crawford County launching an investigation after finding leg bones sticking out of boots found beside a lake in Arkansas. The bones turned out to belong to an animal.

New Scientist has an interesting take on the recent case. (You may only be able to read their full article if you're a subscriber.) They discuss the field of ocean forensics, which apparently is quite undeveloped. When bodies wash up from the ocean, it's usually very difficult for forensic scientists to figure out what happened to the person because there's not a good understanding of what happens to corpses floating in the ocean.

Researcher Gail Anderson is trying to change this. She's chained the carcass of a 25-kilogram pig to the ocean floor and has been recording the exact stages of its decomposition, carefully noting the crabs, lobsters, and fish that feed on it. She's already discovered that fish tend to feed on the face last. So if a body washes up with damage to the face, but not to the rest of the body, foul play is likely. I'm going to add this to my growing list of great trivia to bring up at cocktail parties.
Categories: Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 24, 2008
Comments (5)
Thanks to everyone who emailed me about the Uncontacted Brazilian Tribe hoax that's now making headlines (and is already noted in the forum). I was at the library all yesterday, so I didn't have a chance to post anything.

Anyway, to summarize: Last month the Brazilian government released photographs of an "uncontacted" tribe living in the Amazon. At the time I noted it would be very strange for a tribe to be truly uncontacted, and sure enough this week brings the revelation that anthropologists have known about the tribe's existence for almost one hundred years. From the Guardian:

It has now emerged that, far from being unknown, the tribe's existence has been noted since 1910 and the mission to photograph them was undertaken in order to prove that 'uncontacted' tribes still existed in an area endangered by the menace of the logging industry. The disclosures have been made by the man behind the pictures, José Carlos Meirelles, 61, one of the handful of sertanistas – experts on indigenous tribes – working for the Brazilian Indian Protection Agency, Funai, which is dedicated to searching out remote tribes and protecting them.

So the hoax was to describe the tribe as "uncontacted." But it's not that much of a hoax. It's not like the tribe members are actors (as was alleged to be the case with the Tasaday), or are popping over to their local Starbucks every day to get some coffee. The tribe (it seems) truly is living very close to nature and has had hardly any contact with the modern world.
Categories: Science
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 24, 2008
Comments (6)
Female fans of Lord Byron would often send him locks of their hair. In return he would send them a lock of his own. But a new book claims that what Byron often sent was a lock of fur from his pet newfoundland dog Boatswain. From Times Online:

John Murray VII, chairman of his family’s publishing house, which was founded in 1768 and worked with Byron, said the story had been passed down through the generations. Murray said the fans to whom Byron sent the hair would have been under the impression that it was his, “but it sometimes belonged to his beloved dog Boatswain. Byron was devoted to Boatswain and to send the women his hair was his little joke”.

Apparently many of these locks of Byron's hair still survive, but it doesn't sound as if anyone has tested them to determine what species they come from. (via Legends & Rumors)
Categories: Literature/Language, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Sun Jun 22, 2008
Comments (5)
Thieves used a hammer to break open a plexiglass box being used as a Drop-A-Note donation box in the Kentucky Theatre's lobby, and they stole the money inside. Unfortunately for the thieves, the money they took was fake. From

"It's sad when idiots can't tell fake money from the real thing," said Steve Brown, president of Kentucky's Mighty Wurlitzer Theatre Organ Project, a group dedicated to restoring a Wurlitzer organ and returning it to the Kentucky. Proceeds from the Drop-A-Note box, which is three wood organ pipes with a space for donations in the middle pipe, go to the restoration project. The fake bills looked similar to real ones, but they didn't have serial numbers and were black and white, Brown said. The thieves, who struck early June 2, made off with little or no money because the box had been emptied that weekend.

The thieves were probably former convenience store clerks, fired for accepting too many George Bush and Santa Claus bills.
Categories: Business/Finance, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Sun Jun 22, 2008
Comments (1)
Kate Beckinsale goes by "Sigourney Beaver." Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, when together, were "Mr and Mrs Ross Vegas." And Johnny Depp uses "Mr. Stench."

These are some of the check-in pseudonyms that Hollywood stars use to remain anonymous when registering at hotels.

The only time I ever use a pseudonym is when asked to fill in info for things like online surveys or grocery store cards. Then I'm always "Eric Blair." But I'm thinking of switching to Hugo N. Frye.
Categories: Celebrities, Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Fri Jun 20, 2008
Comments (23)
Warning: Don't look at these pictures if you're squeamish. Picture 1, Picture 2. They're the latest stomach-turners circulating around the internet. You've been warned! But if you think you can handle it, the pictures are interesting from an anatomical perspective.

They show a "degloved" finger. A woman, while drunk, snagged her ring on a spiked fence, thereby peeling the skin off her finger. Her friends had the presence of mind to put the 'finger glove' in a glass of water and take her to a hospital.

The images are strange, but real. They come from a recent article in The Internet Journal of Orthopedic Surgery. I'm sure the images wouldn't seem strange to someone who's used to seeing this kind of stuff. But I'm not, and they look very strange to me.

The good news is that, should your finger ever be degloved, the skin can be reattached. But after seeing these pictures, I'm thinking maybe it would be safer not to wear my ring anymore. (via Marianas Eye)
Categories: Gross, Health/Medicine
Posted by Alex on Fri Jun 20, 2008
Comments (8)
This photo of Ben Affleck is doing the rounds on celebrity gossip blogs. People are wondering if it's real or photoshopped.

It is an odd picture, but I'm almost certain it's real. Affleck just happens to be posed at a strange angle, and the small size of the kids around him make his head appear unnaturally large.

The picture comes from an event Affleck attended in Calgary on June 14 to support the oneXone charity. has a gallery of photos of Affleck at this event. There are plenty of shots of him posing with these kids (including the shot above).
Categories: Celebrities, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 17, 2008
Comments (12)
The Daily Record reports on a stupid counterfeit scheme that almost worked:

A FORGER convinced a cashier a £20 note was real - despite Santa Claus and his reindeer being on it. Stacey Rice's self-made Santa Christmas Bank note promised to pay the bearer nothing and listed Santa as the bank's "chief operating officer" with his address as the North Pole. But Rice, 27, was still able to pass it off as genuine in an "astonishing" scam, a court heard. She duped a gullible cashier at a gym and the woman gave Rice change of the £20 in smaller denominations.

It reminds me of the phony $200 George Bush bills that people often try to pass off. Here's a question to ponder: Is it dumber to accept a bill with George Bush on it, or Santa Claus?
Categories: Business/Finance, Scams
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 17, 2008
Comments (7) is selling a t-shirt with this picture. I thought it was cute, but I already own too many t-shirts, so I'm not gonna buy this one.

Categories: Cryptozoology
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 17, 2008
Comments (6)
The latest internet meme is Sewer Horse: "Sewer Horse is Watching You"

I have no explanation for the image. Is it real or fake? I haven't got a clue. It seems a bit unlikely that a horse would end up in a sewer, but then he could be in a large underground tunnel that has an opening he's looking out of. Sewer Horse is so popular that he even has his own website.
Categories: Animals, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 17, 2008
Comments (12)
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