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March 2009
Electrical engineer Aziz Inan, of the University of Portland, recently noticed that April 1st, 2009 is a square root date. From USA Today:

April Fool's Day, April 1, 2009 is 04/01/2009, or 4012009, which has 2003 as a square root (2003 * 2003 = 4012009.)...
The next April Fool's square date doesn't fall until April 1, 6016 (2004*2004 = 4016016.)

Of course, this is of no significance whatsoever. Or is it???
Categories: April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Tue Mar 31, 2009
Comments (12)
Marc Silver of National Geographic interviewed me about the history and customs of April Fool's Day. The interview is now up on the Nat Geo blog.

And in other news, programmer Mark Greenfield turned the list of the Top 100 April Fool's Day hoaxes into an iPhone app (for those people who want to have the list in an easy-to-read format on their phone). The app is now available at the iPhone store. I don't have an iPhone, so I haven't been able to test the app. I think it costs $1, of which I get about ten cents. Now, if only I could get everyone who reads the list on my site on April 1st to pay me a dollar, I'd be a rich man.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Tue Mar 31, 2009
Comments (1)
A recent article in The Sun (and we all know how diligent The Sun is about fact checking) claimed that a woman, while using Google Street View, spotted her husband's car parked outside another woman's home. Now she's filing for divorce!

But Matt Platino, of the Idiot Forever blog, claims he hoaxed the sun into printing the story:

I emailed The Sun, first with the email address sashaharris289@gmail.com. I shot them a “frantic” note:

Hey Sun,
I need your help. One of my mates caught her husband cheating by using Google Street View. He’s a pig. Also, this really shows how the addition of the Street View is hurting people. I think this is a good story for you.
Cheers,
Sasha

I picked the name Sasha Harris because Sasha sounds somewhat British and Sasha Harris is the prostitute that was involved with Sham-Wow Vince. Also, note how I used words like “mates” and “cheers”. This lulls the Brits into a false sense of security. Unfortunately, I couldn’t logically work the phrases ” ‘Ello Gov-na!” or “mind the gap” into the email.

Then, to back up the story, I emailed the sun from the email address Mr.Mark.Stephens77@gmail.com to add a source. I sent them a picture of the said offending street view. The email was boring so I’m not going to post it, but The Sun quickly responded. They thanked me for the information and asked me if I was Mark Stephens, the media lawyer. I shrugged (even though they couldn’t see me shrug) and basically responded “yeah, sure”.

Apparently I hit a streak of good luck. I got the name Mark Stephens from one of those internet random name generators and went with it. I guess Mark Stephens is a known media lawyer in Britain.

I also got lucky because The Sun is a bunch of fools. The picture I sent wasn’t even a street view.

There's been no word yet from The Sun about their side of the story.
Categories: Journalism, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Tue Mar 31, 2009
Comments (6)
Topps has announced it plans to release a set of cards featuring the "world's biggest hoaxes, hoodwinks, & bamboozles." The entire set, according to visualeditors.com, will consist of:
  • Charles Ponzi
  • Bernie Madoff
  • The Runaway Bride
  • Idaho
  • The Turk
  • Enron
  • Anna Anderson
  • Ferdinand Waldo Demara
  • San Serriffe
  • D.B. Cooper
  • Spaghetti Trees
  • Victor Lustig
  • The War of the Worlds
  • George Parker
  • The Bathtub Hoax
  • The Cottingley Fairies
  • James Reavis
  • The Piltdown Man
  • The Cardiff Giant
  • Cold Fusion
Looks good, though I'm not sure why they include Idaho. Probably because of the rumor that Idaho got its name from a hoax. Or maybe they're referring to the theory that Idaho does not exist.

And D.B. Cooper? Is hijacking a plane and parachuting out really a hoax? And I think Cold Fusion was bad science, but it wasn't a deliberate hoax.

Anyway, Topps will also have a set featuring "creatures of legend, myth & terror."

What I'm not sure of is how one goes about buying these sets. I suspect you can't buy them as a stand-alone pack, but rather you'll have to buy the $3 packs of trading cards and hope a) you get a hoax card, and b) that you can eventually build up the entire set. I'll probably be one of the few people throwing out the baseball cards to get the hoax cards.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Mon Mar 30, 2009
Comments (12)
The premise: According to Hotelicopter.com, a giant helicopter (a Soviet-made Mil V-12) has been transformed into a flying hotel:

The Hotelicopter features 18 luxuriously-appointed rooms for adrenaline junkies seeking a truly unique and memorable travel experience. Each soundproofed room is equipped with a queen-sized bed, fine linens, a mini-bar, coffee machine, wireless internet access, and all the luxurious appointments you’d expect from a flying five star hotel. Room service is available one hour after liftoff and prior to landing.

Reasons to think it's a hoax: a) it's a strange idea (how long it could fly before it would have to be refueled?); b) all the photographs of it are computer-rendered; c) the site is registered anonymously (what are they trying to hide?); d) no contact info; e) the site made its debut suspiciously close to April Fool's Day.

Probable perpetrator: It mentions Yotel, the mini-sized hotel rooms you can check into at Heathrow or Gatwick airports. So that would be my guess.
Categories: Exploration/Travel
Posted by Alex on Mon Mar 30, 2009
Comments (10)
A case of a fake that became real. In this case, a fictitious town that, for a while, achieved actual existence.

The town of Agloe, New York was a "copyright trap" placed on Esso Maps during the 1930s. (That is, it was a nonexistent town whose purpose was to reveal if rival mapmakers were blindly copying the information on Esso maps.) The name was a scramble of the initials of Otto G. Lindberg (the company founder) and his assistant Ernest Alpers. They located the town at a dirt-road intersection north of Roscoe, NY.

So when the town of Agloe later appeared on a Rand McNally map, Esso accused Rand McNally of copying their map. But it turned out that Rand McNally was innocent. The town of Agloe actually had been registered with the county administration, because someone had built a general store at that dirt intersection and had named it the Agloe General Store (because that's the name they saw on the Esso map), thus bringing the town into existence.

Eventually the store went out of business, and the town of Agloe is no longer on maps. Here's the Google Map location for Roscoe, New York.

Other cases of fakes that became real:

Kremvax was a 1984 Usenet April Fool's Day hoax, alleging that the Soviet Union was joining Usenet. The announcement purported to come from Konstantin Chernenko, who used the email address chernenko@kremvax.UUCP. Six years later, when the Soviet Union really did link up to the internet, it adopted the domain name Kremvax in honor of the hoax.

The Annual Virginia City Camel Race. Began as a hoax in 1959, perpetrated by the Nevada Territorial Enterprise, but other newspapers decided to take it seriously and actually began racing camels every year in the city.

I'm sure there are other examples, but I can't think of them right now. (I'm not counting instances of names inspired by fiction, such as the space shuttle Enterprise being named after the USS Enterprise in Star Trek.)
Categories: Places
Posted by Alex on Thu Mar 26, 2009
Comments (20)
Following up on Accipiter's post in the forum about the Acai berry weight-loss scam -- one of the interesting (and sleazy) things about the scam is the proliferation of fake diet blogs promoting these Acai berries. The sites go by names such as kirstensweightloss.com, rachelsweightloss.com, patdietblog.com, etc. etc.

The sites have before and after pictures of the Acai berry dieters, but pictures of the same women appear on different sites... under different names. For instance, the woman below, depending on which site you visit, is named Kirsten Hunt, Ann Conrad, Daniella Conrad, Jenna Patterson, and a bunch of other names.



But according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, her real name is Julia. She's a german model who once posed for a stock photo and has never eaten Acai berries. According to the photographer who took the photos, the "after" photos have been digitally manipulated to make her look skinnier.

The wafflesatnoon blog has a collection of all the fake diet girls who are promoting Acai berries.
Categories: Food, Scams, Websites
Posted by Alex on Wed Mar 25, 2009
Comments (31)
This may be of interest only to Californians, but so be it...

On February 18 the Patterson Irrigator posted a picture that appeared to show the Half Dome in Yosemite, visible from Patterson. (It's a little hard to see, but if you look closely it's there.)



The thing is, Patterson is in the Central Valley, about 100 miles from Yosemite. So the photo met with a very skeptical reaction. A lot of people simply refused to believe that Half Dome could be seen from that far away.

There was discussion of it on the yosemite blog, and on fredmiranda.com. People contacted the photographer, who insisted the photo was real. And finally, photographer Tony Immoos decided to see for himself if Half Dome could be viewed from the Central Valley. He discovered that it could, and he posted the pictures on Flickr.

So that settles that question. On a clear day, you can see Half Dome from the Central Valley. (Thanks to Jack for the link)
Categories: Photos/Videos, Places
Posted by Alex on Mon Mar 23, 2009
Comments (19)
The City of Toronto plans to pay 100 people $100 each to pose as homeless people for a day. Each person will first attend a 30-minute training seminar on how to convincingly look homeless. The reason: the decoys will act as a "control measure" during the city's upcoming survey of the homeless population.

I guess I don't sufficiently understand the methodology of conducting surveys, because this doesn't make any sense to me.
Categories: Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Mon Mar 23, 2009
Comments (16)
A new site (in French), roulez-leko.com, appears to announce the imminent introduction of the Leko, "the car by Ikea". The suspicious part: the car is set to debut right around April 1st. However, it could be legitimate because the first week of April is France's Sustainable Development Week, which the text on the site states that the debut is part of. We'll know soon enough if it's a hoax or something real.

If it is real, it serves as a reminder that companies should avoid making major product announcements on or around April 1st. Link: carconnection.com
Categories: April Fools Day, Technology
Posted by Alex on Mon Mar 23, 2009
Comments (6)
A picture of a Wolverine toy with an unfortunately positioned blow-up valve has been doing the rounds. It's another case of satire mistaken as news. The picture originated on the satire site christwire.org, under the headline "Marvel Now Promotes Gay Agenda With Wolverine Toy."

But once the image got loose on the web, its satirical origin was lost. Thus, the confusion.

Categories: Photos/Videos, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Fri Mar 20, 2009
Comments (11)
An article that ran on the satire site BBSpot has apparently fooled some Twitterers. It claimed that Twitter was going to begin charging for "premium" services as follows:

* Sparrow ($5/month) – Users get 145 character limit, 5 extra random followers.
* Dove ($15/month) – Users get 160 character limit, 25 extra random followers, 1 random celebrity follower, auto-spell check, "Fail Whale" T-shirt.
* Owl ($50/month) – Users get 250 character limit, 100 extra random followers, 2 random celebrity followers, 30 minutes on recommended list, auto-spell check, "Fail Whale" hoodie.
* Eagle ($250/month) – Users get 500 character limit, 1000 extra random followers, 3 celebrity followers of their choice, 5 hours on recommended list each month, Twitter Concierge for Tweeting while user is asleep or busy (and more), auto-spell check, "Fail Whale" tuxedo, custom "Fail Whale" page when service is down.

News of the premium services quickly made its way to Twitter. PCWorld reports "At least half all current tweets about the 'news' are still treating it seriously."
Categories: Social Networking Sites
Posted by Alex on Fri Mar 20, 2009
Comments (3)
An urban legend has been circulating for a number of years that mockingly describes April Fool's Day as a holy day for atheists:

FLORIDA COURT SETS ATHEIST HOLY DAY
In Florida, an atheist created a case against the Easter & Passover holy days. He hired an attorney to bring a discrimination case against Christians, Jews & observances of their holy days. The argument was, it was unfair that atheists had no such recognized day(s). The case was brought before a judge. After listening to the passionate presentation by the lawyer,the judge banged his gavel declaring, 'Case dismissed.'
The lawyer immediately stood objecting to the ruling saying, 'Your honor, how can you possibly dismiss this case? The Christians have Christmas, Easter & others. The Jews have Passover, Yom Kippur & Hanukkah. Yet my client & all other atheists have no such holidays.'
The judge leaned forward in his chair saying, 'But you do. Your client, counsel, is woefully ignorant.'
The lawyer said, 'Your Honor, we are unaware of any special observance or holiday for atheists.'
The judge said, 'The calendar says April 1st is 'April Fools Day.' Psalm 14:1 states, 'The fool says in his heart, there is no God.' Thus, it is the opinion of this court, that if your client says there is no God, then he is a fool. Therefore, April 1st is his day. Court is adjourned.

This Florida court case never occurred in real life, and the point of the story is to brand atheists as fools. Nevertheless, the idea of designating April 1st as an "Atheist Holy Day" seems to be growing in popularity among atheists themselves. At least, I've seen an increasing number of blog posts in support of the idea.

From a historical perspective, April 1st is an interesting choice as an Atheist Holy Day, because the Christian church has had a complex, often antagonistic relationship with traditions of Foolery. Early christianity held the symbol of the Fool in high esteem. St. Paul described Christ as being like a Fool, and medieval monks aspired to be "Fools for Christ." There was also the Festus Fatuorum, or Feast of Fools -- a medieval Christian holiday observed around January 1. It was a day on which low-ranking clergy would symbolically usurp the roles of their superiors. A mock bishop or pope would be elected and paraded through the streets. The clergy would dress up as women, sing bawdy songs, play dice at the altar, and substitute stinking smoke for the incense. The historian Rogan Taylor described it as being "like a religious chimney sweeping, brushing away the year's repressed and hidden blasphemy, in a riot of filth and irreligion."

However, by the seventeenth century church officials had largely succeeded in suppressing the celebration of the Feast of Fools. The Church was uncomfortable with the symbolism of the Fool. After all, the Fool is usually embraced by opponents of the establishment, but the Church was itself the establishment.

So since the church exiled Foolery from its midst, it would be somehow fitting if atheists were to adopt April Fool's Day as their own. And why not? The values that the Fool represents (mischief, paradox, uncertainty) do seem to be more compatible with atheism than with modern mainstream Christianity.
Categories: April Fools Day, Religion
Posted by Alex on Fri Mar 20, 2009
Comments (12)
Police say that a man, alone in a car, drove up to a teller window at the Lone Star National Bank in Texas. He slipped the teller a note. Exactly what it said has not been revealed, but it caused the teller to hand him an undetermined amount of cash. He then drove away. At no point did the man display a weapon.

Big Gary asks: But if you just say, "Give me money," and you don't display a weapon, and you aren't in any position to hurt anybody, it's not really a robbery, it's a gift, right?

I don't think so. I'm pretty sure it's illegal to lead a bank teller to believe you may be trying to rob the bank, even if you're joking or make no specific threat. (Though specific laws probably vary state by state.) After all, how does the teller know you're not serious, or that you don't have a bomb wired to you?

In the April Fool's Day Database I record a case from 2006 in which a 57-year-old woman walked into a bank on April 1st and handed the teller a note that said, "I'm here to take money." It was a joke. She was there to withdraw money (legally) from her own account. Nevertheless, the police later tracked her down and charged her with disorderly conduct.

Banks are kinda like airports. All potential security threats are taken seriously. Even jokes.
Categories: Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Wed Mar 18, 2009
Comments (11)
The Divine Cushion
The "face of Christ" appeared in a cushion attached to a priest's chair, located in a Roman Catholic church on the French Indian island of Reunion. Parish priest Daniel Gavard said, "This is not a miracle, it's a sign of God." So what, exactly, is the meaning of the sign? God likes comfy chairs?

Dead Dad in Ultrasound
Marion McAleese thinks the arm of her dead dad can be seen in this ultrasound, cradling her unborn child. She says, "You can see four fingers on the baby’s face as if a hand is cradling the baby’s head. There is also an arm under the baby’s bottom." She also says she now believes in spiritualism. I guess she didn't before. It's amazing how some people form their religious beliefs entirely on the basis of blurry images.

Jesus Rock
This can be found along Keel Mountain Road in Huntsville, Alabama. Apparently people have been driving past this for decades, but the face was only noticed recently, by one Shirley Maples.

Potato Chip Jesus
A potato chip bearing the image of Jesus Christ was recently served to Brian Hershey of Shippensburg, Pennsylvania while dining at a CR Bucks restaurant. His wife sees the chip as "an indication that she and Brian need to stop smoking." I'd say that's true if what they're smoking is making them see Jesus images on potato chips.

Car Dealership Jesus
Spotted at the Jarrett Ford Lincoln Mercury in Dade City, Florida. The door was hung ten years ago, but as is often the case with such things, the image was only spotted recently. Some of the employees swear it is the spitting image of Christ. Others think it looks like Sasquatch, "Christ in a Jedi outfit," or a "Persian king."

Ice Formation Mary
A chunk of "Virgin Mary" ice formed outside the trailer home of Lionel Gonzales in Plymouth, Indiana. Gonzalez couldn't explain how the ice, which was frozen to the wall of his home, had formed, since it was beneath a window cover and (according to him) no water dripped there.

Virgin Mary Stone
Sergio Romero of Pocatello, Idaho says that as he was polishing this stone, he realized it had an image of the Virgin Mary on it. (I'm just not seeing it.) He also says he wasn't religious before, but is now thinking of going to church. He's also thinking of putting the stone up for sale.

Virgin Mary Brain Scan
A scan of Pamela Latrimore's brain contains a dark spot that kinda looks like the Virgin Mary, according to Pam's sister-in-law, who first noticed the shape six years after the brain scan was taken. Latrimore hopes to raise some money to help pay her medical bills by auctioning off the brain scan.

(Thanks to Cranky Media Guy for his contributions!)
Categories: Pareidolia
Posted by Alex on Wed Mar 18, 2009
Comments (10)
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