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|•||Pretend chef on five morning TV shows 03/04/2014|
|•||Image of "Aurora from Space" going viral is a hoax 02/28/2014|
|•||Supposed Ghost Caught on Securtiy Cam at Britain Pub 02/22/2014|
|•||Anyone up for a challenge? 02/20/2014|
|•||Bruno Gröning Documentary Film 02/15/2014|
|•||Science, Pseudoscience, and Crap 02/04/2014|
|•||Fake Snow 02/03/2014|
|•||Tapeworms ≠ Weight Loss 02/01/2014|
|•||NASA sued for failing to investigate Martian Fungus 01/30/2014|
|•||Jan. 25th--A Room of Ones Own Day 01/25/2014|
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Frances Harris surprised everyone for a second time. The first surprise was when this 59-year-old woman announced in November that she was pregnant with twins. And it wasn't the result of in-vitro fertilization, like that 56-year-old lady who gave birth to twins late last year. Harris said she just got pregnant. The second surprise (not much of a surprise really) was when she admitted yesterday that she just made up the pregnancy. Why did she do it? Her family is chalking it up to "personal issues that are still being evaluated". But to me the problem is clear. She's suffering from Southcott Syndrome, a medical condition whose name I coined myself. I define this condition as being when a post-menopausal or otherwise infertile woman insists, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that she's pregnant. I named the syndrome after Joanna Southcott, the 19th-century prophetess who announced at the age of sixty five that she was pregnant with the new messiah. Nine months passed and she never gave birth, much to the disappointment of her many followers. Instead, she died. Doctors who performed an autopsy on her could find no evidence of pregnancy. Maybe there's an actual medical term for something like Southcott Syndrome, but I'm not aware of it. Believe it or not, I've heard about cases like this often enough that I had coined the term before I read about this most recent case.
Is it true that infants have an innate sense of what food is good for them? That if left to their own devices they will naturally eat the food that their body needs? Well, in my admittedly limited experience young kids naturally gravitate towards a diet consisting exclusively of ice cream and cheerios. However, there apparently is an urban-legend-like tale floating around about a scientific experiment in which a doctor placed samples of food (of varying nutritional quality) in front of newly weaned babies. The babies were then allowed to pick whatever food they wanted from these samples without any adult intervention, and the babies chose to eat a well-balanced diet. Posters over at alt.folklore.urban tracked down the source of this tale and discovered that it does stem from a real experiment performed in 1928 by Dr. Clara Davis: 'Self Selection of Diet by Newly Weaned Infants'. However, as the article that the link goes to explains, Dr. Davis's experiment would hardly be considered 'good science' today. Doctors didn't even fully understand the importance of vitamins back in the 1920s. In fact, the entire 'babies know what's best for them' idea seems to me to be some kind of weird spin on Rousseau's concept that man in a state of nature is good, and that it's only the development of society and civilization that corrupts him (or her). So I think it's safe to say that babies should not be allowed to choose their own food. Make them eat their veggies.
Lucina Sine Concubitu translates roughly to 'pregnancy without intercourse.' Here's a site that uses a 'strange book' by this title published in 1772 as a launching-off point to explore the history of the subject. It's full of fascinating and odd details such as medieval church debates about exactly how the Virgin Mary was impregnated by the Holy Ghost: was it "by way of the ear, the gullet, the nose, by way of breathing into her God's breathe, hearing God's word, being Overshadowed by a Divine cloud, etc." Or the old Roman belief that mares can be made pregnant simply by "turning east and inhaling the wind from that direction." Or whether sperm can be carried on the wind. Some of the most amusing details are the excuses that women throughout history have come up with to explain to their husbands how they managed to get pregnant even though the two haven't been together recently, such as the excuse of this somewhat naive girl: "It's true that my husband has gone a long time ago, but we write each other..."
If this story was in some other paper, like the Weekly World News, I'd dismiss it as a tall tale, but the material on stuff.co.nz is usually fairly reliable. They report about a (human) mother who has taken to breastfeeding her puppy. What I find interesting is that the reporter took the initiative to interview an anthropology professor about what this woman is doing (or claiming to be doing), and got this interesting nugget of information: "Victoria University associate professor of anthropology Jeff Sissons said he was familiar with a practice among women from Papua New Guinea hill tribes who breastfed pigs, but he had not heard of any other instance of a human breastfeeding another species." Next time I'm at a cocktail party I'm going to try casually mentioning that little gem of trivia.
Is there really a face cream that's made from the discarded foreskins of circumcised infants? It sounds like some kind of freakish urban legend, but the correct answer would be yes, there is such a product. It's called TNS (tissue nutrient system) Recovery Complex. However, I don't think they grind up the foreskins and mix them right into the face cream. Instead, I think the ingredients in the cream have somehow been bio-engineered from foreskins. Still, it might be a little bit offputting to the squeamish. Oh, and according to this article, the stuff smells awful.
The Pregnant Men website collects together a wealth of information about pregnant men. As the site boasts, "If it pertains to men being pregnant, you can be sure to find it here." It's very odd. Almost like a fetish site with people contributing stories and art about pregnant men. So I'm not sure if it counts as a hoax website because it doesn't claim that any man in particular has gotten pregnant. It just fantasizes about men in general being pregnant.
I'm late to the party with this image (all the other hoax-related sites have had it up for a couple of weeks), but hey, I was on vacation, and the picture's too good to ignore. Anyway, no one seems to be able to say definitively whether it's real or a fake... or even where it originally came from. It does seem pretty unbelievable that a footprint would be that well defined through the wall of the abdomen. Plus, the foot seems awfully long. And what are those weird bumps in the middle of the foot? But on the other hand, I've heard some women say that this is possible.
Some guy in Cambodia is claiming that his dog has given birth to a kitten. As he says, "This animal cries like a cat, and its face is like a cat, but its feet are bigger than a cat's and look more like a dog's feet." Uh, yeah. It's feet look like dog's feet because IT IS A DOG! The guy is also insisting that anyone who wants to view the cat-dog thing first must pray to it. Unbelievable. Actually, the really unbelievable thing is that the media even bothers to report things like this. But wait, I'm posting about it too. So scratch that last remark.
Birth hoaxes are always the weirdest. A religious guru in Britain, 'Archbishop Gilbert Deya,' has been convincing his female followers that they've been impregnated by Jesus. He then helps them to give birth to these 'holy ghost babies'. The catch is that the women aren't actually pregnant, though they now have a child on their hands. I've researched hoaxes a long time, but still it's hard for me to fathom how someone could be so gullible that they would believe they're pregnant (when they're not), and that they've given birth (when they haven't). The mind boggles. He's assisted one 56-year-old lady 'give birth' thirteen times in the past three years!!! You have to wonder what planet this lady is living on. British authorities suspect that the 'Archbisop' is involved in some kind of illegal baby trafficking trade.
Reality TV shows just keep getting weirder and weirder. The latest one being developed in Britain (unless it's all a hoax, like Lapdance Island or Quarantine) is Sperm Race TV, in which a group of guys get to compete for the prize of fathering a child. Two finalists are chosen, one chosen by the mother on the basis of romantic attraction, the other chosen by the show's producers on the basis of 'genetic compatibility' with the mother. The two guys will then compete in a sperm race, filmed with special fiber-optic cameras, to see whose sperm can inseminate the mother's egg first. To me this sounds hoaxy on a number of different levels. First of all, what do they mean by 'genetic compatibility'? I can understand you might want to screen to make sure two partners aren't harboring deadly recessive genes, but beyond that what exactly makes two people genetically compatible? Second, how exactly will they stage this 'sperm race'? I assume they'd have to introduce the two sperm samples at the exact same time into the woman to make it a fair race, but then how will they know which sperm belongs to which father? And finally, are they seriously contemplating getting the woman pregnant? Or will they abort the child? Either way, they're going to outrage a lot of people.
David Emery reports on this gross-out case from Durham, North Carolina. A family bought a package of chicken tenders from the store, took it home, and discovered what appeared to be the foot of a human baby tossed in with the chicken pieces. "It's breaded, and it's already cooked," police Sgt. Maurice Hayes said. Happily, the foot turned out to be a piece of dough molded into the shape of a foot.
The BBC is reporting that a woman in Iran has given birth to a frog. Doctors are speculating that a frog larva somehow got into her uterus while she was swimming, and then grew inside her to a full-sized frog. That seems very unlikely to me. What would a frog feed on inside a person's body? Wouldn't the frog suffocate? Actually, the brief article seems a bit ambiguous on whether it's definitely a frog that came out of her, or if it's a baby that looks rather frog-like. Either way, this case immediately reminded me of Mary Toft, the 18th-century English woman who gave birth to rabbits. Of course, Mary Toft didn't really give birth to rabbits. She stuffed rabbits inside herself and then pretended to give birth to them. It seems possible this Iranian woman is pulling a Mary Toft.