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Extraterrestrial Life
The government declassifies the Roswell records. Popular Mechanics investigates.
Categories: Extraterrestrial Life
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 16, 2003
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The Canberra Times reports on a different moon hoax from the late 1960s which it, in turn, read about in the most recent newsletter of the Canberra Skeptics society. This hoax was perpetrated by a grad student named Ray Crawford who had managed to get his hands on some NASA stationery:


"Shortly after the first moon landing Dr John Lovering at the ANU [Australian National University] received a piece of moon rock to analyse. Ray wrote a letter purporting to be from NASA to Dr Lovering requesting he present a sample of his urine at the US embassy at 3pm on a certain day; this was to be sent to NASA for analysis in case John had become infected by some alien life form.'


Dr Lovering, for all his intellectual eminence, seems to have fallen for the hoax and to have consulted an ANU biochemist about the best way to collect the requested specimen.


'But as urine samples are best collected early morning' Mr Griffith reports [and as this seemed at odds with the request to Dr Lovering to show up with his sample at 3pm] the biochemist 'smelled a rat'.


'So the US Embassy staff were contacted. Of course they knew nothing about this and, after a lot of coming and going with NASA, the urine sample went down the drain, so to speak. The Yanks were not amused and tried their hardest to find out who was behind the letter. But, as with the weapons of mass destruction, the CIA just could not get its act together on this one either.'"
Categories: Extraterrestrial Life
Posted by Alex on Thu Jun 05, 2003
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King Bloop Zod from the planet Mars strikes up an email exchange with Mel Martinez, the White House Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and gets a response.
Categories: Extraterrestrial Life, Politics
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 03, 2003
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The Lawton Triangle Hoax: Was it a true UFO or a Microsoft Optical Mouse glowing in the dark? UFOlogists opt for the former option.
Categories: Extraterrestrial Life
Posted by Alex on Mon Aug 26, 2002
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US News & World Report has a special double issue this week on "The Art of the Hoax". Check out the lead article, "Strange but true: This is the golden age of hoaxes." Yours truly was interviewed for it and gets mentioned twice! Very exciting. But also check out their short piece on the Great Moon Hoax of 1835. As it turns out, they fell for a tall-tale about this hoax. In the first paragraph they claim that because of this newspaper hoax:

"Daily sales of the Sun skyrocketed from 4,000 to 19,000–making it the world's most popular paper and launching a new kind of journalism."

Not so! For almost a century historians have been repeating this story about how the great moon hoax propelled the New York Sun to media stardom and established it as the world's most popular paper, and established modern journalism in the process. But the story is actually totally false. The tale got its start because a few days into the hoax, on August 28, 1835, the Sun boasted that it had a circulation of 19,360, making it the most widely circulated paper in the world. Almost a century later the historian Frank M. O'Brien, in his 1918 work about the history of the Sun (The Story of the Sun) made note of this boast in his retelling of the hoax. Subsequent historians, who relied solely upon O'Brien's work for their information about the hoax, figured that if the Sun was boasting about its circulation during the moon hoax, this must have meant that the hoax had caused a rapid rise in the paper's circulation. It seemed like a logical conclusion, but it was wrong.In actuality, the Sun had regularly been making the same boast about its high circulation for weeks before the moon hoax occurred. In fact, two weeks before the moon hoax, on August 13, 1835, the Sun boasted that its circulation was at 26,000, meaning that if you go by the Sun's own numbers, its circulation actually dropped during the moon hoax. But once the idea was established that the moon hoax immediately caused a meteoric rise in the Sun's circulation, it proved to be so compelling (because it provided a slightly scandalous angle to the birth of modern journalism) that no one ever bothered to check if it was actually true. In fact, various historians began to embellish the idea, inventing the claim that the Sun's previous circulation had been 4,000 (or 6,000, or 8,000... pick a number. Almost every author who writes about the moon hoax has a different figure for what the Sun's circulation skyrocketed from, though they all agree on the 19,000 figure).USN&WR also claims that the Journal of Commerce first exposed the hoax after the hoax's author, Richard Adams Locke, confessed to one of their reporters. This is also false. Many New York papers had immediately denounced the Sun's lunar claims as a hoax, and the New York Herald was the first to point the finger at Locke. The idea that the Journal of Commerce exposed the hoax dates to an 1852 retelling of the hoax by William Griggs.USN&WR can't really be blamed for getting some of the facts wrong. The literature about the moon hoax is full of these erroneous claims. The only reason I realized they were wrong is because I'm writing my dissertation about the moon hoax, and so I spent the time to actually dig up the papers from 1835 and find out what the real story was.
Categories: Extraterrestrial Life, History, Journalism
Posted by Alex on Mon Aug 19, 2002
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UFO sightings expected to increase in the next few weeks. But that bright object in the night sky won't be a UFO. It'll be the International Space Station.
Categories: Extraterrestrial Life
Posted by Alex on Sat Jul 27, 2002
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