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|•||Happy Birthday, Hulitoons! 05/23/2013|
|•||Authorities are leaning more toward zero tolerance of teenagers 05/06/2013|
|•||Lady Light 05/06/2013|
|•||ET's Visit Earth, aid US Government 05/05/2013|
|•||Happy Birthday, Robin Bobcat! 05/03/2013|
|•||Very tiny robot uprising 05/02/2013|
|•||Return of the living not-really-dead! 05/02/2013|
|•||A Belated Happy Birthday To Accipiter! 05/01/2013|
|•||World's Smallest Movie 05/01/2013|
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Status: HoaxThe Raw Feed has linked to a video (in French) in which Belgian archaeologists discuss how they were able to "use computer scans of the grooves in 6,500-year-old pottery to extract sounds -- including talking and laughter -- made by the vibrations of the tools used to make the pottery." The video is fairly good quality and would lead you to believe that it might be real, if it weren't for the premise being pretty farfetched (and not reported anywhere else in the news). Make Magazine reports that the video was created last year as an April Fool's Day hoax, and point out that "This site - 'Poisson d'avril de journal televise', translates to: 'April fools newscast'." (However, I can't find any mention of Poisson d'avril in the site they link to.) Other Make readers point out that the premise (audio extracted from ancient pottery) was ripped off (pun intentional) from a story by Gregory Benford, Time Shards. (Thanks to Schmawy for the link)
Status: Possible prankForty years after stealing a "Sami Fleshscraper" from a Norwegian museum, the contrite thief has mailed the item back. Problem is, the museum has no idea what the object is. From the article on Yahoo News:
"For 40 years I have enjoyed this rare tool in my home. In my old age ... I have now decided to return it to the descendants of those who imagined it, built it and used it," the anonymous thief wrote in a typed letter sent to the embassy just before Christmas. The letter was posted from Biarritz in southwestern France and signed by "an ex-thief who was less a thief and more a man passionate about authenticity and real life"... The repentant thief called it a "scratcher", a word he then crossed out and replaced with "Sami fleshscraper" followed by a question mark. Sami refers to the indigenous people of northern Europe, also known as Lapplanders.
This sounds to me like a prank: mail an inexplicable object to a museum, leaving them wondering what in the world it is. Maybe they'll even decide it really is a fleshscraper and place it in the museum.
Status: Confession of a prankBack in 1970 a picture was taken showing four young women waving placards with messages such as "Ban the Man" and "Down with Men and Marriage." The picture became a symbol of feminism. But thirty-five years later, the women have confessed that their anti-man protest was just a prank. Margot Ducat explains:
"One day my colleagues - Jo Vincent, Sue James and Shirley Francis - found a wedding dress stuffed in one of the cupboards. Quite why someone left it there we never did find out. Anyway, Shirley tried it on and it was a perfect fit, so we just decided to do something to liven up Surbiton [a London suburb]. It was a rather dull and staid town, so I suggested we telephone the local paper, the Kingston and Malden Borough News, and tell them we were protesting against men. Shirley wore the wedding dress, we made our banners and set off down Victoria Road. Passers-by just gawped in amazement. When it came to being interviewed, we told the press we were militant women's libbers who were fed up with how men seemed to get the best deal out of life. We just made the whole thing up. It was a prank to enliven a very dull day."
Although the article in the Telegraph says that this photograph is very famous and has been reprinted many times, I don't actually have any idea what photograph they're talking about. (And the online version of the article doesn't show the picture.) Anyone know what the image in question is? It's got to be online somewhere.
Status: ScamAccording to legend, Plymouth Rock was the first thing the pilgrims set foot upon when they landed in Massachusetts. I think that the rock itself is now on display in Plymouth. But United Press International reports that pieces of the Rock are popping up on eBay where they're fetching as much as $900. The catch is that there's absolutely no way to verify that these really are pieces of the original Plymouth Rock. A lot of people did carve off chunks of Plymouth Rock during the 18th and 19th centuries, but there's no way to differentiate a real piece of Plymouth Rock from a fake piece.
Status: Never ExistedRemember the Black Basketball League? Its teams (including favorites such as the Newark Eagles, Harlem Knights, Baltimore Crabs, West Philly Dancers and Cleveland Ebonies) competed from 1920-40, when they were shut out of the all-white league. Consumers can now honor the memory of this league by buying sportswear emblazoned with the team logos. Of course, if you don't remember this league, it might be because historians insist that it never existed. But Eric Williams, the guy who's selling the black league sportswear, isn't letting that minor fact bother him. He explains that:
"These logos had to come from somewhere.. Whether there was a league or not those logos ... that's still nice to represent the 'hood or whatever it was. Those were all the inner cities. (Whether it was) an interim league or a professional league, those leagues and those logos, to me they sound like they exist. The story sounds good to me so I'm rolling with it."
So there you have it. Damn the facts. He's rolling with the story. (Thanks to Joe Littrell for the link.)
Status: Hoax-facilitating softwareGenealogists are in an uproar about new software that allows people to create fake (but real looking) online family trees. The program is called Fake Family. (Because of the controversy, the website of the software maker is now given over to an Open Letter to Genealogists.)
Genealogists argue that the fake information created by this program could easily find its way into real family history databases. They also charge that the only purpose of the software is to create webpages that will lure people with false information, and then profit from advertising links.
The maker of the software, Don Harrold, defends his creation by insisting it's very unlikely that a serious researcher would be taken in by the information Fake Family produces. For instance, the software will often list people as being born in cities before those cities existed. He also makes a curious point:
The people most upset about Fake Family seem to be folks who have a RELIGIOUS reason for being upset. (However, if I was going to be baptizing people who had passed on, I would do more research than just "grabbing names" from a website.)
Does this mean there are people who do genealogical research in order to retroactively baptize their ancestors? Can a dead person be baptized? I had never heard of such a thing.
Anyway, Harrold's basic argument is valid enough. The internet is so full of misinformation that anyone who uncritically uses historical information they find online is asking to be misled. But having said that, it sounds like the purpose of his program is to create spam (spam that clutters search engine results rather than email inboxes). And spam in any form should be condemned.
Status: HoaxA reporter for Inside Bay Area (I don't know his name... it's not given with the article) recently recounted how his granddaughter told him that the bear on the California flag was originally supposed to be a pear. Back in 1846, Capt. Jedediah Bartlett, leader of a band of rebels fighting against the Mexican authorities in California, supposedly drew up a flag for the future state. He thought a pear, as a symbol of the region's agriculture, would be a fitting symbol. But his instructions were misread and the flagmaker inserted a bear on the flag instead of a pear. The error was never rectified.
The Inside Bay Area reporter was a little suspicious when he heard this story, but he did some fact-checking, discovered the story was true, and shared this with his readers. What he should also have told his readers was that his fact-checking consisted simply of finding the story listed as true on Snopes and therefore assuming it had to be true. Two weeks later he was forced to admit his error. The story is not true. The California bear was not originally a pear.
In his mea culpa the reporter offered this excuse: "I decided to recount it when I checked a Web site that purports to investigate urban myths to determine their validity. The Web site pronounced it 'True.' So I passed it along. Bad idea."
In other words, he seems to be blaming his error on Snopes. What the guy doesn't seem to realize is that the Pear/Bear story is one of a handful of deliberately false stories that Snopes has on its site (it calls them Lost Legends), placed there precisely to trip up people who are too lazy to do thorough fact-checking. Snopes explains this if you click on the "More information about this page" link at the bottom of the Pear/Bear story (something the reporter evidently still has not gotten around to doing). Journalists should be proud to call this guy one of their own.
Status: AuthenticIn my hoax photo gallery I display a picture of the body of Abraham Lincoln lying in a casket and explain that the photo is fake because the army didn't allow any photos of Lincoln's body to be taken. But I just received an email from Rich noting that there is one authentic picture of Lincoln's corpse, and he's right. A photographer did manage to snap a shot of the dead Lincoln as he was lying in state in Manhattan's City Hall. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton had the photograph confiscated, and it was supposed to be destroyed. But instead, Stanton kept it, and it was found by historians almost 100 years later. It's the only true Lincoln death photo in existence.
It's already well known that Michelangelo dabbled in art forgery. That's not disputed. For instance, there's his famous forgery of the Sleeping Cupid. However, Lynn Catterson of Columbia University thinks that a much more high-profile forgery should be attributed to him. She believes that Michelangelo forged The Laocoon, which has long been regarded as one of the most important pieces of ancient Greek sculpture in existence. She points out that Michelangelo was present when The Laocoon was unearthed in 1506. She has promised to provide further proof to back up her allegation at a lecture today, as well as in a book she's submitted for publication. (thanks to Jelena for the link)
In September 1939 the fledgling BBC television service was shut down because of the start of World War II. According to legend, transmission was ended in the middle of a broadcast of a Disney cartoon called "Mickey's Gala Premiere." When transmission resumed six years later an announcer came on the air and said, "Well now, where were we?" The Disney cartoon then began to play from the exact spot in which it had left off all those years ago. Is this story true? Almost, but not quite. According to imdb.com, "Mickey's Gala Premiere" was the last thing shown on the BBC in 1939 and the first thing it aired when it started back up in 1946. However the cartoon was restarted from the beginning. Not from where it had left off in 1939.
Here's a strange story. I'm not sure whether or not it's a joke. Supposedly the Dutch village of Wageningen commissioned the construction of a war memorial shaped like "a giant copper obelisk that rises and falls depending on the level of sunlight, and spurts flames out of the top during important festivals." Only after they built it did they realize it looked exactly like a giant penis and hastily decided to scrap it. There are two reasons I'm skeptical about this. First, the source is listed as Ananova. Second, there already is a National Liberation Monument war memorial in Wageningen that's been there since the 1950s.
It's long been thought that the word Easter and the traditions we associate with it (the Easter Bunny and hiding eggs) stem from an old Germanic Saxon belief about the goddess Ostara. The Saxons believed that Ostara was sent by the Sun King during the spring to bring an end to winter. She bore a basket of colored eggs, and with the help of a magical rabbit would hide these eggs under plants and flowers to bring them new life. The name Ostara evolved into Oestre, or Easter. Turns out this legend is a hoax, at least according to University of Tasmania researcher Elizabeth Freeman. Her research indicates that the Saxons never worshipped a goddess named Ostara. Ostara was simply invented by an 8th century scholar named the Venerable Bede, apparently because he thought it was a nice story: "He has definitely made up that goddess," Dr Freeman said. "Bede is the first one to mention it. German academics have found no evidence of the spring goddess Oestre anywhere else before Bede." She theorizes that the Easter Bunny legend actually came from ancient Celtic culture, because the Celts "revered sacred hares".