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The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: Science
Open-Access Hoax
Posted by The Curator on Sat Oct 05, 2013
A report of a scientific hoax appears in the latest issue of Science. Researcher John Bohannon wrote a purposefully bad scientific paper — one with glaringly bad errors that any peer reviewer should be able to spot. He then submitted versions of that paper to 304 open-access journals, using aliases such as "Ocarrafoo M.L. Cobange," supposedly a biologist at the Wassee Institute of Medicine in Asmara. The result: "More than half of the journals accepted the paper, failing to notice its fatal flaws." Bohannon says this raises "questions about peer-review practices in much of the open-access world." But defenders of the open-access system (such as here and…
Categories: Science Comments (1)
Hermeneutic Hoax
Posted by The Curator on Tue Sep 24, 2013
The most recent issue of the Romanian journal Metalurgia International contains an unusual article titled "Evaluation of Transformative Hermeneutic Heuristics for Processing Random Data." If that title doesn't make much sense to you, neither will the rest of the article. But that's intentional on the part of the authors, who submitted a nonsense article to the journal, which obligingly published it — apparently without bothering to read it first. The intent of the hoaxers (three professors at the University of Belgrade) was to "draw attention to the hyperproduction of quasi-scientific works by Serbian professors that are published in the magazines of dubious quality" as the website In Serbia puts it. The…
Categories: Education, Science Comments (1)
Myth: Pearls are made from a grain of sand
Posted by The Curator on Tue Sep 17, 2013
Came across this in a Guardian article about a new exhibit opening at the Victoria & Albert Museum: V&A dissolves myths around pearls in major new show The Guardian [Marilyn] Monroe and [Elizabeth] Taylor are represented in a show devoted to pearls, opening at the V&A on Saturday. Neither probably knew the grimmer truth of what they were wearing. "The pearls are formed around the larvae from a tapeworm coming from the excrement of other animals," said the show's co-curator, Hubert Bari. "The people marketing them prefer to say 'it is so fantastic: your necklace was made from a grain of sand'. It is better to…
Categories: Science Comments (2)
Questions about the Milgram experiment
Posted by The Curator on Thu Sep 12, 2013
Gina Perry has authored a new book about Stanley Milgram's famous obedience experiment (Behind the Shock Machine: The Untold Story of the Notorious Milgram Psychology Experiments) in which she argues that Milgram fudged his data and conclusions. Boing Boing reviews it. Perry suggests the fudging happened in several ways: First, although Milgram claimed his experiment always followed a set script, Perry reviewed the original audio tapes and found this wasn't the case. Instead, Milgram's experimenter "wheedled and nagged the subjects into turning up the shock dial."Second, she argues that a substantial portion of the experimental subjects saw through Milgram's ruse and realized that they weren't actually shocking someone. I'll have…
Categories: Psychology, Science Comments (0)
Mammoth Hailstone Hoax, 1911
Posted by The Curator on Tue Aug 27, 2013
I found this photo in the collections of the Minnesota Historical Society. It shows a Mr. O'Mahony (of Pipestone, Minnesota) proudly showing off a "mammoth hail stone" — size: 6" x 6" x 8" and weighing 5½ lbs. A note attached to the photo reveals that the hailstone was a fake: Mr. O'Mahony was the victim of a hoax. This large chunk of clear icebox ice was dropped through a skylight in a public building where it was found and assumed was fell from the sky during as a huge hail stone. The instigator of the creative prank confessed many years later - after…
Categories: Science Comments (0)
Gullibility sometimes increases as people grow old. For which reason, the elderly are victims of financial scams in disproportionately high numbers. New research, published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, has now linked this age-related gullibility to deterioration of a specific area in the brain — the vmPFC (ventromedial prefrontal cortex). The researchers showed a series of ads to 18 patients with damage to the vmPFC. Some of the ads were deceptive (and contained clues to that effect). For instance, one ad for a (fictitious) product named NatureCure described a 'natural' pain reliever that supposedly provided headache relief "without the side effects of over-the-counter pain relievers." But a disclaimer at the bottom…
Categories: Science Comments (1)
Is lying bad for your health?
Posted by The Curator on Thu Aug 09, 2012
Bad news for hoaxers -- A new scientific study reports that lying less results in better health. (Links: apa.org, eurekalert.org) The study hasn't been peer-reviewed/published yet, but preliminary results were reported at the 120th Convention of the American Psychological Association. The study tracked 110 people, half of whom were instructed to tell fewer lies for 10 weeks, and the other half received no special instructions about lying. At the end of 10 weeks, the non-liers reported significantly better health. What I wonder is how the researchers could know that the no-lying group wasn't lying about lying less. The researchers said they gve the participants regular polygraph tests, but those tests…
Categories: Science Comments (2)
Use your left ear to detect lies
Posted by The Curator on Fri Aug 03, 2012
image source: megafonA study reported in the journal Laterality (Mar 2005) found that people are significantly better at detecting lies with their left ear than their right ear. The reason is that left-ear information is processed by the brain's right hemisphere, which apparently is better at detecting deception than the left hemisphere. (For instance, studies have shown that people with right-hemisphere damage have trouble detecting lies.) In the ear study, 32 participants listened to 112 pre-recorded statements, using either their right or left ear, and then were asked to determine which statements were true or false. The results, from the study: Participants were significantly more accurate when…
Categories: Science Comments (4)
The Mystery of the Burnley River Skull
Posted by The Curator on Wed Jul 11, 2012
Back in May, a Lancashire couple, Mick and Elaine Bell, found a human skull in a shallow section of the Burnley River while out walking their dogs. They gave the skull to the police, who initially suspected that rain had washed it down from a nearby cemetery. But as forensic experts examined it, they grew puzzled. The features of the skull indicated the person had been a man who was either an Australian aboriginal or from a South Pacific Island. How had he ended up buried in Lancashire? Elaine Bell with the skull Carbon dating the skull produced no results. Initially the scientists thought this was because the…
Categories: History, Science Comments (5)
A Global Warming Hoax from 1874
Posted by The Curator on Mon May 21, 2012
I periodically receive emails from people who insist I need to add global warming to the site because it's the "biggest hoax in human history." I don't agree with that. Actually, I think global warming is something that definitely merits being worried about. However, I did just add a global warming hoax to the hoax archive, which might make the global-warming-is-a-hoax crowd happy. Except that this hoax occurred in 1874. It's a story that appeared in U.S. newspapers in February 1874. The premise was that scientists had discovered the earth was getting hotter and hotter. Europe was predicted to be tropical in 12 years, and soon after that the planet would become too hot to support life.…
Categories: Death, Journalism, Science Comments (0)
The Fake Science Blog
Posted by The Curator on Tue Apr 24, 2012
The Fake Science Blog has been around for over two years, but I just found out about it. It describes itself as being "for when the facts are too confusing." Lots of great stuff! Seems to be a new post about once every 4 or 5 days. Here's a few samples:
Categories: Science Comments (1)
Social Psychologist Fabricates Data
Posted by The Curator on Tue Nov 01, 2011
A committee at Tilburg University (in the Netherlands) has determined that the social psychologist Diederik Stapel is guilty of fabricating data in multiple studies. Staepl has admitted his guilt, saying he "failed as a scientist". From sciencemag.org: The panel reported that [Stapel] would discuss in detail experimental designs, including drafting questionnaires, and would then claim to conduct the experiments at high schools and universities with which he had special arrangements. The experiments, however, never took place, the universities concluded. Stapel made up the data sets, which he then gave the student or collaborator for analysis, investigators…
Categories: Science Comments (3)
Margaret Mead Redeemed?
Posted by The Curator on Mon Dec 21, 2009
A new salvo has been fired in the ongoing controversy about whether the anthropologist Margaret Mead was "hoaxed" during her research in Samoa in 1925. I've got a brief article about the controversy in the hoax archive. To summarize: Mead traveled to Samoa, interviewed some teenage girls about their sexual behavior, and concluded that Samoan culture had very relaxed, easygoing attitudes about sex. Almost sixty years later Derek Freeman challenged her findings and claimed that the teenage girls had told her wild tales, which she had been gullible enough to believe. Freeman's claims were partially based on the testimony of one of Mead's interviewees, Fa'apua'a, whom he tracked down in Samoa.
Categories: Science, Sex/Romance Comments (6)
Stalin, black orchids, and Eva Peron
Posted by The Curator on Wed Oct 21, 2009
Lorena writes to ask: You seem to know a lot about hoaxes so....I am doing some research, and I was asked if the story about Stalin sending black orchids to Eva Peron's funeral are a hoax. Problem is, I can't even find stories about it at all. Have you ever heard this? I'm flattered Lorena thinks I might be knowledgeable enough to have the answer to this, but unfortunately I've never heard the story before and can't find any references to it. In a July 28, 1952 Associated Press article, "Mile-Long Lines View Remains," I found…
Categories: Politics, Science Comments (8)
The Piltdown Man: The Play
Posted by The Curator on Wed Sep 23, 2009
A new play opening at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater, Fake by Eric Simonson, is based on the Piltdown Man hoax. It looks pretty good, but I can't find any indication if there are plans for it to go on tour and come to San Diego. In 1914, renowned mystery writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle invites four guests to his English country home. Each visitor has a connection to the infamous "Piltdown Man," purported to be the missing link between ape and man—later exposed as a hoax. Swinging back and forth through time,…
Categories: Science Comments (1)
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