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The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: Science
Robot Roaches Coated with Pheromones
Posted by The Curator on Sun Nov 18, 2007
Jose Halloy, a biologist at the Free University of Brussels, created little robot cockroaches that he programmed to behave in ways similar to real cockroaches. For instance, he could program the robo-roaches to prefer a light or dark shelter. The interesting part is that when he coated these robot roaches with roach pheromones, other roaches seemed to accept them as one of their own, and even would follow their lead: Halloy initially programmed the robots to have the same darkness preference as the cockroaches, and they joined the cockroaches at whatever shelter the majority chose to rest in. Next,…
Categories: Science Comments (3)
Bat Bugs Have Fake Genitals
Posted by The Curator on Thu Sep 27, 2007
National Geographic has an article about a "hotbed of deception" in the natural world. It involves the genitals of a small, reddish-brown parasite called the bat bug. In order to protect themselves from the unwanted advances of male members of the species, female bat bugs have evolved a region on their body similar to a fake genital: Researchers have long known that male bat bugs ignore females' conventional parts and instead use their sharp penises to stab the females' abdomens, injecting sperm directly into the bloodstream. So the females evolved a defense: structures called paragenitals that guide a male's needle-like member…
Categories: Science, Sex/Romance Comments (2)
Best of the forum - 21st September 07
Posted by Boo on Fri Sep 21, 2007
Due to my ongoing computer problems and personal situation, this is again brought to you by Madmouse. Peruvian Meteorite (eovti) An apparent meteorite landing in Peru has led to reports of illness amongst locals. Original suggestions for the cause of the sickness included radiation poisoning, but that seems unlikely. Sign Language Translator (Madmouse) There’s been a lot of discussion in the forum about this story. A group of UK students have developed a system to translate spoken or written words into British Sign Language that is then displayed by an avatar. Suggested uses include translating for…
Top 20 Most Bizarre Experiments
Posted by The Curator on Wed Aug 29, 2007
I've posted a list of the Top 20 Most Bizarre Experiments of All Time. The descriptions are all summarized from longer accounts that can be found in my new book, Elephants on Acid. Basically, although the list can stand on its own, it's meant to be one big ad for the book. My hope is that people might be intrigued enough by what they read in the list to want to find out what else can be found in the book. (They'll either be intrigued or horrified. When people hear about some of these experiments those are the two most typical reactions.) There's definitely plenty more material…
Categories: Science Comments (8)
Cheap wine in a fancy bottle
Posted by The Curator on Wed Aug 08, 2007
Cornell University researcher Brian Wanskin arranged to give diners at a prix-fixe restaurant a complimentary glass of wine. The diners were shown the bottle before the wine was poured into their glass. Some of the diners were shown a wine bottle apparently from a fancy California winery called "Noah's Winery." Others were shown a bottle from a North Dakota winery. But in all cases the wine they were served was actually the same. It was a cheap Charles Shaw Cabernet (familiar to Trader Joes shoppers as "two-buck chuck"). Predictably, the diners seemed to appreciate the wine and their meal more when told that they were drinking a high-class California wine, as measured by how…
Categories: Food, Science Comments (12)
“The Secret”
Posted by Cranky Media Guy on Tue Jun 26, 2007
Yes, it's another questionable literary enterprise. You've probably heard of "The Secret," a self-help book/cultural phenomenon. As with any such thing, it's Oprah-approved. "The Secret" claims to reveal a Secret of the Universe, which is (SPOILER ALERT!) that you can have whatever you want, if you just think about it REALLY HARD. OK, that's a wee bit flip, but that really is the gist of the "secret." Well, you also have to be a good person and you can't wish for bad stuff, but other than that, if you want it, you can and WILL get it. It's all based on the "Law of Attraction," which author Laura Byrne says…
Jumping Germans
Posted by The Curator on Wed Jun 06, 2007
Inspired by the urban legend that if all the people in China jumped at once it would alter the orbit of the Earth, German scientists (working in participation with a German TV show) staged an experiment at a music festival. They arranged for all 50,000 people at the concert to jump at once, and then measured the results. They called it a "gang boing." Here's what happened: In the end, the hoppers created "a mini-mini-earthquake," according to Ulrich Grünewald, who produced the segment for a science program on German television. The ground moved one-twentieth of a millimeter, with four oscillations per second.…
Categories: Science, Urban Legends Comments (4)
Intention Experiments
Posted by The Curator on Wed Jun 06, 2007
Writer Lynne McTaggart has been sponsoring a number of "experiments" to promote her book The Intention Experiment, in which she makes the argument (from what I can surmise without actually having read the book) that we can influence the world around us through our intentions. If we want something to happen, we merely intend for it to happen. Here's a description of the first three experiments: The first experiment was an enormous success when 400 people sat in a hall in London and intended for a leaf in the University of Arizona to 'glow and glow'.…
Categories: Psychology, Science Comments (22)
What is the world record for staying awake?
Posted by The Curator on Sat May 26, 2007
The London Times reports that Tony Wright of Cornwall recently stayed awake for 266 hours. He was attempting to break the world record of 264 hours awake set by Randy Gardner of San Diego in 1964. Wright was also attempting to demonstrate that, thanks to his "caveman diet" of raw food, he was able to "train his mind in such a way as to stay awake for 11 days and remain coherent and aware of what was going on around him." The Times then goes on to report the bad news. Gardner didn't actually hold the world record for staying awake. Gardner's record had long since been surpassed by others. So Wright didn't set a…
Categories: Body Manipulation, Science Comments (208)
Whiskey Floats on Water
Posted by The Curator on Thu May 17, 2007
This YouTube video demonstrates a physics trick right out of high-school science -- how to take a glass of water and a glass of whiskey and swap their contents, without using a third glass. It relies on the principle that whiskey is lighter than water and will float on top of it. The funny part is not the video, which is fairly straightforward, but rather the comments left by YouTube viewers, many of whom seem to think the video must have been faked. I guess they weren't paying attention in high-school science. I had a bottle of cheap whiskey on hand (Rebel Yell), so I tried the experiment myself, and I can attest that it definitely works. You…
Categories: Photos/Videos, Science Comments (8)
Did Hillary Clinton Participate in a Menstrual Synchrony Study?
Posted by The Curator on Wed May 09, 2007
One of the stranger rumors I encountered in the course of writing Elephants on Acid was the suggestion that Hillary Clinton participated in a menstrual synchrony study while she was a student at Wellesley College during the 1960s. Stranger still, I haven't been able to disprove this. Here are the facts. In 1968, Martha McClintock, while a senior at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, convinced all 135 of her dormmates to participate in a study of the phenomenon of synchronous menstruation. She recorded the date of onset of their menstrual cycles three…
The Virtual Milgram Obedience Experiment
Posted by The Curator on Thu Dec 21, 2006
Back in the early 1960s Stanley Milgram conducted a famous experiment at Yale University. Volunteers were told that it was designed to test the effect of punishment on learning. Would a person learn a list of word pairs better if they were punished every time they got an answer wrong? The volunteer was instructed to deliver an electric shock to the learner every time one of his answers was wrong. The shocks increased in intensity for every wrong answer. Of course, the experiment wasn't actually about the effect of punishment on learning at all. It was really designed to see how long the volunteers would obey…
Categories: Psychology, Science Comments (28)
Stardust@home Project Finds Life
Posted by The Curator on Tue Aug 15, 2006
The stardust spacecraft spent seven years collecting outer-space dust in large sheets of aerogel. Now it's back on Earth and researchers have enlisted the help of internet users to find microscopic specks of dust in the aerogel. They taken 1.6 million images of the gel with a scanning microscope and are distributing these to volunteers. Already some people have found signs of life. Unfortunately it's not extraterrestrial life: On its first day, the website shut down due to heavy traffic. And a few hours after re-opening, it had a stranger problem. In among the speckled grey aerogel pictures appeared photos…
Quick Links: Bonsai Contortionist, etc.
Posted by Boo on Mon Aug 14, 2006
Bonsai Contortionist Hugo Zamoratte is known as 'The Bottle Man' and has the ability to dislocate almost every bone in his body. Playing Astronauts The Haughton Mars Project's research and development of ways to survive in space seem like a dream come true for big kids. Cardboard Office Mike, a keen prankster, pushed his co-workers too far. It was probably a mistake to then take a few days away from the office. Lobster Pinches Wallet A man who lost his wallet during a late-night swim was surprised when it turned up in the…
Does God Love Rats?
Posted by The Curator on Sat Aug 05, 2006
I attended an episcopalian high school, which meant that I had to sit through a chapel service every day. Thankfully the services were never fire-and-brimstone stuff. These were Episcopalians, after all. Instead, they were most often like general-interest lectures. But one service in particular has stuck in my mind, during which whoever was giving the service described an unusual experiment involving the relationship between rats and God. I think the experiment might be an interesting addition to my next book, so I'm trying to track down details about it. But so far I've been unsuccessful. So I'm hoping that one of the Museum of Hoaxes readers might know something about it. The experimenters, so it was said,…
Categories: Science Comments (17)
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