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In August 2012, a jury awarded Apple over $1 billion in damages in their patent infringement case against Samsung. This sparked a rumor that Samsung had gotten its own back against Apple by paying the fine entirely in nickels — sending 30 trucks full of nickels over to Apple's headquarters.

A video of a bunch of delivery trucks driving down a city street was offered as confirmation of the rumor — although the trucks in the video weren't from Samsung. A picture also circulated showing coins pouring down a ramp in some warehouse setting.




The Guardian posted a good article debunking the rumor, pointing out:
  1. The fine wasn't yet payable, because the judge hadn't made his decision.
  2. Private businesses are not required to accept any form of coin or currency as payment, despite a popular belief to the contrary.
  3. It would require 2,755 trucks to transport that many nickels, not 30.
  4. There's probably not that many nickels in circulation.
  5. The "payment in nickels" rumor originated from El Deforma, an Onion-like Mexican website specializing in fake news.
Several days ago (Nov. 21) a new jury decision was announced in a retrial of the damages. Samsung now only has to pay Apple $290 million. But that appears to have started the "payment in nickels" rumor circulating again.

I can think of several real-life cases of people who paid fines or fees in coins, just to be annoying. For instance, Washington resident John Patric perennially ran for state elections during the 1950s and 60s, and always insisted on paying the filing fee with loose change. He also always listed his name as "John 'Hugo N. Frye' Patric".

In 2012, Thomas Daigle of Massachusetts carted 62000 pennies to the bank to make his final mortgage payment. [ABC News]

And also in 2012, a man calling himself "Bacon Moose" paid a $137 traffic fine with 137 dollar bills, all folded into origami pigs. [HuffPost]
Categories: Business/Finance
Posted by Alex on Sat Nov 23, 2013
Comments (2)
If you need a meringue top for a pie, and you need it fast, then look no further than eMeringue.com. They're the "Internet's #1 meringue delivery service." Their fleet of eMeringue trucks are gassed up and ready to hit the highway, to deliver your meringue top directly to your door.


eMeringue was an April Fool's Day hoax by the Motley Fool investment people. But it dates back to 1999, so I'm impressed that they've kept the site up all this time.

If you look at the eMeringue welcome page, you'll see a photo of "eMeringue chef Serge LeGrenouille." My wife is the food geek in the family, but she's rubbed off on me enough that I recognized that chef Serge LeGrenouille is actually Chef Patrick O'Connell of the Inn at Little Washington. I wonder if he knows that in addition to being one of America's top chefs, he's also the head chef at eMeringue?


left: eMeringue chef Serge LeGrenouille -- right: chef Patrick O'Connell
Categories: Food, Websites
Posted by Alex on Fri Nov 22, 2013
Comments (0)
Back in 2005, I posted about the website of The Federation of Rodent Cheesemakers, promoters of rat-milk cheese. That website is suddenly back in the news, thanks to an article in Modern Farmer, "Rat Cheese: Internet Hoax or Future Delicacy?"

The author (Sam Brasch) acknowledges that the Rodent Cheesemakers site is a spoof, but then he seriously addresses the question of how to make cheese from rat milk. He notes that you would need a lot of rats: "You’d need an army of 674 rats to produce the 31 kilograms of milk one dairy cow puts out each day."

But if you had that many rats, they might produce a surprisingly good product:

"Rat’s milk is high in protein (8 percent) and contains almost four times the fat by volume when compared to raw cow’s milk, so it would make a great brie and stand as a rich addition to a cup of coffee in the morning. A rodent dairy farm would also earn a stellar environmental report card. 674 rats would only produce .003 percent of the methane that comes from a dairy cow, so a piece le fromage de rat could end up being the most sustainable high-end cheese at the deli counter."

My thought here: depending on what you fed the rats, their milk might also be quite tasty!

But the International Business Times has also weighed in on this issue and throws cold water on the promise of rat-milk cheese by pointing out, "We don't have milking machines small enough to make rat dairies a viable option."

But they're wrong about this. There are milking machines for rats. Back in 1946, Prof. B.L. Herrington of Cornell University designed a "midget milker" — the world's smallest milking machine mounted on a board 18x6 inches. He designed it primarily to milk guinea pigs, but also used it on rats, rabbits, and hamsters. A Science News Letter article noted that "milking guinea pigs is a two-man operation, with one person holding the animal, and it takes about 10 minutes."


I haven't been able to find any pictures of Herrington's midget milker in action, but there is a diagram of it in a 1951 article in the Journal of Nutrition ("Milking Techniques and the Composition of Guinea Pig Milk").


So there wouldn't be a technological problem with milking rats. It could be done. The problem would be the labor involved. It would take too long to milk enough rats to produce a decent amount of cheese. So it would never be done except as a one-off thing.
Categories: Food
Posted by Alex on Fri Nov 22, 2013
Comments (0)
West Yorkshire police denied reports there was a sinister clown on the prowl in Bradford, "peering in windows, committing robberies and even stabbing people." A police spokesman said, "This seems like it might be a hoax. We haven't had any reports of crimes committed by a clown, I can say that much."


During the past week, a photo has been circulating on facebook and twitter showing an evil clown standing outside a Bradford McDonalds. This photo has apparently helped to fuel the rumors of a clown crime spree.

The Bradford Telegraph and Argus notes that the most popular search term recently on its website has been "clown".
Categories: Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Fri Nov 22, 2013
Comments (0)
I posted last year about India's Great Emu Scam. Thousands of people, lured in by con artists, invested in emu farms, believing they were a sure-fire way to get rich quick. But demand for emu products never materialized, and so the investors lost their money.

The fallout from all this is not only lost money, but also huge herds of homeless emus that no one can figure out what to do with. India's Revenue department is trying to sell them, but isn't finding any buyers, even though the emus are being offered for pennies on the dollar. [thehindu.com]
Categories:
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 21, 2013
Comments (3)
The premise of LoveRoom is that it's an apartment rental service that only rents to attractive people. So if you're an attractive person with an extra bed you're willing to rent out, LoveRoom will match you with another attractive person looking for a bed to rent. Forbes calls it an "Airbnb for Hotties".


After the recent debut of the LoveRoom website, quite a few media outlets wrote about the company as if it were a real thing. But Forbes reporter Kashmir Hill didn't have to do much digging before she learned it was only a "thought experiment" — so-called by Josh Bocanegra, who's the guy who put up the website. But Bocanegra says the site has generated so much media interest that he's considering trying to make it a reality.

Last year I posted about Miss Travel, which is a travel service that caters only to attractive people. And that's apparently real. So maybe LoveRoom can make the leap into reality as well. And hey, it looks like Bocanegra already has a beta-version of a functioning site up.
Categories:
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 21, 2013
Comments (1)
Sam Harris argues that parents should never lie to their own children, even about something as seemingly innocuous as the existence of Santa, because all lies can sow the seeds of distrust between parent and child. I see his point. But if any kid asks me if Jackalopes are real, I'm going to continue to tell them they are, because that's the truth.

The High Cost of Tiny Lies
Sam Harris

I don’t remember whether I ever believed in Santa, but I was never tempted to tell my daughter that he was real. Christmas must be marginally more exciting for children who are duped about Santa—but something similar could be said of many phenomena about which no one is tempted to lie. Why not insist that dragons, mermaids, fairies, and Superman actually exist? Why not present the work of Tolkien and Rowling as history?
The real truth—which everyone knows 364 days of the year—is that fiction can be both meaningful and fun. Children have fantasy lives so rich and combustible that rigging them with lies is like putting a propeller on a rocket. And is the last child in class who still believes in Santa really grateful to have his first lesson in epistemology meted out by his fellow six-year-olds? If you deceive your children about Santa, you may give them a more thrilling experience of Christmas. What you probably won’t give them, however, is the sense that you would not and could not lie to them about anything else.
Categories: Folklore/Tall Tales
Posted by Alex on Wed Nov 20, 2013
Comments (1)
The "Surgeon's Photo" taken on April 19, 1934 was one of the earliest (and remains the most famous) Nessie photo hoax. But three weeks before the Surgeon's Photo was taken, the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung came out with a photo-feature declaring that Nessie had been captured ("Das Untier vom Loch Ness gefangen!"). It was an April Fool's Day hoax.

I recently acquired a copy of the article, so I've added it to the April Fool archive. You can see why this Nessie hoax never became as famous as the Surgeon's Photo, because I doubt it fooled anyone. Still, it's an interesting piece of Nessie history. Read the full thing here.




"The moment that the zoologists of the world have eagerly anticipated: The capture of the sea serpent of Loch Ness!"
Categories:
Posted by Alex on Tue Nov 19, 2013
Comments (0)

This unusual photo ran in numerous papers in September 1963. I can't find a linkable example in the Google News Archive, but here it is in the Binghamton Press [PDF]. (A lot of examples of it come up in a search on newspaperarchive.com, but that's a paid archive, so I can't link to any of the results.)

The caption read:
All the animals are pretty tame at the Percy Pangborn Ranch above Lake Wenatchee in the foothills of Washington State's Cascade Mountains, Sept 14. 1963. A golden mantled ground squirrel chomps away on a nut as it rides around on the neck of a fawn.

The photo looks a little suspect to me. However, none of the papers it ran in raised any doubts about its veracity.

Back in the 60s, photo editors would often darken the outlines of figures in photos so that you could see them better when they ran in newspapers. To modern eyes, this can make "real" photos look manipulated. That might be the case with this photo. Perhaps the outline of the squirrel was darkened, which makes the squirrel look like it was pasted into the shot. But given the subject matter — a squirrel riding a fawn while eating a nut — I'm still suspicious.
Categories: Animals, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Sat Nov 16, 2013
Comments (0)
I recently received an "Uncommon Goods" catalog in the mail and noticed an item they call the "Imagination Paperweight." It displays an inspiring Albert Einstein quotation: "Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere."


Knowing how many fake Einstein quotations there are floating around, my suspicion was aroused. So I checked and sure enough, this Einstein quotation has been called into question by the few people who have bothered to investigate it (as opposed to mindlessly parroting it).

The Skeptica Esoterica blog notes that it's listed in The Ultimate Quotable Einstein (2010) by Alice Calaprice, but it's in the "Probably Not By Einstein" section.

The quotation appears to have become very popular in the last 10 years. But I can't find any earlier references to it. Nor do any of the people who repeat the quotation mention where or when Einstein said it. So I'll conclude that it must be fake.

However, Einstein did say something very similar. According to quoteinvestigator.com, in an interview published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1929 Einstein was asked, "Then you trust more to your imagination than to your knowledge?" And he responded:

I am enough of the artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.

"Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world." That's a good quotation — and real! Uncommon Goods should have put that on their paperweight.
Categories: Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Fri Nov 15, 2013
Comments (1)
UK police are warning drivers of a new scam in which fraudsters pose as stranded motorists in lay-bys, beseeching the aid of good samaritans with pleas such as, "Help me, I'm German!"

The fraudsters claim that they're out of gas and have lost their wallet. But they offer gold jewelry in return for money. The scam is that the gold jewelry is fake. [cambridge-news]

When I first saw the headline I thought it was going to be about people who wake up, realize they've become German, and cry out for help. Kind of like a Germanified version of Gregor Samsa. That would have been better.
Categories: Scams
Posted by Alex on Fri Nov 15, 2013
Comments (3)
Doriana Silva says she was hired by Ashley Madison (that matchmaking service that caters to people who want to have extramarital affairs) in order to type up 1000 fake female profiles for the company's new Portuguese-language website. Doing this, she claims, led to severe wrist and forearm pain, and she now wants compensation, to the tune of $20 million.

Ashley Madison admits it hired Silva, but dismisses her claims as frivolous. It points out that one of Silva's recent facebook photos shows her jet skiing during a vacation, apparently unhampered by severe wrist pain. [When will people learn that if it's on facebook, everyone can potentially see it?]

As for the idea that their website includes fake female profiles? Why, the very notion shocks and appals them! "Our service is 100% authentic, as described in our terms and conditions, and we resent any implication otherwise."

However, the company hasn't explained exactly what Silva was doing during her brief period of employment with them. [links: Toronto Sun, Ashley Madison]
Categories: Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Wed Nov 13, 2013
Comments (0)
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