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|•||Chilis Narrowly Avoids Funding Anti-Vaxxers 04/08/2014|
|•||Dutch April fools jokes 04/02/2014|
|•||Japanese stem cell breakthrough exposed as a fabrication 04/02/2014|
|•||April First - April Fools Day 04/01/2014|
|•||Cloned dinosaurs? 03/31/2014|
|•||US ‘psychic’ Cynthia Miller jailed for $1.2 million fraud 03/29/2014|
|•||Test of intelligence. Person calls police to report their cannabis plant stolen 03/25/2014|
|•||Malaysia air disaster 03/22/2014|
|•||Fred Phelps is gone 03/21/2014|
|•||Iran building fake aircraft carrier 03/20/2014|
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Status: FictionalUnflinching Triumph, a recently released movie, explores the little-known subculture of Professional Staredown contests (aka Staring Contests). You can view the movie in its entirety online (free and legal!), or view the trailer at YouTube.
If you believe the movie, there really is such a thing as professional staredown contests. This illusion is strengthened by the website of the National Association of Staredown Professionals (NASP) and the website of Staredown Champion Tony Patterson. However, I'm pretty sure that the movie is a mockumentary, and that the NASP and Tony Patterson sites are part of the joke.
But I started wondering if perhaps the movie was based on a germ of truth. Is there some kind of subculture of staring enthusiasts? After all if cup stacking or chess boxing can be sports, why not staring? So I checked on Lexis Nexis to see if there was any mention of Staring as a professional sport in any paper for the past five years. But there doesn't seem to be. Wikipedia doesn't make note of any such thing either, though it does mention that some people like to challenge their pets to staring contests.
Status: PrankI probably shouldn't be amused by this. After all, it could cause someone to really damage their toes:
Status: UndeterminedI've never seen anyone break a bone in real life. I've never even broken one of my own bones. So I don't have much to go on to decide if this clip of a kickboxer breaking his leg is real or fake. But it sure looks fake, especially the way his foot immediately resembles a limp sock once his shin breaks. But perhaps that's what a broken shin looks like.
Status: PhotoshoppedHere's a picture that's going around, just in time for the upcoming World Cup. Apparently this was created a couple of years ago for a Nike campaign in Mexico. However, the image is just a concept piece created by the JWT agency (i.e. it's photoshopped). This was never done in real life. Pity. It would be a pretty cool piece of urban art if it were real. (via Coolzor)
Status: Weird, but realThe U.S. Patent Office recently awarded patent number 7037243 to Lester Clancy, inventor of the cordless jump rope. It's a jump rope without the rope. I guess you could call it an 'air rope'. However, it does have handles. Here's the description from the patent: Clancy's logic for inventing this is that if there's no rope, there's nothing to trip over. Which makes sense. Of course, learning how to avoid tripping on the rope is part of the challenge of jumping rope... what makes it fun. Jumping up and down with weights is great exercise, but for that you're better off using a pair of dumbbells. More info about this at Patently Silly. (submitted by Beverley)
Status: UndeterminedThe Associated Press reports that software engineers in Menlo Park, CA, taking a cue from the movie Fight Club, have begun forming real-life fight clubs in which they pummel each other senseless after work:
They may sport love handles and Ivy League degrees, but every two weeks, some Silicon Valley techies turn into vicious street brawlers in a real-life, underground fight club. Kicking, punching and swinging every household object imaginable -- from frying pans and tennis rackets to pillowcases stuffed with soda cans -- they beat each other mercilessly in a garage in this bedroom community south of San Francisco. Then, bloodied and bruised, they limp back to their desks in the morning.
This could very well be true. Probably is. But it sounds kind of comical, like nerd combat. I'm wondering if the techies dress up as Captain Kirk and Spock when they fight each other. Also, it's not clear to me how the reporter learned of these techie fight clubs, or if he personally witnessed them.
Status: Must be False (by reason of being physically impossible)Pat Robertson claims to be able to leg press 2000 pounds. If this is true, it would be a world record. Even more improbably, his trainer claims to be able to leg press 2700 pounds.
I don't know when Robertson first posted this bizarre claim on his Christian Broadcasting Network website (it's included in a sales pitch for his "age-defying protein shake"), but it came to the attention of the blogosphere on May 22 when Clay Travis wrote about it on CBS Sportsline. Putting Robertson's claim in context, Travis noted that the leg press record is held by Dan Kendra of Florida State University who pressed 1,335 pounds, causing the capillaries in his eyes to burst. Robertson, who's 76 years old, has apparently managed to beat Kendra's record by 665 pounds (without doing any damage to his eyes).
Robertson has posted a video of himself leg pressing 1000 pounds, which seems pretty remarkable (kind of unbelievable, actually), but we have to take his word for it (and the word of his trainer) that he lifted the 2000 pounds. Here's the description of how it supposedly happened:
Pat Robertson worked out at the gym on an incline leg press machine with weights up to 570 pounds. Working with his physician, who was an amazing strength trainer, he worked up to 800 pounds, then 1,000 pounds. Then one day he was able to leg press 1,500 pounds one time. Then over the succeeding months, he trained with multiple reps of 1,200 pounds, 1,300 pounds, and 1,400 pounds. One Saturday morning, his physician said, “I’ll get you bragging rights. Let’s go to 2,000 pounds.” Then he worked up multiple reps of 1,400 pounds, 1,500 pounds, 1,600 pounds, 1,700, pounds, 1,800 pounds and 1,900 pounds. When 2,000 pounds was put on the machine two men got on either side and helped push the load up, and then let it down on Mr. Robertson, who pushed it up one rep and let it go back down again.
I'm simply not willing to believe that a man his age set a leg press world record. In fact, I find it hard to believe that he even lifted 1000 pounds (he's either lifting magic weights, or using a lifewave patch). As Big Gary wrote to me in an email, if this isn't a hoax, I'll drink his age-defying protein shake.
Status: HoaxHere's an amusing article that deserves mention on Regret the Error (the weblog about newspaper corrections), if it isn't already there.
The article also mentions a picture, but unfortunately doesn't reproduce it. I'm curious to see that picture.
Status: Highly dubiousBased on the description on the Brain Gym website, Brain Gym sounds like a pretty good idea. It's "a program of physical movements that enhance learning and performance in ALL areas." The program, which consists of 26 different exercises, is now being used in a lot of schools to help kids learn. Exercise can definitely improve mental acuity, so having kids do something like this would seem to make sense. But as Ben Goldacre revealed in a recent Bad Science column, the concept is a lot more bogus than it appears at first blush. The reason is that all kinds of dubious and pseudoscientific claims are made on behalf of these exercises. Take, for example, this exercise called "Brain Buttons":
“Make a ‘C’ shape with your thumb and forefinger and place on either side of the breast bone just below the collar bone. Gently rub for 20 or 30 seconds whilst placing your other hand over your navel. Change hands and repeat. This exercise stimulates the flow of oxygen carrying blood through the carotid arteries to the brain to awaken it and increase concentration and relaxation.”
Huh? Then there's another exercise called "The Energizer," which involves shaking your head, because "this back and forward movement of the head increases the circulation to the frontal lobe for greater comprehension and rational thinking."
It sounds to me like the schools should save whatever money they're paying to the Brain Gym organization, and just have the kids go outside and run around for a while.
Status: True. Make an offer!Back in December 2003 media outlets including ESPN and the San Diego Union Tribune ran a story about Purdue signing the wrong Jason Smith to a basketball scholarship. Due to a paperwork mix-up, Purdue had apparently given the scholarship to 5'6" Jason Smith computer geek, instead of 6'6" Jason Smith point guard. (Both Smiths attended the same school.) The story, it turned out, wasn't true. It was the fictional work of Josh Whicker who had posted it on his website, hoosiergazette.com, along with a warning that his site was an inaccurate news source. The media, in typical fashion, didn't heed this warning and reported the story as fact anyway.
Josh (who went on to pen some other brilliant hoaxes) got a lot of publicity out of the Purdue basketball hoax, but not any money. (And since he works as a school teacher, I'm sure he could use some money... Teachers are never paid enough.) Now, with some luck, that may change. He writes on his site today:
Over the past couple of years I have been contacted now and then by writers in Hollywood interested in possibly buying the rights to the story but received no serious interest until today when I received both good and bad news. The good news is a production company made me an offer for the story rights; the bad news is the sum they are offering is quite a bit lower than I expected--after paying an agent and taxes the initial sum for the option rights wouldn't even cover my costs to play semi-pro football this summer. Now, I am not a greedy person, but know this story would make one helluva movie (well, at least better than Snakes on a Plane) in the right hands and is worth more than I have been offered. If anyone out there is interested in the rights, make me an offer and maybe we can work something out.
So if there are any Hollywood types out there reading this, this is your chance to make an offer. (Though I have to add, what's up with the comment about Snakes on a Plane, Josh? I'm looking forward to seeing that!)
Status: prankHere's a prank that definitely rates as one of the more inventive (and cruel) student pranks of recent years. The set-up occurred a week before a NCAA game pitting UC Berkeley against the University of Southern California. USC's starting guard, Gabe Pruitt (pictured), met a UCLA coed named Victoria online. They traded messages via AOL Instant Messenger. She sent him her picture. He sent her his. They arranged to meet after the game on March 4.
The sinker occurred during the March 4th game. When Pruitt appeared on the court, UC fans started to chant "VIC-TOR-IA, VIC-TOR-IA." Their chants continued throughout the game, escalating to include the recitation of Pruitt's phone number. Transcripts of Pruitt's IM chats with "Victoria" were also circulated throughout the crowd (including classic lines such as "You look like you have a very fit body... Now I want to c u so bad"). Pruitt was visibly shocked, missed a bunch of free throws, and ended up 3-for-13 from the field.
It turned out that "Victoria" didn't exist. She was the fictional creation of a couple of UC fans. Pruitt had been punk'd. Understandably, some USC fans aren't too happy about the prank. (So are they plotting revenge?) (via Deadspin and Schneier on Security)
By coincidence, a similar prank was in the news last week (though it was far creepier and more disturbing in its implications). Five boys created an online profile of a fictitious 15-year-old girl they called "Jessica." To their surprise, a 48-year-old guy contacted "Jessica" and started to chat her up. The five boys played along, and eventually lured the guy into meeting Jessica in real life. But when the guy showed up for the meeting, it was the police, not Jessica, who were waiting for him.
Both these incidents go to show that you never really know who you're talking to on the internet. Or as Reality Rule 6.3 from Hippo Eats Dwarf states: "On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog." (It makes more sense if you see the cartoon it refers to.)
Jan. 6, 2004: Vixen Love
Sep. 6, 2005: Skype Prank
Status: Hoax (mockumentary)Mary Woodbridge, from Greenfield, Great Britain, plans to climb Mount Everest, and she's taking her dachsund, Daisy, with her. Some might think her age will prove an obstacle (she's 85), but Mary is very confident in herself and has set herself some real challenges. She writes:
I'm not really into this whole camping thing. So Daisy and I will choose a direct route from the Base Camp to the Top... We have decided to go without Sherpas. Poor guys! I can certainly carry my own food (I have prepared a solid Irish Stew and Power Crunchies!) and the few cans of dog food for Daisy. Since we are training very hard, we don't expect to need additional oxygen on our ascent. (There are no oxygen masks for Daisy anyway!)
Yes, Mary's Everest expedition is just a joke. Her site was created by Mammut, a seller of mountain sports gear. However, EverestNews.com reports that a 74-year-old Japanese woman really is planning to climb Everest. And they swear it's not a hoax.