Museum of Hoaxes

April 1, 2012

Now midday has passed, if there is anybody still trying to download the Planck data from Wikileaks, I can gently point out it was a all a Poisson D’Avril by that naughty Strudel chappie. Stu has lots of other astro-geeky stuff, so check it out.

Planck leaks wins this years April Fool prize for me – funny, near the knuckle, and had me taken in but bemused for a little while as it was the first one I came across. But I also very much enjoyed Jon Butterworth’s “evidence for String Theory” post. Just slightly nutty. But thats String Theory for you. Outside the science world, Google seems to have taken over the role of the BBC as official purveyor of April Fool jokes. I liked “Introducing Gmail Tap” and the “Google Street Roo“. My kids really liked the Quest View in Google maps. (Check it out before it goes !)

Is this an April Fool’s joke ? There seems to be genuine doubt !

So I was tempted to drift through the InterWeb and collect lots of old classic April Fool jokes, like the Spaghetti Harvest and the Flying Penguins and so on, but I stumbled across a web site that has already done it beautifully – the Museum of Hoaxes. As well as the Top 100 April Fool’s Day Hoaxes, it has lots of other hilarious stuff. My personal favourite is the bloke who convinced Alaska residents that Mount Edgecumbe was going to erupt, by setting fire to hundreds of old tires in its crater. The Museum of Hoaxes web site seems to suggest it has an actual physical presence on San Diego, but maybe they just photo-shopped those pictures…

Alien Seas and the Nature of Science

December 22, 2011

Went to John Lewis yesterday. A subterranean memory emerged. When I was nineteen I used to get a strange pleasure wandering through the John Lewis Department Store. It was an eery world, detached from my own. I would get a buzz drifting past thousands upon thousands of things I had no desire  for whatsoever. Vast acres of the uninteresting. It was like sailing on an alien sea, gazing upon lifeforms and liquid shapes I would never understand.

Well, thats the smugness of youth I guess. Now of course I wander into John Lewis and within four yards I am picking something up thinking “mmm, that would be useful”. How things have changed. Over the same thirty eight year period, I have noticed that my waistline has slowly but systematically increased. This correlation must mean something. It clearly proves that the desire for household items has a calorific effect.

Spotting correlations is what science is all about ! Did you know that in the twentieth century there was a clear correlation between the average size of feet in China, and the price of fish in Billingsgate market ? There is as yet no good theory for that one. On the other hand, I had a friend who trained spiders to obey his voice commands. Then he would pull their legs off, and found that they no longer obeyed the commands. As he explained to me, this proves that spiders have their ears in their legs.

In a similar vein, a paper about high redshift galaxies I read the other day showed very clearly that … oh, hang on, is that the time ? Must dash. I am sure you can complete the example and several more of your own.