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Unstrange Phenomena

01 April 2009

Historical April Fools Day Funnies



April Fools Day

At the Museum of Hoaxes are collected some amusing funnies through the decades played by scientists and mathematicians!

Alabama Changes the Value of Pi

Happened in 1998:

The April 1998 issue of the New Mexicans for Science and Reason newsletter contained an article claiming that the American Alabama state legislature had voted to change the value of the mathematical constant pi from 3.14159 to the 'Biblical value' of 3.0.

Soon the article made its way onto the internet, and then it rapidly spread around the world, forwarded by email. It only became apparent how far the article had spread when the Alabama legislature began receiving hundreds of calls from people protesting the legislation.

The original article, which was intended as a parody of legislative attempts to circumscribe the teaching of evolution, was written by physicist Mark Boslough.

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Especially like this one as it has timeless appeal:

Drunk Driving on the Internet

Happened in 1994:

An article in PC Computing magazine written by John Dvorak described a bill going through Congress that would make it illegal to use the internet while drunk, or to discuss sexual matters over a public network.

The bill was supposedly numbered 040194 (i.e. 04/01/94), and the contact person was listed as Lirpa Sloof (April Fools backwards). The article said that the FBI was going to use the bill to tap the phone line of anyone who "uses or abuses alcohol" while accessing the internet.

Passage of the bill was felt to be certain because "Who wants to come out and support drunkenness and computer sex?" The article offered this explanation for the origin of the bill: "The moniker 'Information Highway' itself seems to be responsible for SB 040194, which is designed to prohibit anyone from using a public computer network (Information Highway) while the computer user is intoxicated. I know how silly this sounds, but Congress apparently thinks being drunk on a highway is bad no matter what kind of highway it is. The bill is expected to pass this month."

The article generated so many outraged phone calls to Congress that Senator Edward Kennedy's office had to release an official denial of the rumor that he was a sponsor of the bill.

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Here's a good one for the wonderfully gullible:

Hotheaded Naked Ice Borers

Happened in 1995 (the 90's were great!):

Discover Magazine reported that the highly respected wildlife biologist Dr. Aprile Pazzo had found a new species in Antarctica: the hotheaded naked ice borer.

These fascinating creatures had bony plates on their heads that, fed by numerous blood vessels, could become burning hot, allowing the animals to bore through ice at high speeds. They used this ability to hunt penguins, melting the ice beneath the penguins and causing them to sink downwards into the resulting slush where the hotheads consumed them.

After much research, Dr. Pazzo theorized that the hotheads might have been responsible for the mysterious disappearance of noted Antarctic explorer Philippe Poisson in 1837. "To the ice borers, he would have looked like a penguin," the article quoted her as saying. Discover received more mail in response to this article than they had received for any other article in their history.

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This one must have really brought out the overly impressionable.

Planetary Alignment Decreases Gravity

Happened in 1976:

The British astronomer Patrick Moore announced on BBC Radio 2 that at 9:47 AM a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event was going to occur that listeners could experience in their very own homes. The planet Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, temporarily causing a gravitational alignment that would counteract and lessen the Earth's own gravity.

Moore told his listeners that if they jumped in the air at the exact moment that this planetary alignment occurred, they would experience a strange floating sensation. When 9:47 AM arrived, BBC2 began to receive hundreds of phone calls from listeners claiming to have felt the sensation. One woman even reported that she and her eleven friends had risen from their chairs and floated around the room.

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The Discovery of the Bigon

Happened in 1996 (how do they come up with these things?):

Discover Magazine reported that physicists had discovered a new fundamental particle of matter, dubbed the Bigon. It could only be coaxed into existence for mere millionths of a second, but amazingly, when it did materialize it was the size of a bowling ball.

Physicist Albert Manque and his colleagues accidentally found the particle when a computer connected to one of their vacuum-tube experiments exploded. Video analysis of the explosion revealed the Bigon hovering over the computer for a fraction of a second.

Manque theorized that the Bigon might be responsible for a host of other unexplained phenomena such as ball lightning, sinking souffles, and spontaneous human combustion. Discover received huge amounts of mail in response to the story.

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