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April Fool’s Day Roundup 2015

by on 2015/04/01

Last year on April Fool’s Day, we attempted to round up the (sometimes tenuously) research-related spoofs from the newspapers and we wanted to do the same thing this year. Unfortunately, it has not been terribly fruitful and the day now seems to be dominated by marketing ploys masquerading as April Fool’s Day jokes which we’re going to try not to give any more publicity. However, I’ll break this rule for the rather snazzy Google maps “Pac-Man” game which can be accessed from any map screen (you might need to zoom in) by clicking the Pac-Man link in the lower left hand corner. Hopefully it won’t disappear too soon.

The first real news story we noticed (that wasn’t to do with the upcoming UK general election) was the idea that the SSE Hydro Venue in Glasgow would be made to rotate during events through the wonders of superconducting magnetic levitation (Herald Scotland). While this might be feasible to allow trains to run at hundreds of miles per hour, we’re probably a long way from turning buildings that can host tens of thousands of people into magic roundabouts.

Another story close (geographically) to members of the Young Academy of Scotland was in relation to a major civil engineering project, the new road bridge across the Firth of Forth, otherwise known as the Forth Crossing. According to the Edinburgh Evening News, a problem with the design of prefabricated parts means that there will be a 14” gap in the middle of the bridge. The solution? A minimum speed limit of 30mph to make sure vehicles clear the gap.

A story from a local news site (for one of the YAS members at least) involved the use of DNA evidence to catch dog owners who don’t clean up after their pets. While this might actually be feasible in a small community like Shetland, it might be more difficult elsewhere.

The trouble with this story (and many others) is that it’s difficult to really tell if they’re really meant as a joke when they arrive on April 1st. This is especially true when there are apparently genuine news stories about mobile phone companies replacing workers with Artificial Intelligences or messages from the stars. The BBC had an interesting article about stories that look like April Fool’s Day jokes, but aren’t. Other stories are odd, but seem like good ideas, like extending mobile internet coverage in the Australian outback by turning cows into roaming Wifi hotspots.

The normally serious journal Nature had some fun with an article postulating the real life existence of dragons and linking their re-emergence to anthropogenic climate change. By an odd coincidence, the cartoonist Ruben Bolling included a CO2 breathing dragon causing climate change in this week’s Tom the Dancing Bug comic. Did he know about the Nature paper in advance, we wonder?

Scientists at CERN reported that they had confirmed the existence of the Force through their investigation of the fundamental forces of the universe using the newly refurbished Large Hadron Collider. One researcher, Valerio Rossetti, was illustrated using the Force to reheat his coffee, but hoped to find something more useful to do with these powers in the future.

On a more realistic note, the engineering website Design News, used today’s date as an opportunity to explore the 10 Greatest Hoaxes in the History of Engineering, including the Mechanical Turk, various perpetual motion machines, and teleportation at the University of Michigan.

We finish off with what was probably one of the finest real life pranks perpetrated today: at the University of Cambridge, a sign (from Estates Advisor P.D. Avril) informed people that the door entry system had been upgraded to include voice recognition. The joker, Dr. Paul Coxon, from Materials Science and Metallurgy, posted the picture on Twitter. Apparently, this is a regular joke from Dr. Coxon and people regularly fall for it.

So, that’s it for today, if you want to let us and our readers know of anything we’ve missed, then add a comment below.

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