01 April 2008

Mathematical April Fool's hoaxes

The Museum of Hoaxes has a list of the top 100 April Fool's hoaxes of all time.

Of mathematical interest:
  • #7:Alabama changes the value of π (to exactly 3, which is supposedly the "Biblical value" -- but in interpreting the relevant verse of the Bible (2 Chronicles 4:2) one has to think about measurement error.

  • #8: The left-handed Whopper, which had its condiments rotated 180 degrees for the benefit of the left-handed customers. But Whoppers are rotationally symmetric anyway! If you want a left-handed Whopper and rotate it 180 degrees. You could have a mirror-image whopper, but you wouldn't be able to digest it because the vast majority of the molecules in it would be enantiomers of what your body is set up to digest.

  • #30: Operation Parallax, in which it's claimed that somehow Britain ended up two days ahead because of all the time changes.

By the way, The Mandelbrot monk was a hoax, which I knew when I posted it; John Armstrong has debunked it. (A commenter pointed out that someone from now perhaps could have explained to a medieval monk how to compute the Mandelbrot set, which may be true, in the same sense that we can program computers to do something. But that wouldn't make the article any more true, unless one wants to posit time machines.)


Anonymous said...

Well, number 7 is believable.

Since you are a language geek what's the difference between:



or are they variant spellings?

Colin said...

A post on (math) hoaxes is incomplete without reference to Martin Gardner's famous "Six Sensational Discoveries" article in the April 1974 Scientific American.
Among the six were a counterexample map to the 4-color problem, and recent evidence that Leonardo DaVinci invented the flush toilet.