Stories tagged hoax


We check for trees, da?
We check for trees, da?Courtesy Bethany L King
I know all y'all have been keeping your eyes on Science Buzz for updates in the case of the Russian dude with the tree "growing" in his lung. It's an international news event, after all, and we all like to keep up on this stuff.

Well we've got an update! (And update that appeared in the news last week, but still...)

Some South African medical professionals are calling shenanigans on the whole situation; they say it has to be a hoax.

They agree with the Russian doctors' claims that a 5 cm tree would be too big to inhale all the way into the lungs (it would be coughed out, or get caught on something long before it got so deep), but they don't think that it could have grown there either.

As several of the Science Buzz Lung Tree Task Force have likewise noticed, the South Africans find the green color of the needles a little suspicious. Usually plants growing in the dark (and the lungs are pretty dark inside) tend to be a little pale. Not so with this tree.

Also, the doctors point out that there is no precedence in medical literature for plants growing in people—it's just not the right environment.

The doctors also thought that the the tree looked "folded in to the lung tissue." Had it grown there, it should have looked more interwoven with the flesh.

Finally, they believe that the X-ray image of the man's lungs and the tree/tissue that was eventually taken out do not match. Something about how the tree showed up too much or not enough on the X-ray. (The translation from South African English to American English, perhaps, is the source of my confusion here.)

So the plot thickens. Are Russian surgeons contradicting biological laws to get attention, or are the the South Africans jealous because they've never found a tree inside someone's lung? Either way, we citizens of the Nation of Buzzahkstan are the winners.

Keep your eyes peeled for further developments. (Not literally.)


But why is there only one set?: Because, my child, I'm like 25 feet tall, and I was probably carrying you. Or maybe I don't exist, and someone faked these footprints.  ~Bigfoot
But why is there only one set?: Because, my child, I'm like 25 feet tall, and I was probably carrying you. Or maybe I don't exist, and someone faked these footprints. ~BigfootCourtesy Thiru Murugan
Weeelllll, I’d invite y’all to have a seat on the little piece of furniture I like to call the Cryptocouch, but I’m afraid that this item may not quite warrant the Cryptocouch’s soft embrace of the butt of curiosity. I mean, I personally tried it out, and it felt good, very good, but I couldn’t quite shake the idea that I was abusing the privilege that is the couch. So I’m warning you off.

There are very big foot prints on the island of Borneo. Normally I’d be pretty excited about this sort of thing, but…well, let’s take a look.

About a week ago, some folks discovered two exceptionally large footprints near a ceremonial enclosure (an interesting thing to do with their medicine man, and a local malady, but I’m not getting into it here) not for from their village. With mysterious big footprints, often we’re looking at something in the neighborhood of 16 inches. These footprints, however, are 47 inches long. Pretty impressive, but, um…I think someone might have been overdoing things.

The link above, under “16 inches” will have a neat formula you can check out, but I’m not into that, so we’re going to do a foot size to height conversion JGordon style. I’m six feet tall (72 inches), and my feet are…let’s see. My cubicle has been provided with a plastic six-inch ruler, which we all know is useless—I literally can not think of a single item in this world that is six inches or smaller. Except maybe a baby’s brain. Or a broken six-inch ruler. Fortunately, I’m practically swimming in standard 8.5” x 11” sheets of paper.

Shoes off, my foot is almost exactly as long as the sheet of paper I’m standing on—11 inches. So, 11 / 72 = .153. That’s my ratio of foot size to height, and I’m going to say it applies to all other humans, hominids, and hominoids (I’m pretty much the perfect specimen). A creature with a foot 47 inches long, then, should be 308 inches tall, or 25 feet, 8 inches. That’s pretty tall, even for Bigfoot, which are rarely reported to be very much taller than 10 feet. Borneo may be the world’s third largest island (“may be”? Heck, I’m just going to say it is), but it would be tricky for a bunch of 26 foot tall anythings to hide out for very long there. Unless they’re magical, and that’d be straying a little far from Science Buzz territory.

The other issue here is weight. If you take a look at the photographs of the “footprints,” which can be found here, you’ll see they aren’t very deep. The villagers do report that the ground at the sight is very hard, but you’d think something that tall would weigh enough to make a substantial impression. Again, let’s use the quick and no doubt totally accurate JGordon to Bigfoot conversion, but this time let’s to height to weight. I’m about 150 pounds for 72 inches. That means that a slender Bigfoot, at 308 inches, would have to weigh about 642 pounds. This conversion is probably a little shakier than the foot size to height formula, but, still, I’m guessing a 26-foot tall creature would be pretty darn heavy.

Plus, the photos seem to indicate that the monster is flatfooted, and you wouldn’t want to be walking around without nice arch supports if you were that heavy. Yet these are bare footprints. The evidence against is adding up.

So we’re left with real big footprint-like things, and, unfortunately, not real Bigfoot print, like, things. Oh, words.

It’s kind of a let down, I know. But don’t loose hope—crazy crap is happening all the time, and Science Buzz is just waiting for it.


Two future fathers compare their progress: Hey! They should be in a bar!
Two future fathers compare their progress: Hey! They should be in a bar!Courtesy $4 griz
One Thomas Beatie of Bend, Oregon, claims to be five months pregnant with a baby girl.

A pregnant man… so strange… and yet so familiar. Where have I seen this before?

Oh, wait, I know exactly where I’ve seen this before: for the second time in as many months, Hollywood has beaten the rest of us saps to the scientific punch. And not just Hollywood, but the Terminator himself. First it was the thing with the twins, a so called scientific breakthrough that we had nonetheless seen 20 years ago in the film
, and now we’re being told that a pregnant man is something to get all excited about, when we’ve all already known about this kind of thing since 1994 and the film (that is to say, documentary) Junior, where a matronly Arnold Schwarzenegger frets over the impending catastrophic damage to his male urethra (this wasn’t explicit in the movie, as far as I know, but we all know Arnold is too tough for a cesarean—check out Predator—and there aren’t a lot of other options for a pregnant man).

As redundant as it may be to give them attention, here are the details of the current male pregnancy: Normal guy Thomas Beatie and his wife have been together for 10 years, and had long hoped to start a family. Sadly, Nancy Beatie had had a hysterectomy, and was unable to conceive. Thinking outside the box, the Beaties decided then to switch things up a little bit, and Thomas took up the pregnancy flag himself. This would have been particularly tricky, if not for the fact that Thomas Beatie was born Tracy Lagondino, a woman. Tracy underwent a sex change 10 years ago, and legally became Thomas, and a man, but decided to keep his reproductive organs. So, after halting his testosterone regimen and waiting for his menstrual cycle to resume, Thomas was artificially inseminated.

Five months into his pregnancy, Thomas announced his condition in the gay, lesbian, and transgender publication The Advocate, explaining the process, and the associated difficulties—both medical, and in getting friends, family, and the medical community to accept him as a man who wishes to carry his family’s child.

Here’s something else to consider: aside from Junior, even, this isn’t the first time there has been buzz over a male pregnancy. In 1999 an extensive website was launched to track the pregnancy of a man named Lee Mingwei. However, the website is still up in 2008, and mister Mingwei is still apparently pregnant—the whole thing was a performance art piece by the artist Virgil Wong. This has lead some to believe that Beatie and The Advocate are pulling a similar stunt. The fact that Beatie intends to speak to the news media in two days—April 1st—doesn’t exactly lend credibility to the story.

Any thoughts? A hoax, or the real deal? And how do you feel about a man getting pregnant?


Mars.  So close, and yet not: Image courtesy NASA and ESA.
Mars. So close, and yet not: Image courtesy NASA and ESA.
So, a friend of mine wrote me the other day to tell me about upcoming spectacular Mars viewing on August 27. Here’s the email:

Two moons on 27 August

Planet Mars will be the brightest in the night sky starting August.

It will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye. This will culminate on Aug. 27 when Mars comes within 34.65M miles of earth. Be sure to watch the sky on Aug. 27 12:30 am. It will look like the earth has 2 moons. The next time Mars may come this close is in 2287.

Share this with your friends as NO ONE ALIVE TODAY will ever see it again.

My thoughts on this email...

This email is not a hoax exactly – but it is a case of once true and now outdated information mixed with bad information arising out of a bizarre “telephone game” like scenario.

Mars was this close to Earth…on August 27, 2003. And looking through a telescope at it at that time it would appear as large when viewed through the telescope as the moon does to the naked eye.

However, this close approach (called an opposition) was only slightly closer than other recent oppositions, which regularly occur every 26 months, and are closest twice every 32 years, alternately at 15 and 17-year intervals, and always between late July and late September.

Learn more about the “hoax” on Snopes.


I have always been a strong proponent of lies and lying. Ask any one of my wives, and they will tell you the same thing.

Sure, lies for personal gain are my favorite, but I’ll lie out of spite, to avoid embarrassment, or just to keep myself in practice. Ask my lying coach, and he’ll tell you the same thing. Just kidding – I don’t have a lying coach. Or do I?
Reality TV?: The Dutch kidney-donation program was revealed to be a hoax. (photo by Jeff Kubina)
Reality TV?: The Dutch kidney-donation program was revealed to be a hoax. (photo by Jeff Kubina)

Anyhow, I think it’s because of this lifelong habit of mine that this little story caught my eyes and ears: A week or two ago, I heard a short story on public radio about a controversial reality show that was being advertised in the Netherlands. The premise of the show was that a terminally ill woman would be choosing one of several contestants to donate one of her kidneys to. The program was being developed by the creators of the Big Brother series, and had been accused of being in bad taste (and then some).

On Friday, however, shortly before the show was scheduled to air, it was revealed to have been a hoax meant to draw attention to the shortage of organ donors. In the Netherlands alone, over 200 people die each year while waiting for a kidney transplant. That’s equal to the entire population of Luxembourg (or is it?).

A very serious issue is being addressed here, but was this the right way to gain public attention? The perpetrators of the hoax were perhaps right in thinking that the average person cares more about what’s happening on reality TV than they do about organ donation (and who can blame us? ANTM is fantastic!), but was this going too far, being too insensitive?

Anybody have any strong feelings on the subject?

An article about the hoax.