You know what they say: April 1st is the only day of the year when people are suspicious of everything they see on the internet. As well they should be. Every year, the pranks are getting more subtle and more complex, and in the world we live in today, sometimes a headline seems like it could go either way. Now that the dust has settled, we’re sorting fact from fiction…and fingering some of the best and worst pranks unveiled Monday.
Fiction: Metro News’ hoax roundup
This one was one of my personal favorites, because it was so delightfully meta. Numerous media outlets had prank roundups, but only this media outlet took it one step further: every single one of the pranks discussed was made up. Some of them were delightfully funny, like the announcement that the Pope was giving up the famous Popemobile for a donkey, and the details on Facebook’s new “Friend Fence.”
In a collaboration between the Navy and the Virginia Tech College of Engineering, researchers are indeed building a robotic jellyfish, complete with spycams. It moves surprisingly realistically in testing, although right now it’s limited by battery storage capabilities: it can only go for around four hours. The jelly doesn’t just have military applications: it could be used in sealife surveys, mapping, monitoring of ocean conditions and other oceanography activities.
Fiction: Sony introduces Animalia for pets
Marketing departments have embraced April Fools day with a passion, because if they can get a silly story to go viral, it increases brand awareness. Some companies manage to do this well. Others…don’t. While the Animalia story got a lot of buzz, with its concept of electronics designed specifically for pets, it read like a thinly-veiled marketing campaign for Sony’s actual products, and unlike CareMoo, it didn’t even raise awareness for animal welfare issues!
Woah! Still waters run deep, Willie! Researchers took a second look at Shakespeare’s plays for messages about food, hunger and social unrest, and what they found supported theories that Shakespeare likely bought grain and then resold it at inflated prices. He was actually prosecuted for grain hoarding, in addition to being pursued for tax evasion. Hey, a poet’s gotta eat, man.
Fiction: Amazon announces purchase of English
After the big news about Amazon buying GoodReads last week, the latest in a tide of acquisitions for the web giant, it’s not surprising to see someone coming up with the ultimate parody: Amazon purchasing the English language itself. Naturally, the prank showed up on The Millions, which covers literary and publishing issues, serving a community of readers concerned about Amazon’s growing control over the publishing industry, but I like to think the story had a little something for everyone.
The Telegraph reported that colleges are offering courses in Harry Potter and ethical hacking, but they’re only the first in a long line of creative college courses on both sides of the pond. Pop culture phenomena like Twilight, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and more have been the subject of detailed courses; they’re fun, but they also provide a great way for students to engage with academia, develop research and critical thinking skills, and communicate with their peers.
The Guardian cribbed from the recent Google Glass announcement for their April fool prank, but they didn’t stop there. They poked fun at their status as one of Britain’s most famous (and venerable) left-leaning papers, and made sure to land some swipes at their critics. With these new augmented reality glasses, Guardian readers learned, they could exist in a bubble of left-wing opinions and political correctness, complete with anti-bigotry technology that censors harmful opinions before they even reach your eyes.
All 300 of the performers in a German flea circus died due to the extreme cold currently sweeping Europe, an issue that was also in the news last week as Der Spiegel reported that hares and rabbits are freezing to death. While this might have been played as a funny little human interest story by a lot of news outlets who appreciated the convenience of the date to get more attention, cold temperatures in Europe are actually a serious issue — and so is the abuse of animals for entertainment.
Fiction: Virgin launches glass-bottomed plane
Virgin announced that it would be providing passengers a truly unique experience in the first glass-bottomed plane, and I have to admit, I was tickled. The concept is absolutely amazing, though some of my Twitter followers didn’t seem to share my sentiments and thought it would be terrifying! Critics were sadly quick to swoop down on this one, pointing to the numerous engineering and technical difficulties that stand in the way of a true glass-bottomed plane, but I enjoyed the few minutes of dreaming I had to myself.
There was a curious line item in the budget request from NASA: $100 million in funding for an asteroid research plan that sounds like something out of science fiction. Using an unmanned spacecraft, technicians want to collect an asteroid and move it to the moon in order to perform tests that could be used to learn more about the science of asteroids and their future use as sources of minerals and other materials. It’s theoretically possible, but that doesn’t mean NASA will get the funds.
Fiction: Microsoft unveils Bing Basic
In the fight for market share between Microsoft and Google, the barbs have been getting more and more pointed. While Google unveiled a whole fleet of fun April fools pranks like Google Nose (incidentally, the tech behind this prank is real), Microsoft stuck with a snide attack on Google, parodying Google’s iconic look with a stripped-down version of Bing web search. (Google, in turn, turned GMail blue for the day in a not-so-veiled mockery of Outlook.)
Prime Minister David Cameron is not a popular figure with the liberal media of the UK, who enjoy any chance they can get to land a jab at him, but even this one is hard to spin. When he heard a ewe bleating after getting stuck in the mud when she tried to save her lambs, he waded in to help her out, saving her from certain death. Her lambs, and other sheep across the UK, are victims of the same unseasonably cold weather in Europe discussed above; sadly, unpopular Prime Ministers aren’t always around for a rescue.
Returning to its roots, Twitter announced the rollout of a new service, Twttr, which only allows the use of consonants (Y, as a double-duty letter, passes muster). Customers who felt the service was too restrictive were invited to pay for a subscription service that unlocks vowels. t tks sm gttng sd t, bt y’d b srprsd by hw qckly y gt ccstmd t t!
What eats $75 worth of food a week, has two giant floppy ears and weighs more than the average toddler? Ralph the Rabbit, a rather gigantic specimen. While he was temporarily unseated from his throne by another Continental Giant, he reclaimed it this year, thanks to the rather fortifying (and possibly unhealthy — carrots aren’t that great as a regular diet item for rabbits) diet he lives on, and his breeding. This is one seriously big bunny!
In a very poorly-disguised advertisement for the auto company, BMW trafficked on all the excitement over the royal baby due this summer to tout a fictional pram with all the bells and whistles people have come to expect from its products. Nice try, BMW!
In Cleo Rocos’ autobiography, currently being serialized in The Sunday Times, she claims that she, along with Freddie Mercury, concealed Princess Diana as a comely male model and snuck her into a gay bar for a night out on the town. Evidently the Princess went undetected. It’s a difficult story to confirm, of course, but it wouldn’t be a total surprise given the Princess’ outgoing personality.
Poor Greece has been subjected to a number of indignities under austerity, but the latest reported proposal from the Troika was, thankfully, a hoax. EnetEnglish reported that inspectors were considering a switchover to Roman transliteration of Greek for the convenience of government officials, tourists and others, on the grounds that it would save the country a substantial sum of money each year. There’s actually real-world precedent here; Ireland no longer uses the Gaelic alphabet for example, and Simplified Chinese is used in Mainland China.
Even when we’re being silly, we still scour the globe for the information that matters to you, and provide information about how you can take action. All in one convenient location, with a network that allows you to connect with other users, spread news stories, and submit your petitions for a wider audience. Pretty great, eh?
Photo credit: SashaW