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.
Photo credit: SashaW
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