Media round-up: April Fools' Day 2008

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Many media outlets traditionally deliberately spread hoaxes on April Fools' Day, including notable quality sources such as National Geographic and Science.

Presidents Sarkozy and Bush were victims of April Fools' Day stories.

The popular British tabloid The Sun wrote that French President Nicolas Sarkozy is to undergo stretch surgery to make him taller than his wife, Italian artist and model Carla Bruni. The report claimed the 5 foot 5 inch leader would be made 5 inches taller in one year using a method by Israeli professor Ura Schmuck. The Sun noted that during his visit to Britain last week, Sarkozy had high-heel shoes while his wife wore a pair of flat pumps.

The Guardian on the other hand ran an article that suggested that Carla would head an initiative by Prime Minister Gordon Brown to bring more glamour, good taste and sophistication to the U.K. general population. This would involve collaboration with Marks & Spencer for high-street fashion and Jamie Oliver for meals and wine.

BBC News had real-looking footage of flying penguins fronted by documentary host Terry Jones, which were actually an advertisement for its new iPlayer.

Google and Virgin

U.S. dollar notes.

In an annual tradition, Internet company Google launched several new services for the occasion of April 1. Project Virgle is a mock-up Virgin Galactic and Google 'open source' collaboration for a human colony on Mars. Google's mail service Gmail introduced a service called Custom TimeTM which allows its users to send e-mails into the past, so that you never miss another deadline. But the application can only be used 10 times, because "Our researchers have concluded that allowing each person more than ten pre-dated emails per year would cause people to lose faith in the accuracy of time, thus rendering the feature useless.," followed by a scientific formula supposedly proving this.

Virgin Media on the other hand announced that the United States would scrap the dollar and join the Euro in a response to the currency's recent devaluation. The Herald Sun wrote an article about a new Virgin Blue 'No Chair Fare', for cheap flights without a seat. Flights longer than two hours would come with a free calf massage. The Australian chapter of Google announced an artificial intelligence application that allows you to search tomorrow's websites, while Google China presented a Grassroots Search option, powered by real humans.

Science and technology news

Painting of Francis of Assisi by El Greco.

The journal Science announced that "U.S. President George W. Bush has announced a dramatic shift in his attitude toward science." They 'quote' the President: "Let's finally rid our bodies of this weapon of mass destruction." According to the scientific magazine, Bush would also become a supporter of stem cell research and greenhouse gas reduction targets: "In retrospect, having oil industry lobbyists edit our climate reports was probably a bad idea."

National Geographic worked together with the Harvard Lampoon to create a cover showing Paris Hilton on an issue of the magazine dedicated to wild animals.

Computer company ThinkGeek spread a story about a machine that could convert Betamax videos into HD-DVD.

In a parody of recent allegations against Wikipedia's founder Jimmy Wales, British technology news site The Register announced that he would give up his position at the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikia to join a brotherhood of Franciscan Friars. "There are more important things than power, fame, venture capital, $95,000 speaking fees, and having sex with the Canadian Ann Coulter," their tongue-in-cheek quote reads. As a monk, Wales is alleged to devote his life to the sum of all human knowledge... on stone tablets, under the form of Stonetabletopedia.

Incredible... but true

Apple I, the first and hand made Apple computer, at the Smithsonian Museum.
Image: rebelpilot.

Wikipedia traditionally turns its main page into a collection of amazing-but-true facts. For example, it explains what the presidents of Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan had to say about KDE2 patches under FreeBSD, and how two college drop-outs "co-founded what is now Apple Inc. to sell their handicrafts". The main page also showed an alternative biography of Houston philanthropist Ima Hogg.

Although some readers objected to this humorous make-over, others pointed out that all claims were genuine whereas other encyclopaedias have been known to list fictitious entries.

Several newspapers also brought stories that seem incredible, but are true: the Daily Mail for example reports that T'ai Chi has been found to improve diabetes, and that Southampton Crematorium is launching an on-line grieving service that allows you to mourn from home. The Sun notes that a new collagen injection is aimed at enlarging the female G-spot to improve orgasms, while The Express notes that school desk sizes will be updated in view of the increasing number of obese children.


Wikipedia has more about this subject: