Hoaxes

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Humor makes the world go round, and All Fools’ Day gives a nice chance to exercise it playing practical jokes and hoaxes. This set of activities may give a good chuckle to both your students and you.

There’s Nothing Like Home-Grown Spaghetti Picked Fresh from the Tree

To this day the broadcast of the British news show Panorama that showed spaghetti harvesting remains one of the most famous and popular April All Fools’ Day hoaxes of all time. In 1957, they broadcast a news segment about a bumper spaghetti harvest in southern Switzerland. After the hoax had been broadcast, hundreds of people phoned the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. Here’s a chance for you to grow your spaghetti tree in the classroom.

IMPORTANT: Keep a straight face not to give it away!

Step 1. Split students into small teams. Hand out the following text and ask them to guess which crop is being talked about. Have students discuss their possible guesses using modal verbs of deduction to express certainty (can’t, couldn’t, must) or uncertainty (could, may, might) giving reasons why they think so.

It is not only in Britain that spring, this year, has taken everyone by surprise. Here in the Ticino, on the borders of Switzerland and Italy, the slopes overlooking Lake Lugano have already burst into flower at least a fortnight earlier than usual.But what, you may ask, has the early and welcome arrival of bees and blossom to do with food? Well, it is simply that the past winter, one of the mildest in living memory, has had its effect in other ways as well. Most important of all, it’s resulted in an exceptionally heavy _____________ crop.The last two weeks of March are an anxious time for the _____________ farmer. There is always the chance of a late frost which, while not entirely ruining the crop, generally impairs the flavour and makes it difficult for them to obtain top prices in world markets. But now these dangers are over and the _____________ harvest goes forward._____________ cultivation here in Switzerland is not, of course, carried out on anything like the tremendous scale of the Italian industry. Many of you, I am sure, will have seen pictures of the vast _____________ plantations in the Po valley. For the Swiss, however, it tends to be more of a family affair.

Another reason why this may be a bumper year lies in the virtual disappearance of the _____________ weevil, the tiny creature whose depradations have caused much concern in the past.

After picking, the _____________ is laid out to dry in the warm Alpine air. Many people are very puzzled by the fact that _____________ is produced in such uniform lengths. This is the result of many years of patient endeavour by plant breeders who succeeded in producing the perfect _____________.

Now the harvest is marked by a traditional meal. Toasts to the new crop are drunk in these boccalinos, then the waiters enter bearing the ceremonial dish. This is, of course, _____________  – picked early in the day, dried in the sun, and so brought fresh from garden to table at the very peak of condition. For those who love this dish, there is nothing like real home-grown _____________.

Download Handout 1

Step 2. Ask the teams to give their ideas, but do not confirm that their answers are right or wrong yet.

Step 3. Now tell students they are going to watch a documentary to see who guessed right.

Has anyone guessed right? Now when they know that spaghetti grows on trees, can you still keep a straight face? …….Happy Fools’ Day!

Step 4. Jigsaw reading and listening. Distribute the texts describing different hoaxes (one per each student). Ask students to read and then watch the videos providing more details about the hoaxes. After they have done so, ask students to find the one who has the description of the hoax they have to find (MISSION HOAX). Encourage them to try to get as many students as possible interested in their hoax during the activity. Say that at the end of the activity they’ll choose the best hoax to watch in the classroom.

Alternatively: Jigsaw reading. Alternatively, if you have a low-tech classroom, have students read hoax descriptions and and then share information. Say that at the end of the activity they’ll choose the best hoax to watch in the classroom.

Download Handout 2

Swiss Mountain CleanersThe Swiss Tourism Board released a video that revealed the secret of why their mountains look so clean. It was due to the hard work of the Association of Swiss Mountain Cleaners, whose members daily scaled the Alps, scrubbing the rocks of unsightly bird droppings. The cleaning not only maintained the beauty of the Alps, but also prevented the droppings from eating away at the rocks, causing cavities that might eventually lead to the complete erosion and disappearance of the mountains. Millions of people watched the video, and 30,000 took the online test to determine whether they had what it took to become a mountain cleaner (aka “Felsenputzer”).MISSION: learn about FLYING PENGUINS

Flying PenguinsThe BBC announced that camera crews filming near the Antarctic for its natural history series Miracles of Evolution had captured footage of Adélie penguins taking to the air. It even offered a video clip of these flying penguins, which quickly became one of the most viewed videos on the internet. Presenter Terry Jones explained that, instead of huddling together to endure the Antarctic winter, these penguins took to the air and flew thousands of miles to the rainforests of South America where they “spend the winter basking in the tropical sun.” A follow-up video explained how the BBC created the special effects of the flying penguins.MISSION: learn about KING’S COLLEGE CHOIR

King’s College Choir Uses HeliumThe renowned King’s College Choir is not known for farce. This made it noteworthy when they released a video announcing that complex regulations had made it impractical to continue featuring young boys in the choir, and that they had been forced to find other ways to replicate the high pitch of the boys’ preadolescent voices. Because the older choral scholars had vetoed the “surgical solution,” the choir leaders had finally adopted a suggestion made by a colleague in the Chemistry Department — use helium. The video, demonstrating the use of helium during a performance, generated almost 1 million views on YouTube.MISSION: learn about QUALCOMM’S WOLF PIGEON

Qualcomm’s Wolf PigeonTelecommunications company Qualcomm unveiled a plan to expand wireless coverage by implanting tiny base-stations into pigeons hybridized with wolves (wolf-pigeons). Their reason for using this hybrid creature was that the wolf-pigeons could fly overhead but simultaneously be self-defensible, form packs when needed, and go out as “lone wolves” to areas without coverage. However, the company confessed that their plan had encountered some problems requiring a series of fixes. Because the wolf-pigeons tended to run amok, it had been necessary to create “Shark Falcons” to keep them under control. And to control the Shark Falcons, in turn, Qualcomm engineers had drafted plans to create a Crocodeagle (crocodile-eagle hybrid).MISSION: learn about PREGNANCY REVEALED VIA SPEAKERPHONE

Pregnancy revealed via speakerphoneStephen Barrows, professor of economics at Aquinas College, had a strict rule that if a student’s phone rang during class they had to answer it on speakerphone, in front of everyone. So when Taylor Nefcy’s phone rang on April 1, he enforced the rule and the entire class proceeded to hear this, “Hi, this is Kevin from the Pregnancy Resource Center. Per your request, I’m calling to inform you that the test results have come back positive. Congratulations!” Barrows’ face immediately turned red, and he muttered, “OK, you might want to shut that down.” When the call finally ended, he gravely apologized to her, but she assured him it was okay. She had been expecting the news. In fact, she already had a name picked out for the baby. Its first name would be April, and the middle name Fool.MISSION: learn about GOOGLE NOSE

Google NoseGoogle announced Google Nose Beta allowing people to smell what they searched for online. The company explained that they had leveraged “new and existing technologies to offer the sharpest olfactory experience available,” with their “street sense vehicles” roaming far and wide to index millions of different scents, thereby creating the “Google Aromabase” of 15M+ “scentibytes.”The scents were smellable by people at their computers because Google had figured out how to manipulate the photons coming out of the screen, causing them to intersect with “infrasound waves,” thereby temporarily aligning molecules to emulate particular scents.MISSION: learn about TELEPORTATION MACHINE

Teleportation machineUniversity of Michigan College of Engineering released a video revealing that their researchers had created a teleportation machine. Materials Science Prof. Xavier Vlad demonstrated how he could teleport a small key from one end of the machine to the other. He further explained that the process was discovered by accident — just like the discovery of Post-It notes.MISSION: learn about MOOD PAINT

Mood paint  Peugeot announced that the Peugeot RCZ would be the first car to come with “mood paint.” This paint consisted of a “specially developed psychochromatic coating” that altered its molecular structure to emit light at varying wavelengths — “literally changing the color of the car to reflect how you’re feeling.”MISSION: learn about SONY ULTRA-SMALL ULTRABOOK

Sony Ultra-Small UltrabookIn 2012, Sony debuted the VAIO® Q Ultrabook, boasting 8GB of RAM, HD 1080p resolution, and full 3-D graphic support. It could also fit in your pocket because it was the size of a quarter. Sony promised that it was the “lightest, most portable ultrabook ever,” offering “portability without compromise.””Watch the future of mobile computing unfold before your eyes,” the company said, “and soon, in the palm of your hand.”MISSION: learn about GOOGLE ANIMAL TRANSLATOR

Google Animal TranslatorGoogle UK purportedly offered a version of Google Translate which could be used to talk with animals. Taking Google’s translation software and applying it to animals, one of 2010’s best jokes saw Google doing their bit to encourage ‘greater interaction and understanding between animal and human’ – via an Android app that ‘recognises and transcribes words and phrases that are common to a species, like cats for example.’ They even made a YouTube video promoting it.MISSION: learn about SWISS MOUNTAIN CLEANERS

Step 5. Have a plenary session with your students. Discuss what makes these jokes believable. Encourage students to draw on their personal experiences and give particular examples of hoaxes played either on them or their friends.

Happy Fools’ Day!

Read more: the Museum of Hoaxes http://hoaxes.org/about

Image credit: by Melvin Quaresma, Flickr.com

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