Tuesday, April 01, 2008

April Fools!

Instead of using April Fool's Day as an excuse to play juvenile tricks on you, I'm going to instead give you the complete history of the day. The result of my exhaustive research into the topic. In other words googling, watching some Youtube videos, and reading a Wikipedia article. Ok, I couldn't think of anything really good in time. Here's a couple excerpts from Wikipedia, which also includes a list of pranks daunting to the most dedicated of time wasters. It would be like work to read the whole list, which pretty much defeats the purpose of wasting time.

It does have one of my favorite public hoaxes, the Taco Liberty Bell. It also includes a couple of my favorite nerdy hoaxes including one that Alabama changed the value of Pi, and that a company called Signetics developed Write Only Memory. If you're not a nerd you may not get that last one. From Wikipedia.
Europe may have derived its April-fooling from the French. French and Dutch references from 1508 and 1539 respectively describe April Fools' Day jokes and the custom of making them on the first of April. France was one of the first nations to make January 1 officially New Year's Day (which was already celebrated by many), by decree of Charles IX. This was in 1564, even before the 1582 adoption of the Gregorian calendar (See Julian start of the year). Thus the New Year's gifts and visits of felicitation which had been the feature of 1 April became associated with the first day of January, and those who disliked or did not hear about the change were fair game for those wits who amused themselves by sending mock presents and paying calls of pretended ceremony on 1 April. In France the person fooled is known as poisson d'avril (April fish). This has been explained as arising from the fact that in April the sun quits the zodiacal sign of the fish. The French traditionally celebrated this holiday by placing dead fish on the backs of friends. Today, real fish have been replaced with sticky, fish-shaped paper cut-outs that children try to sneak onto the back of their friends' shirts. Candy shops and bakeries also offer fish-shaped sweets for the holiday.
Favorite hoaxes from Wikipedia:
Taco Liberty Bell: In 1996, Taco Bell took out a full-page advertisement in The New York Times announcing that they had purchased the Liberty Bell to "reduce the country's debt" and renamed it the "Taco Liberty Bell." When asked about the sale, White House press secretary Mike McCurry replied tongue-in-cheek that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold and would henceforth be known as the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial.

Alabama Changes the Value of Pi: The April 1998 newsletter of New Mexicans for Science and Reason contained an article written by physicist Mark Boslough claiming that the Alabama Legislature had voted to change the value of the mathematical constant pi to the "Biblical value" of 3.0. This claim originally appeared as a news story in the 1961 science fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein.

Write Only Memory: Signetics advertised Write Only Memory IC databooks in 1972 through the late 1970s.

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