Friday, April 1, 2011

The Fools of April

 My 2010 April Fools' Day story, with updates.

"Never stay up on the barren heights of cleverness, but come down into the green valleys of silliness."
~ Ludwig Wittgenstein

Divinipotent Daily loves whimsy and silliness, and since whimsy is the madly beating heart of a great April Fools' Day prank, I am a highly bemused camper at least once a year.

Some April foolery — like the BBC’s classic 1957 report on the annual spaghetti harvest along the Italian-Swiss border, which you can see by clicking here — is timeless. Most is just enjoyable ephemera. Last year I decided to collect the pranks I came across throughout the day (without actually searching for them) and note them here. I found a bumper crop.

Silliness started bright and early with an e-mail from a friend forwarding a press release with this headline:

“Iroquois Leaders Assail Government Benefits for Illegal Immigrants;
Say Aid Should Be Denied to Anyone Entering U.S. in Last 25,000 Years.” 

The closing paragraph was my favorite part: “In a related development, 10,000 angry Tea Partying Medicare recipients protested against themselves today, demanding that ‘government health care keep its grubby hands off our government health care.’  Said one protestor, ‘I simply hate myself for benefiting from a program that proves that everything I stand for is flat-out wrong.’” The release was from Joel Berg of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, which has a tradition of entertaining its friends in the press every April 1st.

Google introduced an exciting new application for its Android phones on April 1, 2010: Google Translate for animals. That's right: a special app to enable us all to make like Dr. Doolittle.

Writer Eugene Finerman’s always entertaining, history-focused blog, Your RDA of Irony, arrived in my inbox with praise for the 600-year reign of the Byzantine Empire. Finerman proposed that for the U.S. to achieve that kind of stability, we should do to our government officials what the Byzantines did to theirs: castrate them.

Readers of the U.K. paper the Independent awoke on April 1, 2010 to the startling news that CERN, which operates the Large Hadron Collider, was planning to install another Hadron Collider within London’s Circle Line tube (subway) tunnel.

CERN itself, not to be outdone, announced the discovery of a “Paleoparticle.” According to the announcement, the new particle “consists of two strange quarks and one top quark but no beauty or charm quark. The physicists have nicknamed it the ‘neutrinosaurus’ because of its repulsive appearance and prehistoric origins.”

Did I mention that Google changed its name to Topeka last April Fools' Day?

An e-mail from the Center for Biological Diversity proclaimed this shocking news: “Palin Recants, Salazar Adopts Wolf” — reporting surprising position reversals by vocal anti-environmentalist Sarah Palin and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who removed the handful of wolves still living in the western U.S. from the endangered species list.

Science writer Ed Yong, on his blog for Discover magazine, revealed the discovery of the gullibility gene and a related part of the brain called "the inferior supra-credulus." At last — an explanation for Birthers!

In still more exciting news, Science magazine announced it was joining forces with rival publication Nature to create a new science journal, Natural Science. The first issue promises such provocative articles as “Evolution: Why won’t it stop?” and “Milk Chocolate: New compound isolated from rabbit eggs.”

Cognitive scientist Mark Changizi reported that Twitter was reducing its maximum character count from 140 to 20.

Science writer Rebecca Skloot’s best-selling book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, tells the story of cancer victim Henrietta Lacks, whose “HeLa” genes — taken from her without permission — have led to countless scientific breakthroughs. But on April 1, 2010 the blog The Real Hela revealed that the true source of the HeLa gene was not Ms. Lacks after all — it was film star Hedy Lamarr!

Don't care about cellular biology? Then how about flying cats? The Tetrapod Zoology blog offered up a genuinely disturbing report about “the evolution of dropgorgons and winged cats” (see illustration below).

Mark your calendars: 365 days to the next day of whimsy.

“The best things in life are silly.”
~ Scott Adams


  1. I want to agree with Scott Adams, but April Fools Day makes me anxious. My very fine nephew, Lawrence Thibodeaux, was born on 4.1.1991, so AFD has its splendid moments too.

  2. Ha! I love a good joke but I'm always at the ready on April Fools so it ends up being a day of stress and nerves!

  3. Katherine and Becky,

    Until this moment, I didn't know April Fools' Day made people anxious, but that may be because I have been pretty much embarrassment-proof since I was about 15. One winter day I was racing to catch train when I slipped on some slush at the top of a long staircase at Penn Station and ended up splayed out in the dirty puddles with my school books and papers pouring down the stairs and a thousand people staring at me. It was so ridiculous, all I could do was laugh.

    I wish you both more joy and less stress in April 1sts to come!