Top Math Hoaxes of All Time

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In honor of April Fool’s Day, here are the top 5 math hoaxes of all time. This list was compiled by Dreambox Learning and the Museum of Hoaxes. Happy April Fool’s day to all!

5. Metric Time

metric clockIn 1975, the Australian news program This Day Tonight devised a clever plan to convert the country to “metric time.” With the 10-hour metric clock face, the new time system used 100 seconds to make one minute, 100 minutes to make an hour, and 20 hours to make one day. A swarm of confused callers bombarded This Day Tonight when viewers found out seconds were now called millidays, minutes turned into centidays, and hours took on the name decidays. One caller even asked how he could convert his newly purchased digital clock because he didn’t want to take it back to the store.

4. Operation Parallax

In 1979, London’s Capitol Radio put “Operation Parallax” into effect. Reported as a government task force, Operation Parallax set out to re-synchronize the British calendar back 48 hours as it supposedly fell out of sync after decades of switching back and forth from British summer time. As a solution, the government planned to cancel April 5th and April 12th that year. After the announcement, Capitol Radio received calls from all over the country asking about how to schedule their upcoming workweek, and one confused woman even asked what she should do about her birthday, as it fell on one of the canceled days.

3. Big Ben Goes Digital

digital big benIn 1980, the BBC pulled a fast one on London by reporting the Big Ben clock was going digital. The BBC reported four large LCD screens were to replace the outdated clock face in order to give London a more modern appeal. Outraged by the possible change to their national landmark, Londoners clogged the BBC phone lines with worried concerns. In a related hoax, the Japanese BBC station announced the hands on the old analog Big Ben were up for auction to the listeners of the show. One offshore Japanese seaman immediately radioed in his bid.

2. Zero G’s

In 1972, BBC Radio 2 announced an once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event was going to take place on April 1st. British astronomer Patrick Moore hypothesized that at 9:47 AM London time, Pluto would pass behind Jupiter and create a gravitational alignment that would counteract and decrease the Earth’s own gravity. Moore advised listeners if they leap in the air at the precise moment of planetary alignment, they would experience a weightless floating sensation. The BBC2 radio station received many phone calls confirming the mid-morning phenomenon, highlighted by one woman’s report of her eleven friends and her lifting off their chairs and floating around the room.

1. Alabama Takes a Bite Out of Pi

pi imageIn 1998, an article issued by the New Mexicans for Science and Reason newsletter claimed the state of Alabama considered changing the value of the mathematical constant pi from 3.1415… to the “Biblical value” of 3.0. Alabama state legislation never actually voted on the status of pi, but this article spread like wildfire through the internet as millions of readers forwarded the story through email. The Alabama legislation received hundreds of phone calls from concerned citizens protesting this mock legislation.

Special thanks to Museum of Hoaxes, where you can find the Top 100 April Fool’s Day Hoaxes of all time.

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One Response to Top Math Hoaxes of All Time

  1. cashp says:

    I am proud to announce that I was responsible for the Operation Parallax Hoax in 1979. Oh the fun we had.

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