Faux Science In Honor Of April Fools' Day : 13.7: Cosmos And Culture Scientists are an amusing bunch, especially on April 1. Consider the great gorilla experiment of 2011, the reduced-gravity caper of 1976-- or the brain-imaging explanation of 2010 for our species' gullibility.
NPR logo Faux Science In Honor Of April Fools' Day

Faux Science In Honor Of April Fools' Day

We scientists have a sense of humor, and often it emerges on April 1. Fake press releases about made-up discoveries or experiments get trotted out annually at this time.

Last year, England's Bristol Zoo announced "an ambitious experiment" aimed to explore the acuity of captive gorillas' sense of smell when it comes to the scent marks we humans emit. Two groups of people— one of normal dress and a control group of those (as attested to by a photograph) entirely unclothed— would be used in the experiment. Only later did the Zoo add the "only kidding!" April Fools' update to their announcement.

More famous (but also British!) was the 1976 caper in which astronomer Patrick Moore devised a tale about how an unusual alignment of Pluto and Jupiter would temporarily reduce the Earth's gravity. He told BBC listeners to leap into the air at precisely 9:47am on April 1st to feel a strange floating effect. A good number of people did jump, and claimed to feel the effect.

Scientists have an explanation for why primates of our ilk sometimes fall for April Fools' jokes: through brain imaging they found a region called the inferior supra-credulus. Funny thing, though, that announcement was reported by science writer Ed Yong in 2010... on April 1st.

Can't wait to see what happens this year.

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