Why One Librarian Banned a Book

Scott R. DiMarco of the Mansfield University of Pennsylvania campus library writes:

The story begins with two staff members and one librarian who enthusiastically created and ran a week of interactive programs for banned book week. The turnout was tepid. A panel discussion on the subject drew six people. Five were librarians and staff members. The sixth was Dennis Miller, our public relations director, who recently published his second novel, One Woman’s Vengeance. As we talked about various books that are still being banned at different locations around the country, Miller said, “You should ban mine. It has sex, violence and adult language.”

He was joking, but his statement emphasized that as long as one book can be banned, any book is a target.

Two of my staff members and one librarian thought it over and came to me a couple days later, suggesting that we should, indeed, ban it during Banned Books Week. We talked over the ramifications and I agreed. We contacted Miller, an ardent opponent of censorship.

He agreed to participate.

Full Story: College and Research Libraries News: Why I banned a book: How censorship can impact a learning community

Teach The Controversy: Mermaids Edition

I don't know; therefore, mermaids

Jim Vorel on Animal Planet‘s bizarre Mermaids hoax:

‘Mermaids: The New Evidence’ is the worst thing I’ve ever seen on TV

There’s absolutely no hyperbole in that title. Last night on Animal Planet I caught the replay of “Mermaids: The New Evidence,” the follow-up to Discovery Channel’s abysmally bad, misleading and rage-inducing “docufiction” from last year, “Mermaids: The Body Found.” It’s the worst TV I’ve ever seen. Nothing else comes even close.

Last night’s special was even further from reality from the first documentary, which at least went through more trouble to appear legitimate-looking. Instead of being comprised of talking head interviews, it was done almost in the style of an extended round-table on a 24-hour news network, which I suppose is fitting in an odd way. A shill of a host acted as the “moderator,” asking canned questions to our returning star and conquering hero from the past program, “Dr. Paul Robertson,” a man touted as being “a former researcher for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.” Other guests were brought forward to share their own mermaid revelations and screen poor CGI footage of supposed mermaid encounters.

I’ll start out by simply pointing out the stuff that anyone with access to Google can discover immediately — “Dr. Paul Robertson” is not an actual person, but an actor. His name is Andre Weideman. Here’s his IMDB page. It’s safe to assume that all the other supposed researchers and government officials on the special were also actors, or they wouldn’t be there.

Full Story: Herald Review: ‘Mermaids: The New Evidence’ is the worst thing I’ve ever seen on TV

See also:

I Wanted the Story to Seem Real, Says “Mermaids: The New Evidence” Producer

Science Channel Refuses To Dumb Down Science Any Further

Monster mummies of Japan

India’s SMS Hoax Panic: Could It Happen In The U.S.?

I talked with Shlok Vaidya about what conditions would lead to an “SMS panic” like the one last week in India. There’s also a cameo by John Robb in there:

Trying to think of something that fit the mold of what happened in India, I asked Vaidya about the calls for Obama’s birth certificate in the U.S. Those rumors are more difficult to debunk because the target audience was already distrustful of the government and mainstream media, and right wing institutions were either slow to distance themselves from the demands and rumors or propagated them themselves. So even once the birth certificate and a Hawaiian newspaper birth announcement were made available, so-called “Birthers” weren’t convinced and claimed the birth certificate was fake and/or called to see a long form birth certificate.

Some Birthers will never be convinced, no matter what evidence is produced. This is similar to the problem in India: no one could prove conclusively that the northeasterners weren’t in danger. Any attempt to engage with Birthers and conspiracy theorists, such as such as Cass Sunstein’s “cognitive infiltration” proposal is likely to backfire and make them even more paranoid.

TechCrunch: India’s SMS Hoax Panic: Could It Happen In The U.S.?

The Man Who Told the Internet He’d Come from the Future

John Titor Insignia

Mike Lynch, a private detective hired for an Italian documentary on Titor, suggests that Haber’s brother, John Rick Haber, is Titor. John Rick Haber is a computer scientist who would have known about the IBM 5100 and Unix 2038 problem, with a post office box application later linking John Rick Haber with the John Titor Foundation. Lynch believes John Rick Haber to have the computer knowledge and wit to perpetrate the Titor hoax.

i09: The Man Who Told the Internet He’d Come from the Future

Human hair solar panel probably a hoax

Previously reported human hair solar panel most likely a hoax:

The young man claims he has sent several units out for evaluation which, on the face of it, lends credibility to his claim: ‘I’m trying to produce commercially and distribute to the districts. We’ve already sent a couple out to the districts to test for feasibility,’ he said. On the other hand, this means that he has built prototypes capable of producing 9VDC at 18W. Based on the analysis below, this seems highly unlikely and, unfortunately, seems to indicate this is a deliberate hoax.

As discussed below, the claimed output of this device does not agree with the published properties of photoelectric organic dyes, making it likely that a conventional solar cell is concealed inside the panel. Furthermore, the article states, “Half a kilo of hair can be bought for only 16p in Nepal and lasts a few months, whereas a pack of batteries would cost 50p and last a few nights. People can replace the hair easily themselves, says Milan, meaning his solar panels need little servicing” and “The young inventor says that human hair due to the presence of Melanin is sensitive to light and also acts as a type of conductor”. These statements indicate that the device uses human hair directly, not purified, extracted melanin which further invalidates the claim. The melanin can’t be electrically active because keratin is an insulator. Human hair is non-conductive and not photochemically active as published articles and my own experiments show.

Nepal Human Hair Solar Panel Hoax

(Thanks Mart K!)

Coby $100 laptop was a hoax

A number of prominent websites have recently reported that Coby Electronics, a company that specialized in manufacturing low-end electronic devices is preparing to launch its own line of systems. Dubbed “Midget PCs,” it’s been widely reported that these Linux-based portables will feature 7″-9″ screens, use a Chinese “Longsoon” processor, and cost just $100. It’s Nicholas Negroponte’s dream of a $100 laptop made possible by Chinese technology, right?

Well, no, probably not. There are a couple of interesting hardware tidbits in the story—more on those below, but there are several more fishy things about this. For one thing, as Ross Rubin of NPD pointed out on his blog, the original story lifts a quote he apparently made two years ago, and presents it as a new statement. Rubin contacted Coby Electronics himself, and was told by the company’s PR representatives that “this story, or any announcement regarding a netbook, was not (emphasis theirs) initiated, condoned, or approved by Coby Electronics.” The story itself was dismissed as erroneous.

Full Story: Ars Technica

(via Robot Wisdom)

New documentary about notorious hoaxer Alan Abel

More info: Slate.

(via The Agitator).

Does KFC use mutant chickens?

I hear this rumor from far to many people who really should know better, so I thought I’d link to the Snopes page about the KFC rumor.

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