The checkerboard face - an optical illusion

Her face seems to pop out like a mask.

This optical illusion / op art photograph was taken by UK photographer Abbie Lou.

I didn't notice this at first, but even though the model is not wearing checkerboard-printed fabric on her head, it looks like it matches the background.

- Abbie Lou, Flickr>>
- Abigail Louise Allardyce>>

8 ways to be a scientific cheater

He faked the data in over 
200 published scientific papers.

From Ars Technica:
Dr. Yoshitaka Fujii seems well on his way to becoming the patron saint of scientific fraudsters, setting a record for the most extensive output of fake data. As near as anyone can work out, Fujii started making up data with abandon some time in the 1990s. By 2000, his fellow researchers were already on to him, publishing a comment in which they noted, "We became skeptical when we realized that side effects were almost always identical in all groups."
Writer John Timmer explains Dr. Fujii's 8 principles so you can use them to fake your own scientific data:
  1. If you fake your data, make sure it's data that nobody ever expects to see.
  2. Have lots of collaborators, so everyone could have supplied the data.
  3. Don't be controversial. Avoid too much scrutiny! Fake it under the radar.
  4. Don't publish research that anyone would care about repeating. (Because if they repeat it, of course, they'll never get your results.)
  5. Publish in scientific journals that aren't in your field, so your work will be reviewed by people who aren't experts.
  6. Publish everywhere, and get funding from multiple sources. That way, any investigation will have to involve multiple groups, so an investigation may never take place. ("You fund the investigation." "No, you fund it.")
  7. Don't plagiarize. There are too many tools available to detect plagiarism. Again, no scrutiny!
  8. Don't duplicate your images. Stupid scientists have been caught because they used the same graphs in different papers. Be a smart fraudster!
Epic fraud: How to succeed in science (without doing any). Envy those who succeed by making up their data? Here's how you can, too! Ars Technica>>

Is this tapeworm ad real or fake?

"Fat - the ENEMY that is 
shortening Your Life BANISHED! 
How? With sanitized tape worms"
(Click to enlarge)

Here's a vintage ad that touts tapeworms as a diet aid.

The urban legend site Snopes says tapeworms might have been used for dieting (they classify the legend as "undetermined"):
As unlikely as this must sound, there might be some reason to believe tapeworm diet pills were once marketed in the United States between 1900 and 1920. A number of sources have indicated encountering advertisements for such products, but whether the products advertised actually matched their descriptions would be difficult to verify. (Just because an ad for a diet pill proclaimed the product contained tapeworms doesn't mean it really did — duping people into buying medicinal nostrums by way of making false and exaggerated claims was standard procedure in the days before government regulation of food and drug products.)
But is the advertisement shown above real or not? 

As the worm squirms, Snopes>>

The grave mistake magic trick

A humorous paper folding gag.

Grave Mistake Magic Trick - Dick Stoner



Dick Stoner>>

The lonely thief and the mummified corpse

Linda Chase

Linda Chase, 71 years old, was friends with a man named Charles Zigler, aged 67. They would sit together and watch NASCAR races on the TV in their living room.

They'd lived together for 10 years.

But, unknown to him, she had stolen $28,000 of his money by forging his signature.

Mr. Zigler did not know she was stealing his money because he was unaware of the theft.

That's because she began to steal his pension and Social Security checks after he was dead.

He died sitting in their living room, and she left him in his chair for about 18 months as his body mummified.

She continued watching TV with him and talking to his body.

Said Ms. Chase:
“It’s not that I’m heartless... I didn’t want to be alone. He was the only guy who was ever nice to me..."
Although she was charged with forgery, she was not charged in connection with Mr. Zigler's death.

It's believed that Mr. Zigler died of natural causes.

The situation was discovered after relatives called the police to check on him. They had tried calling and visiting, but Ms. Chase always told them he was out or that he was unable to come to the phone.

Forgery charges against Linda Chase bring closure, frustration to family of man kept more than 18 months after death, Michigan Live>>

5 inflexible illusions by Sebastian Martorana

A bag of tomatoes (the bag)


 A hanging jacket (the jacket)


A container of Häagen-Dazs 
coffee ice cream (the ice cream)


Two towels and a washcloth hanging 
on stainless steel holders (the cloth)


A close-up of one of the towels (the cloth)

In each case, the illusion is found within the parentheses, because Mr. Martorana is an artist who has carved those parts out of stone.

SebastianWorks>>

Four teacups on a table - almost an illusion


It's not quite an optical illusion, but I like this illustration anyway. By Anton Van Steelandt.

Why fake coupons are better than fake money

The queenpins of the coupon scam:
Amiko Fountain, top;
Robin Ramirez, left; Marilyn Johnson, right

Here's a great fraud where the counterfeiters got many of the benefits of counterfeiting money, but with much less of the risk.

Three women were arrested in Phoenix, Arizona for selling counterfeit coupons.

The fakes were variations of real coupons, altered to either give a huge discount or to say the product was free.

They had the fake coupons printed overseas, then shipped to themselves, where they resold the coupons for less than their "real" face value.

One of the sites they used to sell the fakes was "savvyshoppersite.com", which was worded to sound similar to the legitimate "Savvy Shopper" magazine.

After an eight-week undercover operation, police raided the women's homes, arresting them and seizing $40 million in bogus coupons.

The women may have made many millions from their scheme.

Why was this less risky than making counterfeit currency?
  • Instead of criminal currency counterfeiters, you work with dodgy foreign printers to print your fake coupons.
  • You can order the coupons in lower quantities than ordering a huge batch of counterfeit bills.
  • You don't have to deal with a retailer directly and get caught; if someone complains that their coupon didn't work, say sorry and refund their money.
  • You can openly sell your product to shoppers looking for deals. You can't do that with fake $100 bills.
  • With all the different types of coupons you sell, it's harder for authorities to investigate.
  • The U. S. Secret Service (which investigates money counterfeiting) doesn't try to catch you. (Different sources say different things - the Secret Service used to investigate food coupon fraud, but I haven't found an official source saying they still investigate it.)
  • Finally, when you get caught, the penalties are less severe.
- The $40 Million Counterfeit Coupon Caper, Time magazine>>
- Phoenix police arrest 3 women in fake coupon ring, AzCentral.com>>

Improper kerning creates Walmart dick

Yes, it's just a click away

If you're not familiar with the term kerning, from Wikipedia:
In typography, kerning (less commonly mortising) is the process of adjusting the spacing between characters in a proportional font, usually to achieve a visually pleasing result.
The importance of kerning, Buzzfeed>>

How to rip off trusting religious people

Jesus and Judas kiss

John Baird, age 74, figured it out.

His travel business was called Christian Pilgrim Tours. He booked tours to religious sites in the Middle East and other holy places.

He advertised for his pilgrims in Catholic magazines, and would recruit priests and other religious leaders to help promote his trips.

Christians would tell other Christians about the great trip they were planning to go on, and others would sign up.

His customers would usually pay him for the full cost of the trip, in advance, by check.

Sometimes, through no fault of Mr. Baird, those trips would be cancelled.

And the refunds would be slow to be mailed out.

So slow that customers never received any refunds at all.

That's how 138 customers were bilked out of $400,000.

He blamed his attorneys:
"I had ineffective counsel... If they had done their job, I wouldn't be here today."
The judge blamed him:
"You preyed on people who were poor, of modest means, who were vulnerable and elderly, and you lied to them."
Mr. Baird was sentenced to five years in prison.

Admitted fraudster gets five years in prison for religious travel scam, Philly.com>>

The story of a boa constrictor he found

This image of Salma Hayek dancing 
with a snake has very little to do 
with the following story. 
Except for the snake.

A man was walking along a river in Austria when he spotted something slithering along a riverbank. It was a seven and a half foot snake, a huge boa constrictor. He captured the snake and turned it over to an animal shelter.

Everyone was grateful to him that he got the snake before it hurt or killed someone.

Except the story was fake. He never really found the snake.

Susanne Hemetsberger, head of the Austrian Animal Protection Association, said the man "found" his own pet and was trying to find a way to get rid of it. She said:
"No passer-by who isn't familiar with snakes would ever grab a boa constrictor. On the contrary, they would scream, run away and call the police."
News reports don't say why he didn't use a more traditional method to give away or sell the snake.

It could be he was using the fake story to publicize the fact that he also has two other large snakes he wants to get rid of.

Austrian admits making up story to get rid of snake, Reuters>>

An upside down comic strip by Gustave Verbeek

"The largest of the Rocs picks her up by the skirt."

The comic strip The Upside-Downs of Little Lady Lovekins and Old Man Muffaroo was created by Gustave Verbeek and published in The New York Herald in 1904. Mr. Verbeek created 64 of these strips.


First you'd read the comic right side up, and then, to continue the story, you'd flip over the page and read it upside down.

And now, A Fish Story:

Right side up
(Click to greatly enlarge)

Upside down
(Click to greatly enlarge)

- Oulipo Week! Found in the Collection: The Upside-Downs of Little Lady Lovekins and Old Man Muffaroo, The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum Blog, The Ohio State University Library>>
- The Upside Down World of Gustave Verbeek: Complete Sunday Comics 1903-05 [Hardcover], Amazon>>

Shiny ball, where's her head? - an optical illusion

What is it, and where?

This award-winning photo by Paul Hanna is of Spain's Carolina Rodriguez performing at the World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championship in Madrid, October 2001. 

Strangely, even after I figured out what was going on with her body, I thought she was a figure skater.

Paul Hanna Reuters / Sports Illustrated, Pictures of the Year International>>

Never have sex with your wife again - a prank

He said: "I'm sorry, it was funny..."

Highway scare prank on wife

Maybe some are frauds, but all of them frauds?

Rachel Adams

A Lousiana woman named Rachel Adams applied for a business license. But her type of business was forbidden by the city, and not only was she not given a license, she was issued a summons by the police.

What did she want to do?


She wanted to tell fortunes.

The law said she could not tell fortunes, even if she didn't charge a fee, since "palmistry, card reading, astrology, fortune-telling, phrenology, mediums or activities of a similar nature" were all illegal.

She sued.

The government's argument was that fortune telling was a fraud, and this law prevented fraud.

The judge hearing the case said that just because some fortune tellers were frauds, that didn't mean that all fortune tellers were frauds. He said there were laws against fraud, so the government could prosecute fortune tellers who were committing fraud.

Plus, how do you know that a fortune teller is telling the truth about the future? You can't call someone a liar if you don't know if what they said will become true in the future.

There was also this little matter of her having the freedom to practice a religion, and her right to free speech.

The law was found unconstitutional.

She won her case.

(Thanks to the Law and Magic Blog for the find.)

- Judge Overturns Fortune Telling Ordinance, Law and Magic Blog>>
- Tarot Card Reader Fights City Ban In Court, The Psychic Line>>

Lean with it - an illusion by Paul Octavious

(Click to enlarge)

Paul took photographs of his real friends leaning with real leaning trees.

Paul Octavious>>

When do lying humans lie the most?

A detail of the infographic "Honey,
I'm working late and other stories: 
The truth about phone calls"

If you're a more visually-oriented person, here's an infographic about lying based on two academic papers. The basic point it makes is that humans lie the most in phone calls.

Why do we do that? It's because we don't like to lie when our words are recorded. When we speak, our words "can be forgotten about, exaggerated, denied and disputed."

Honey, I'm working late and other stories: The truth about phone calls, Calltrunk, Visual.ly>>

Why can't I buy stuff with "phoney mazuma"?

(Click to enlarge)

These fake bills were from the Arcade Magic & Novelty Store in Toronto, which sold "grease paint & make up / crepe hair & false noses / magic tricks, jokes & puzzles."

They're also labeled "Phoney Mazuma / Only fifty / You can't pass me / Nix."

Here's another "Phoney Mazuma" from Ellis Mercantile Co. in Hollywood, California, which made and rented movie props. This fake money was used in movies instead of the real thing.

(Click to enlarge)

The "Phoney Mazuma" shown below was being sold on an auction site as being "Compliments of Bremers from Iowa City Iowa", circa 1929.

You can't pass this one, either.
(Click to enlarge)

"Mazuma" is also a slang word for cash (it comes from the Yiddish word "mazume.")

According to the 1893 slang dictionary "Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present", the word "mesumme" means counterfeit money.

That means you haven't been able to use these bills to buy stuff for at least 83 years.

4pcs MAGIC STORE MONEY 1950s Vintage Skull Devil Toronto, Etsy>>

On a visit to Goatman National Park, he saw...

Was it beast, or man?

Coty Creighton was hiking along a trail in Utah when he spotted something odd in a herd of wild goats a few hundred yards away.

One goat was trailing behind, as if it was injured. Mr. Creighton took out his binoculars to get a better look.

It was not a goat.

The goat was actually a man dressed in a goat costume, with fake horns and a cloth mask with eye holes.

The goat man was scrambling on all fours, acting like a goat.

When the goat man saw a man looking at him, he froze, then rejoined his herd.

Mr. Creighton took photographs and showed them to authorities. The photos appeared genuine.

There is nothing illegal about dressing like a goat, but the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources said that it might be a dangerous activity.

Sixty permits will be issued for goat hunting season in that area.

After reports of the fake goat sighting, officials received a phone call from what they called an "agitated man" who said:
“Leave goat man alone. He’s done nothing wrong.’”
‘Goat man’ seen among wild goats in northern Utah; officials warn of danger in hunting season, Energy and Environment, The Washington Post>>

He loved the addictive thrill of fooling the experts

Ken Perenyi forged the work 
of artists such as Gilbert Stuart, 
who painted this famous portrait 
of George Washington.
Ken did not sign his own name.

From The New York Times:
For nearly three decades Ken Perenyi made a small fortune forging works by popular 18th- and 19th-century artists like Martin Johnson Heade, Gilbert Stuart and Charles Bird King.

Then in 1998, Mr. Perenyi says, two F.B.I. agents showed up on his doorstep, curious about a couple of paintings sold at Christie’s and Sotheby’s, ostensibly by the maritime artist James E. Buttersworth but actually his own meticulous creations.

Over the next few years, he says, the F.B.I. continued to keep a close watch on him at his bayside bungalow here, tracking his work and where it sold, and talking to his friends and associates. Though the authorities never charged him, the scrutiny pushed Mr. Perenyi to develop what he calls “a new business model”: openly selling his faked oils as the reproductions of the finest masters.
Read the article: Forgeries? Perhaps Faux Masterpieces, The New York Times>>

The reverse spokes - an optical illusion

The spokes of this wheel 
are not turning.

Only the shades of grey are changing.

Why does this work?
Another cool illusion is the “reverse spokes” illusion, which has been studied by Anstis and Rogers (and probably discovered as well. Anstis describes the illusion very modestly as “new, or newish”.).  ...the spokes (the grey lines separating the “pie-slices”) appear to be rotating clockwise. On closer inspection you can clearly see that this is not the case. In fact, what is happening is that a “colour wave” traverses the wheel in a counterclockwise direction. That's weird.
For more explanation, see Reverse spokes at CogSci.nl, by Sebastiaan Mathôt 

A big bridge of Legos - an optical illusion

The view under the bridge

Created in Wuppertal, Germany by the artist MEGX.

Are those lower bricks properly supported?


 The same bridge, naked

- Bridge Transformed into Giant LEGO Bricks by German Street Artist MEGX, Design Milk>>
- MEGX>>

A dead body, adultery and a doctor - a short story

“No, doctor,” she said; “I shall never be able 
to understand a woman deceiving her husband..."

An Artifice is a short by the 19th Century French writer Guy de Maupassant. It is under 2,000 words, and is a rewarding read. Of course it concerns deception.
An Artifice

The old doctor sat by the fireside, talking to his fair patient who was lying on the lounge. There was nothing much the matter with her, except that she had one of those little feminine ailments from which pretty women frequently suffer — slight anaemia, a nervous attack, etc.

“No, doctor,” she said; “I shall never be able to understand a woman deceiving her husband. Even allowing that she does not love him, that she pays no heed to her vows and promises, how can she give herself to another man? How can she conceal the intrigue from other people’s eyes? How can it be possible to love amid lies and treason?”

The doctor smiled, and replied: “It is perfectly easy, and I can assure you that a woman does not think of all those little subtle details when she has made up her mind to go astray.

“As for dissimulation, all women have plenty of it on hand for such occasions, and the simplest of them are wonderful, and extricate themselves from the greatest dilemmas in a remarkable manner.”

The young woman, however, seemed incredulous.

“No, doctor,” she said; “one never thinks until after it has happened of what one ought to have done in a critical situation, and women are certainly more liable than men to lose their head on such occasions:”

The doctor raised his hands. “After it has happened, you say! Now I will tell you something that happened to one of my female patients, whom I always considered an immaculate woman.

An optical illusion music video by Yuksek

Can't you see the face?

Club / electronica / pop performer Yuksek's song "Off the Wall" has a music video where hand-manipulated props, instruments and body parts are filmed and then combined with a mirror image.

The "making of" video is as entertaining as the original.

Yuksek - Off the Wall music video

Yuksek - the mirror secret exposed


Yuksek, Myspace>>

Greenpeace pranks Shell with fake website

No, not a real advertisement

Greenpeace and the pranksters The Yes Men created a realistic-looking fake Shell website called Arctic Ready which attacks Shell for their offshore drilling in the Arctic while supposedly presenting information from Shell's point of view:
"We've all heard about global climate change and the challenges it brings, especially to the most vulnerable among us.

For example, 300,000 people already perish each year from climate-change-related causes, mostly in the world's poorest areas...

That's why we at Shell are committed to not only recognize the challenges that climate change brings, but to take advantage of its tremendous opportunities. And what's the biggest opportunity we've got today? The melting Arctic."
You can also create fake ads for Shell, like the example shown above.

It looks real enough that Shell responded with a media release:
"Journalists, blog readers and YouTube viewers have recently been targeted with scams launched by organizations opposed to energy exploration in Alaska...

Further, we care that people are not deceived; and in the spirit of intelligent debate on such a serious topic, we continue to offer our own (genuine) views as well as a few real facts about the challenges and opportunities of arctic exploration at www.shell.us/alaska."
- Arctic Ready>>
- Is Greenpeace's prank on Shell oil a 'scam'? CNN>>
- Shell not involved in spoof video and fake advertisements, Shell>>

Do "essay mills" write good papers for students?

"But these days fewer people believe in wizards."

Professor Dan Ariely and his lab manager Aline Grüneisen decided to investigate essay mills, the companies which write student essays for a fee. They pretended to be a student and contacted four companies, paid them between $150 and $216, and gave all of them the same topic:
"When and why do people cheat? Consider the social circumstances involved in dishonesty, and provide a thoughtful response to the topic of cheating. Address various forms of cheating (personal, at work, etc.) and how each of these can be rationalized by a social culture of cheating."
The results were universally horrendous. Here's one example paragraph, from a paper which seems to show a less than accurate command of English:
"Cheating by healers. Healing is different. There is harmless healing, when healers-cheaters and wizards offer omens, lapels, damage to withdraw, the husband-wife back and stuff. We read in the newspaper and just smile. But these days fewer people believe in wizards."
They also discovered, by submitting the essays to the website WriteCheck.com, which detects plagiarism, that two of the papers had plagiarized parts of their content from other works.

When they contacted the companies to demand a refund because the essays were plagiarized, one company threatened to contact the dean of the school and expose them for cheating.

Read the whole essay (unplagiarized): Essay mills -- a coarse lesson on cheating. A sampling of university-level papers, full of bad writing and gibberish, on the subject of cheating shows that technology has still not solved students' problems, Los Angeles Times>>

For some reason, mom didn't want me to post this

Zebra butt at the zoo

Source: unknown

Suspicious white powder creates hazmat scare

They discovered it was left by tricksters.

One morning, someone reported that there was an unknown white powder at the intersection of two roads in Edmonds, Washington.

Firefighters cleared the scene, and the hazardous materials team was called in.

They determined the "white powdery substance" was not hazardous. In fact, it was only white flour.

A witness who had been jogging came forward to explain that she had seen the two tricksters who had dragged the bag of flour into the road. They fled when she took the bag away and tossed it in the trash.

A cartoon representation of the two culprits 
who had dragged the bag of flour onto the road.

The god of "Encyclopedia Brown" is dead

He's a kid you want on your 
mystery-solving team.

Donald J. Sobol, who wrote the Encyclopedia Brown mysteries for kids, passed away in July of 2012. In his books, a genius fifth grader solves various crimes and mysteries. Mr. Sobol wrote a total of 28 books in the series (the first in 1963); millions have been published.

Here's a sample story from Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Sleeping Dog (1998):
The Case of the Shower Singers

On the outside, Idaville looked like an ordinary seaside town. It had playgrounds, banks, and beautiful white beaches. It had churches, a synagogue, and two delicatessens.

On the inside, however, Idaville was unlike any other town. No one, grown-up or child, got away with breaking the law!

From coast to coast, police officers wondered. How did Idaville do it? What was the secret?

The Idaville police station stood on Harding Street. But the real headquarters for the war on crime was a red brick house at 13 Rover Avenue.

Here lived Mr. and Mrs. Brown and their only child, ten-year-old Encyclopedia, America's crime-buster in sneakers.

Mr. Brown was chief of police. He was brave and honest, and he was smart. Whenever he came up against a case he could not solve, he knew what to do.

He put on his hat and went home.

Encyclopedia solved the case at the dinner table. Usually he needed to ask but one question.

Mr. Brown would have liked to tell the world about his son. But who would take him seriously?

Who would believe that a fifth-grader might be the best detective on earth?

Bad timing foils check forger

"Yeah, someone forged
 a check and took money 
from my account. 
And he looks just like 
that guy over there. 
In fact, he looks exactly 
like that guy over there..."

David Henneman and his friend stopped by a Chase bank in Medford, Oregon to explain that someone was passing fraudulent checks using his account.

As Mr. Henneman was talking to the teller, her eyes got wide and she said the guy just entered the bank.

The check forger was trying to cash another fraudulent check on Mr. Henneman's account.

Tellers tried to delay the man, Matthew John Frombach, but he got suspicious and tried to leave to "use the bathroom."

As he left the bank, Mr. Henneman's friend tried to stop him, and Mr. Frombach punched him, yet the friend, Josh Rigiero, was able to catch and detain him until police arrived.

Since Mr. Henneman had just ordered a set of new checks that never arrived, he suspects they were stolen out of his mailbox.

Mr. Frombach was charged with first-degree forgery, theft, criminal possession of a forged instrument, negotiating a bad check, disorderly conduct, fourth-degree assault, harassment and resisting arrest.

Talk about being at the right place at the right time. Check fraud foiled when suspect and victim stop at the same bank branch, Mail Tribune, Oregon>>

Actor playing ghost vanishes from Indonesian film

Rowan Atkinson's character Mr. Bean 
is evidently so popular in Indonesia, 
he compelled actress Dewi Perssik 
to dress up as catwoman and 
rub her butt on his statue.

Indonesian movie producer K.K. Dheera said Rowan Atkinson would star in his new film. Mr Atkinson's Mr. Bean character would play a pocong, an Indonesian ghost covered in a shroud, in a horror / comedy film called Mr. Bean Kesurupan Depe or Mr. Bean Gets Possessed by Depe. (Depe is the nickname of actress Dewi Perssik, the costar of the film, seen above.)

However, this was certainly news to Rowan Atkinson, who said he was not appearing in the film.

It was also news to actor William Ferguson, a Mr. Bean look-alike who was hired to appear in the film.

William Ferguson, the fake Mr. Bean, 
with two other guys.

The filmmakers told Mr. Ferguson they were flying him to Jakarta to act in the background of a film. He didn't realize until the end of the first day of his three-day shoot that he was actually a main character.

While he was there, he wasn't allowed to talk to the press and had a bodyguard assigned to him, which must have given the illusion that he was the real Rowan Atkinson.

Mr. Ferguson wrote to the press to explain his involvement, saying he did not collude with the producer and was upset that he had been involved in an deception.

Mr. Dheera, the producer, said:
“I never wrote Rowan Atkinson’s name on the poster. I did not deceive the public.”
'I'm Upset With the Filmmakers Involving Me in This Deception': Mr. Bean Look-Alike, Jakarta Globe>>

150-year-old penis joke - an optical illusion

Yes, this photo is real.

At first I thought it was a clever digital manipulation of light and shadow, but these are the actual sunshiny shapes being projected from the railing of Westminster Bridge in London, England.

Do you think the original architect had any idea?

Sir Charles Barry,
architect

Sir Charles Barry (1795-1860) also designed the new Houses of Parliament after the old ones were destroyed by fire. I do not detect the presence of a trickster in his face.

Here are some more photos, to prove the image is not a clever Photoshoppery:







- Westminster Bridge Shadows, pho-Tony, Flickr>>
- The bridge of cocks, Andy Blizzard, Livejournal>>