Hello, This is Joe Herrick of Gutterman Research

April 1, 2008

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We have all been made a fool at one time or another. Here are five recent and historical hoaxes in business, automotive, science/math, manufacturing and engineering.

2008: Hello, This is Joe Herrick of Gutterman Research Earlier this year, a mystery caller referring to himself as "Joe Herrick of Gutterman Research" managed to insinuate himself into at least seven corporate quarterly calls, at which point he launched his own version of analyst-speak: "Can you provide some more color as to what you are doing for your supply chain initiatives to reduce manufacturing costs per hectoliter, as you originally promised $150 million in synergy or savings to decrease working capital?"

Is this a prankster just having some fun, or is he a guy doing clandestine research on companies' Six Sigma and Lean techniques? You decide. The Wall Street Journal links to an audio file of an exchange between "Herrick" and the management team of Molson Coors Brewing.

2005: Mini "Pullman" Ready for the Rails Three years ago, MINI USA announced the release of a special new model adapted to ride on domestic gauge rail lines throughout North America. "In conjunction with the North American railway system, an exclusive right-of-way has been authorized for the specially equipped MINI to commute via rail during peak hours in major urban centers," said the press release (via Autoblog). "This access, once only limited to railway utility trucks, is now available to MINI owners who order the special model."

Called the MINI Pullman, the car came "fitted with a special wheel package that easily locks onto standard gauge rail." To ensure safety at crossings, an "upgraded dual-air horn warning system" came standard on the model.

1998: Pi=Biblical 3 Ten years ago, an issue of New Mexicans for Science and Reason (via Museum of Hoaxes) published an article claiming that the Alabama legislature had passed a law to change the value of pi from 3.14159 to the "Biblical value" of 3.0 after Leonard Lee Lawson (R - Crossville) supposedly introduced a bill that gained support from members of the Solomon Society, a traditional values group, began a letter-writing campaign. "The law took the state's engineering community by surprise," the article proclaimed.

Eventually, the Alabama legislature received hundreds of calls from people protesting the legislation, at which point it became clear that the article — written by a physicist named Mark Boslough — was intended as a parody of legislative attempts to circumscribe the teaching of evolution.

1982: Alarming Bra Bad for Broadcasts In 1982, a newspaper reported an English bra manufacturer was using the same copper wiring for the under-wire that fire alarm producers were using. When the copper in these 10,000 "rogue bras" came into contact with nylon and body heat, "it produced static electricity which, in turn, was interfering with local television and radio broadcasts," Museum of Hoaxes says of the Daily Mail report. Upon learning of this hidden technology, British Telecom's chief engineer "immediately ordered that all female employees disclose what type of bra they were wearing."

Reviewing this today, perhaps this technology suggests an alternative energy source?

1878: Inventor Performs Miracles During 1877, many Americans felt greatly impressed by Thomas Edison's invention of the phonograph. So much so, in fact, that when The New York Graphic, Buffalo's Commercial Advertiser and other publications announced his latest invention — a process for transforming soil into cereal and water into wine — the following year, a whole lot of people willingly believed these special innovations that could end hunger were fact rather than fiction.

Check out Museum of Hoaxes for its Top 100 April Fool's Day Hoaxes of All Time and Wired Magazine's 10 Best: April Fools' Gags.

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