Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Fooling our elders...

really isn't that hard to do. Nevertheless, the kids never seem to tire of it.

An email was forwarded to the staff of my school last week by a well-meaning colleague. She was amazed by a videoclip and corresponding story and thought it should be shared with the school's music and physics students. Here's the story and the clip.

Turn your sound on for this.

This is almost unbelievable. See how all of the balls wind up in catcher cones.

This incredible machine was built as a collaborative effort between the Robert M. Trammell Music Conservatory and the Sharon Wick School of Engineering at the University of Iowa. Amazingly, 97% of the machines Components came from John Deere Industries and Irrigation Equipment of Bancroft, Iowa, yes farm equipment!

It took the team a combined 13,029 hours of set-up, alignment, calibration, and tuning before filming this video but as you can see it was WELL worth the effort.

It is now on display in the Matthew Gerhard Alumni Hall at the University and is already slated to be donated to the Smithsonian. ENJOY

My colleague was so enthused, she added the claim that "this is not computer-generated" to her forwarding note.

But of course, I'm the jerk on your distribution list who assumes such thing are not what they are claimed to be. It turns out, sometimes things sent through "teh intertubes" are hoaxes. And this was, of course, one of them.

Having discovered the truth of the story and the clip with minimal google-fu, I copied and pasted the Snopes link into a "Reply to All," cringed a little bit, and sent it out.

Since I've done this before, the deluge of admonishing replies has abated somewhat. For the uninitiated, the way these episodes go is as follows: The person who sends the hoax is regarded as a happy-go-lucky victim with a positive outlook on life, but the person who responds with the truth is regarded as a curmudgeonly killjoy. It works like that every time. One respondent this time pleaded, "Please don't tell my children about the tooth fairy." (The only correct response to which is to feign total belief in the reality of the tooth fairy.)

I ran it by my AP students and they told me the clip's source just a few seconds into play. They dialed up the Snopes page in a few seconds more. To the eyes of those familiar with computer-generated images (CGI), the clip was clearly the work of microprocessors.

We had a little post-debunking discussion in which they agreed that the people who forward such messages have at least one thing in common. They are of a certain age. My students don't forward such things and don't get them from peers. They always come from an elder: an aunt, uncle, grandmother, grandfather, etc.

There's a thesis in there somewhere for an aspiring Ph.D candidate. My take? Few people under 30 would be fooled by this hoax, but many people over 60 would be. Between 30 and 60, it's a toss-up. But I could be wrong.

The hoaxters laid it on thick with all the proper names in their email message. Other than The University of Iowa and The Smithsonian, all other institutions mentioned are non-existent. Google "The Sharon Wick School of Engineering" or any of the others and you'll be directed to some version of this hoax. And for the record, the Hawkeyes are not amused. No word on what the creators of Animusic think of it.


Anonymous said...

I ran across this one in my school; I didn't get it myself, but a math teacher was describing it at the lunch table. It instantly sounded like Animusic, and my gut response was: "Huh? How could you possibly think that's real?"


dmbenning said...

You know you are right -- every time I shoot down the ear candles or where the middle finger came from, whatever the latest hoax is, I end up being the bad guy. Ever had the determinism argument with anyone, why do they want destiny but still want to control their lives? My wife still says I should learn to be more romantic!


Anonymous said...

Where do these people suppose the balls are coming from in the first scene, how they're going different directions in the third and fourth out of one hole, and - best of all, I think - how in the world do the vibraphone bars _light up_ when they're struck?!


Stevie Ray said...

The observation which OBVIOUSLY makes this "machine" impossible is the fact that the balls hit cylindrical surfaces (rods) and yet their trajectories are completely predictable when it comes to "catching" the balls for "re-launch".
I think the "older" folks who are fooled by this are ones who never had any experience actually tinkering with objects in the real world (e.g., building Rube Goldberg Machines, etc.).
It is interesting that the younger folks debunk this from a viewpoint that, although more techno-savy, still lacks real world hands-on knowledge.

Lynn said...

There are people of all ages who fall for hoaxes like this and many of them seem to be reasonably intelligent people. It's extremely puzzling. I don't understand how anyone could fail to immediately recognize this as animation.

It's sad, really. I've seen this and other Animusic videos and find the animation itself delightful. The people who believe hoaxes like this - they are the ones who are missing out on the joy and wonder in the world.

Serenity Studios: House of Massage said...

I fit into the "elders" category in terms of age, but not attitude. Most folks have learned not to forward stuff to me at all. But every now and then I get something along those lines. Usually I simply delete it. Sometimes, though, I am hard-pressed to keep my yap shut, so I do the usually-very-easy task of verifying if it's fact or not, then can't stop myself from sending a polite note back to the sender when it's - inevitably - not true. On rare occasion, I send my response to everyone they forwarded the silly thing to in the first place. Somehow I'm too stupid to stop being surprised at the angry responses I get in return. Your statement about the happy go lucky and the curmudgeonly killjoy are right on the money. I appreciate the clarity you put on that subject. How lazy have the "elders" become? And how gullible?