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Fooled you: another year, another hoax

Photo: Flickr/Joey Rozier

The day’s origins are contested, but the web remains a breeding ground for April Fools’ gags, be it Starbucks’ new Mobile Pour campaign with scooter-delivery services, Hulu’s back-in-time home page, or news like Virgin founder Richard Branson purchasing Pluto in order to restore its planetary status.

For better or for worse, putting up a prank on April 1 has become de rigueur for many brands and media outlets. This year, YouTube got into the game with its  Top 5 Viral Pictures of 1911 and the Guardian — its hoax history dating back to a feature on the imaginary island of San Serriffe in the pre-Internet days of 1977 — rolled out a live royal wedding blog, complete with leaked “transcript” of Prince Harry’s best man speech.

Google continued its annual ritual with Gmail Motion, which introduced revolutionary motion-activated e-mail capabilities, and Comic Sans for Everyone, declaring the often persecuted font a soon-to-be Internet standard (Google “Comic Sans” for yourself and see) .

Whether you were the perpetrator or the victim, what are some of your favorite April Fools’ jokes, online or off? Post your comments below.

The facts (and fictions) of life

Photo: Flickr/Leonardo Aguiar

As anyone with an older sibling already knows by now, learning about the “birds and the bees” is a process that’s rife with opportunities for misinformation. (My own older sister exercised great creative license by feeding me stories about the role of the female penis in the human mating ritual when I was in first grade. That kind of breathtaking deception was still possible in the pre-Google days.)

In this week’s New Yorker, Jill Lepore examines books that attempt to cut through the apocryphal tales and explain sex to kids with varying degrees of success. (Fun discovery of the day: Peter Mayle started out his literary career by penning two sex-ed books for tweens, “‘Where Did I Come From?’: The Facts of Life Without Any Nonsense and with Illustrations” (1973) and “‘What’s Happening to Me?’: The Answers to Some of the World’s Most Embarrassing Questions” (1975), before moving to France and reinventing himself as the Bard of Provence.) After surveying the classics of the genre, Lepore concludes that, “If you, too, find it embarrassing to talk with your kids about sex, take heart: the authors of many of these books appear to be just as terrible at it as the rest of us.”

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Harvard acknowledges review of prominent scientist’s work

Harvard University is known for the lumbering pace at which it investigates its own faculty members. As Edward Tenner at The Atlantic points out, officials at Harvard’s medical school have amended the conflict-of-interest policies there, but still refuse even to acknowledge an ongoing investigation into alleged improprieties among some of the school’s faculty members.

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