“Cook an egg with mobile phones” hoax exposed

A few weeks ago, I blogged about a web page, purportedly written by two college students, discussing how to cook an egg using two mobile phones. The page had been slowly wending its way through the blogosphere, and a few days after my posting it hit Boing Boing and Slashdot, whereupon it totally blew up.

But as several commenters on my posting noted, the story seemed like a hoax. Having guilelessly posted it, I gamely attempted a few half-hearted defenses of my gullibility … until the actual hoaxster himself arrived to explain that indeed, it was all a joke, and I was simpy too gormless to have seen through it. Winner.

Anyway, the folks at Gelf Magazine actually interviewed the hoaxster, and discovered that it is Charlie Ivermee, a 60-year-old British man. Ivermee confirmed that the hoax has enjoyed several epidemiological outbreaks of success: It got 50,000 hits last September, and the week Boing Boing and Slashdot wrote about it, another 18,500 visitors came by:

“I really underestimated how many people would take it seriously,” he tells Gelf over email. “No other page on the site has grabbed people’s attention and ire button as much as this one. What seems to be happening is that it ‘travels’ from blog to blog, forum to forum. It was big in Australia last year and seems to be big in the US right now.” [snip]

Why did he write the piece? “It was 6 years ago but I seem to recall that there was a lot of concern about people’s brains getting fried and being from a radio/electronics background I found it all rather silly,” he writes. “So I thought I’d add to the silliness.”

(Thanks to David Goldenberg for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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