Thursday, August 07, 2008

Physicist Debunks Cellphone Popcorn Viral Videos

Our own Skeptic-in-Residence, Amanda Melcher, found this cool story on's blog The Underwire:
YouTube videos that show a group of friends apparently cooking kernels of popcorn with their cellphones have been viewed more than a million times since they were uploaded last week.

The clever parlor trick (see embedded clip) looks amazing enough, but there's a hitch: It's not physically possible, according to University of Virginia physics professor Louis Bloomfield... (read on)

I was reminded of how much effort libraries and librarians put into teaching their users how to recognize the authority of the information they find on the Internet. A well-known example of this problem is illustrated by a web site that appears to be dedicated to a civil rights icon of the 20th century. At first glance, the site appears to be a legitimate source of information, but one sees warning signs a mere click or two into the content.

In addition to the popular, there are a number of terrific library guides that show you how to evaluate the information you've found. My favorite is the CRAAP (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose) Test, developed by the library at California State University in Chico. (Here's one page devoted to the CRAAP Test, hosted by the library at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology.)

Just for fun, here's another recent and widely circulated urban legend. I wonder how many bottles of soda were wasted on this one: The Mountain Dew Glow!

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