Growing Spaghetti

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The first of April has become notorious for rashes of pranks, accompanied by laughing and the timeless expression "April Fools". Normally these pranks are between, but occasionally the scale of these pranks is drastically heightened. One such occasion was on April 1, 1957 when much of England was fooled by a blatantly false news story from the BBC. The story was about spaghetti, and how the yields from the "spaghetti trees" that year were being threatened by severe cold weather. They went on to explain that each spaghetti strand was able to grow to the exact same length "thanks to years of hard work by generations of growers". The BBC even managed to procure images of farmers laying out their spaghetti crop to dry in the sun. Shortly after the segment concluded, hundreds of calls came into the BBC inquiring about the spaghetti crops and how one could grow their own spaghetti plants. Despite being absurd in itself, there were several other irregularities in the story that with proper applied thinking could have revealed the story for what it was.
In England, spaghetti is considered "exotic" and therefore is eaten only on rare occasion. So in some ways, it would be forgivable for these television viewers to be mistaken on the origin of spaghetti. But other claims made within the story should have given it away. Take for example the claim that farmers were able to grow each strand of spaghetti to the same length. The thought that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence applies here. The only explanation the BBC offered for this extraordinary phenomenon was the hard work of many generation of spaghetti farmers. This explanation simply is not good enough to account for the extraordinary claim. Another way to disprove that claim would be through replicability. Has there ever been a crop in which one could expect uniform growth patterns with every single unit of the yield? The simple answer is no, in fact, it's impossible to have that sort of control over growth patterns. Since there are no crops that are able to achieve that degree of uniform growth, it must not be a crop at all.
The other small detail involved the photo in which the farmers were laying out their "crop" to dry in the sun. It was claimed by the BBC that the crop was harvested in March, a known winter month in the northern hemisphere. How could one expect crops to dry in the sun during the winter? There really is no scientific thinking principle that covers this, but with any sort of common sense it would have been an easily noticed fallacy.
There was a simple way to avoid this mass prank and it lies in not believing the first thing you hear about something you know little about. Or in other words, having a healthy sense of skepticism. The English people knew little about spaghetti at the time and took a reputable news source and their story for their usual reliability. It's easy to see how they could be fooled, for there was a great degree of trust in the BBC. Basically, you have to disregard trust and allow your perception of a SET of data do the judging. Never allow one source's word to be yours.

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This page contains a single entry by devor038 published on October 23, 2011 7:14 PM.

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