Monday, April 15, 2013

Post Mortem on an April Fool's day joke

Recall that on April Fools Day I had a post about R(5) being discovered via a collaboration of Math and History. Many readers emailed me asking how many people were fooled (apparently they weren't!). I can't tell if it fooled ANY of my astute readers, though I hope it amused them. I CAN tell how many of my STUDENTS if fooled. I did an experiment on my class for which I CAN report the results.

  1. All semester I gave would say things like there has been some progress on R(5), but I'll talk about that later
  2. On March 28 I gave them my paper Ramsey Theory and the History of Pre-Christian England: An Example of Interdisciplinary Research and told them that I was going to do an experiment with the flipped classroom concept (this is Real educational thing)- they would read the paper, and on Tues Apr 2 I would give them a quiz on it (to make sure they read it) and we would discuss it.
I DID give them a quiz, but I asked them to NOT sign it so it was more of a survey. Here is a summary of the questions, the stats on it, and what to make of it. 17 people took the quiz (the class has 16 and some auditors.)
  1. When did you Realize it was a hoax?
    1. When I first took this quiz: 5
    2. When I saw that Fifty shades of Grey was one of the references: 1
    3. When I went to the website that was supposed to have R(5) and it revealed the hoax: 3
    4. When I saw the name H.K. Donnut: 2
    5. When I read your April 1 blog: 1
    6. When I heard other students talk about it (though I kind of knew anyway): 4
    7. When I read the title: 1
    UPSHOT: I would count answers 1,2,3 as being fooled. So NINE were fooled. An earlier proofreader believed it because he wanted to so badly.
  2. Was it okay to have you read a hoax paper? (NOTE: My wife thought NO.)
    1. This assignment was awesome!: 9
    2. Liked learning to not always belief a prof: 1 (When I tell him the Large Ramsey Theorem can't be prove in PA will he say That's bullshit man!):
    3. Assignment was okay (I could tell these people were not amused): 7
    4. Okay as far as it goes, but 10 pages! C'mon, that's too much: 1 (This is quite fair, but it was an easy read).
    UPSHOT: I all it a success!
  3. Which of the names are Real and which did I make up?
    1. Eugene Wigner. REAL. Fake:4, Real:13. Name does sound funny.
    2. Herbert Scarf. REAL. Fake:9 Real:8. Real name that fooled the most people.
    3. Samuel Harrington. REAL. Fake:1 Real:16
    4. Dorwin Cartrwright. REAL. Fake: 6 Real: 11. I thought this would fool more people.
    5. Frank Harary. REAL. Fake: 3, Real: 14 (One thought I misspelled the real name. I didn't, but given my bad spelling, and the nature of the name, I can see why they thought so.)
    6. Charles Percy Snow. REAL. Fake: 5, Real: 12
    7. Jacob Fox. REAL. Fake:3, Real: 14. I've met him, he's real!
    8. Sandor Szalai. REAL. Fake: 4, Real: 13. Looks fake to me.
    9. Paul Erdos. REAL. Fake: 0, Real: 17. Seems like a mythical figure.
    10. Paul Turan. REAL. Fake: 3, Real: 14. One thought it was a play on Turing.
    11. Vera Sos. REAL. Fake: 3, Real: 14. I'm surprised people thought this name is real- I wouldn't have.
    12. Sir Woodson Kneading. FAKE- It's an anagram of Doris Kearns Goodwin, historian. Fake: 10, Real: 7. I'm amazed that 7 thought it was real.
    13. H.K. Donnut. FAKE- It's an anagram of Don Knuth. Fake: 13. Real: 4. Looks so fake it has to be Real? I was originally going to use Hal D.K. Donnut which is an anagram for Donald Knuth. I still don't know which looks more real.
    14. Moss Chill Beaches- FAKE- it's an anagram of Michael Beschloss, a presidential historian (He studies presidents, he is not, himself presidential). Fake: 13, Real: 4. My most fake looking name.
    15. Tim Andrer Grant- FAKE- It's an anagram of Martin Gardner. Fake: 5, Real:12. Tim is a reasonable first name, Grant is a reasonable last name, and Andrer--- well, middle names are sometimes weird.
    16. Alma Rho Grand- FAKE- It's an anagram of Ronald Graham. Fake: 14, Real: 3. My favorite fake name.
    17. D.H.J. Polymath- FAKE, but not my invention. It's used on the Polymath paper that proved the Density Hales Jewitt Theorem using elem methods (see here). Fake: 12, Real: 5. The people who thought it was real were either kidding OR read the question as a trick question Fake name that BILL MADE UP-- this is a fake name but BILL didn't make it up.
    18. Ana Writset- FAKE, It's an anagram of Ian Stewart. Fake: 4, Real: 13. Fake name that fooled the most people.
    19. Tee A. Cornet- FAKE- It's an anagram of Terence Tao. Fake: 8. Real:9. Is Tee anyone's first name?
    20. Andy Parrish- REAL. Fake: 1, Real: 16. I hope he's real, he's one of my proofreaders.
    21. Stephen Fenner- REAL. Fake: 1, Real: 16. I hope he's real- I taught him the construction of an r.e. minimal pair.
    22. Clyde Kruskal- REAL. Fake: 0, Real: 17. Real on a good day.
    One of the students who knew the Fake names were anagrams, and thought Dorwin Cartrwright was fake, spend an hour trying to find the anagram it was of. Can people spot fake names easily? I doubt it since many real names look fake, and many fake names look real. Along those lines, what do the stage names Clint Eastwood and Dolly Parton have in common? See here for the answer.
  4. Speculate on how I came up with the false names. Most left this blank. Some said Anagrams, some mentioned anagram-programs on the web (I did use one), some said random-name-generator pointing out that Vera Sos and Sandor Szalai look like they were produced by a not-very-good random name generator.
    UPSHOT: As Blanch Nail Roam said You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.


  1. I'll admit it - I was fooled :D After reading through this article and back to the references, I said D'oh - you got me :D

    I think you have a typo - it's post mortem, not mordem.

    Have a great day

  2. Thanks to both of you, its fixed now.
    The typo was NOT part of a joke.