Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Internet Hoaxes and Legends in PDI Editorial

PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER won't be feeling much Pride over its Editorial today after folks in the Blogosphere and the Email Mills have a look at the claimed Filipino inventions, which are really old-hat hoaxes and recycled urban legends familiar to many who are Online--
We can take pride in our inventors, one of whom, Eduardo C. San Juan, designed the lunar rover, more popularly known as the moon buggy. It made possible a wide-ranging exploration of the moon’s surface during the 1971 Apollo lunar mission. Among other Filipino inventions that are benefiting thousands, if not millions of people all over the world, are the incubator, the fluorescent lamp, the videophone, the one-man-band organ (that led eventually to the development of the karaoke), the bread toaster, the reflectorized circular lamp and the power tiller.
The bread toaster? Hmm, even Google doesn't seem to know the answer to that one! I never thought I would publish a line like the following in Philippine Commentary, but it's called for:


This is even worse than when the Manila Times published front page stories last year that a UP Professor working for the paper had won the Nobel Prize in Physics for disproving the 1991 proof of Fermat's Last Theorem due to Andrew Wiles, (a mathematics problem!). At least that hoax was quickly exposed with a few quick checks on the right websites. But it was a hoax the paper never acknowledged they were stung by. PDI's claims are perhaps too easy to spread before they can be refuted.

Maybe PDI will be different. Maybe they will realize how stupid and ridiculous Filipinos will sound whenever they repeat the false claims they've just read in the nation's most widely read broadsheet. PDI is not a tabloid. It's as if the New York Times editorialized that the earth is flat and an American discovered it. (It's that ludicrous!)

Filipinos will only learn False Pride from this editorial.

That bit about E. San Juan "designing" the Lunar Exploratory Module represents an ignorant misunderstanding of the huge collective scientific, engineering and operational effort the Apollo Space Program of NASA was. It's been a myth in the making for well over a quarter of a century now. E. San Juan participated in the program along with many, many others. It is the naivete of nationalists eager to raise Filipinos up to greatness with false claims and urban legends. Tens of Thousands of physicists, engineers, aerodynamicists, material scientists and technicians of all kinds worked on Apollo. The LEM itself involved a whole specialized group that numbered hundreds of people. As for the incubator, the fluorescent lamp, the bread toaster, I must leave some of the task to many others online, who will grin again as we encounter the same reluctance to just G o o g l e things before someone publishes 300,000 copies of incredible Filipino "Pride"! Yet Filipinos the world over, as the rest of the editorial correctly points out, are great human beings worthy of the nations and communities in which they work. There was no need to embellish it all with urban legends and known email sludge. (Like that a Filipino named Flores invented the "fluorescent bulb". Get it?)

But of course the editorial continues the ceaseless mythologizing about "People Power" as a Filipino "invention." Which may have been the real point of the editorial exercise. I recommend reading The Paradox of People Power here at Philippine Commentary.

SPEAKING OF INVENTIONS: Check out Bill Gates' remarks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He argues for equipping the poor countries with cheap mobile phones (cell phones) as a means of delivering computer power. This, as opposed to John Negroponte's much discussed $100 laptop computer idea. There's a long thread at Memeorandum Tech on this topic. I say, give us both since the laptops are really best used as NODES in a network. The network may as well be wireless. Now here's where Filipinos have made real inventions of true benefit to mankind. Like Pasa Load -- the high technology of the tingi.

Thanks to Amadeo in the Comment Thread for this correction: It's NICHOLAS Negroponte involved with the $100 laptop at MIT.
(end of the day update).


Rizalist said...

Somebody please tell the guy who runs the Media Breakfast Club of Los Angeles. He was the expert in debunking these claims and legends. Heck it's one of the first things we blogged about back in 2002...there was whole slew of these


You're speaking of Bobby Reyes! Yep - he was good at that! He's a thorn on the side of the NAFFFA guys too.

By the way, DJB, you mentioned in your article "VFA-Will GMA do another Angelo de la Cruz" that Gloria is coming to Europe next month? Which country in Europe is she actually visiting?


jztan said...

This one below is my favorite Hoax cause even our president got bamboozled.

The great Deuterium hoax.

Meanwhile, the President [arroyo] said she would also look into reports of the abundant supply of deuterium, found in the open recesses of the Philippine Deep.


Rizalist said...

HB -- Thanks that's right Bobby Reyes. Have his email somewhere and found his site again. REgarding the trip next month I thought I read she was going to France.

JZTAN -- Yup the heavy water one. there's a million of 'em. Sad because the real accomplishments of real Filipinos are far more inspiring than the stuff that's made up. There's a lot we can be proud of us Filipinos, and they are all real things.

Amadeo said...


First, it is Nicholas Negroponte who is the MIT guy. John is the brother with the Bush Administration.

I had written about this in our little email group when it first came out because the prospect of the Philippines' getting part of the initial shipments was great. Negroponte had already then "decided" that the initial program would be in an Asian country. Was it Thailand or Malaysia? Or most likely, Laos. Can't remember. But anyway, now as programmed two countries in Asia will be the beneficiaries of the initial shipments.

Maybe PI should lobby for it to become that second country.

Rizalist said...

Thanks for the heads-up on that Amadeo. I'll post a correction right away.



You gotta be kidding... France?

Really now! Betcha Max Soliven will be in tow!

Has any date been set yet? Thanks.

Rizalist said...

HB, Supposedly Gma does not want to be here during the EDSA 1 commemorations. She must be going to inspect some nice new parliamentary models.


Hah! Inspect a parliamentary models? Who knows, a nation in Europe might take pity on her and show her around...

Seriously, I really would like to know if she is going to France.