Wednesday, March 31, 2010

History of April Fool’s Day

Tomorrow, we are celebrating All Fools Day, there is why there is quite understandable that related searches are topping the Google Search Trends. I will use this excuse for shameless self-promotion, referring to my blog, dedicated to the hoaxes and pranks:

Today, I would like present the post dedicated to the April Fool’s Day History.

The history of April Fool’s Day or All Fool’s Day is uncertain, but the current thinking is that it began around 1582 in France with the reform of the calendar under Charles IX. The Gregorian Calendar was introduced, and New Year’s Day was moved from March 25 - April 1 (new year’s week) to January 1.

Communication traveled slowly in those days and some people were only informed of the change several years later. Still others, who were more rebellious refused to acknowledge the change and continued to celebrate on the last day of the former celebration, April 1. These people were labeled "fools" by the general populace, were subject to ridicule and sent on "fool errands," sent invitations to nonexistent parties and had other practical jokes played upon them. The butts of these pranks became known as a "poisson d’avril" or "April fish" because a young naive fish is easily caught. In addition, one common practice was to hook a paper fish on the back of someone as a joke.


This harassment evolved over time and a custom of prank-playing continue on the first day of April. This tradition eventually spread elsewhere like to Britain and Scotland in the 18-th century and was introduced to the American colonies by the English and the French. Because of this spread to other countries, April Fool’s Day has taken on an international flavor with each country celebrating the holiday in its own way.

In Scotland, for instance, April Fool’s Day is devoted to spoofs involving the buttocks and as such is called Taily Day. The butts of these jokes are known as April ’Gowk’, another name for cuckoo bird. The origins of the "Kick Me" sign can be traced back to the Scottish observance.


In England, jokes are played only in the morning. Fools are called ’gobs’ or ’gobby’ and the victim of a joke is called a ’noodle.’ It was considered back luck to play a practical joke on someone after noon.


In Rome, the holiday is known as Festival of Hilaria, celebrating the resurrection of the god Attis, is on March 25 and is also referred to as "Roman Laughing Day."

In Portugal, April Fool’s Day falls on the Sunday and Monday before lent. In this celebration, many people throw flour at their friends.

The Huli Festival is celebrated on March 31 in India. People play jokes on one another and smear colors on one another celebrating the arrival of Spring.


So, no matter where you happen to be in the world on April 1, don’t be surprised if April fools fall playfully upon you.

And for those who always prefer video presentation the following clip will briefly present the Fool's Day History:

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Trojan.fakealert.5: Do you need to reinstall Windows?

The massive virus contamination by Trojan.fakealert.5 stroke the BitDefender users community, bringing the related searches to the top Google Hot Trends list. However, if you do not use BitDefender, you should not worry, and this is the only niche affected this time.

Yesterday, March 20, in the late afternoon, millions of users of famous antivirus BitDefender had their computers infected by a trojan virus type bearing the name “Trojan.fakealert.5. The company recommends all users to disable their anti-virus and give time to prepare a corrective update.

BitDefender users were surprised after updating to see all system files (dll) for Windows infected by “Trajoan.fakealert.5. This is a global phenomenon due to error, not a virus. This problem only occurs on those that are using 64-bit operating systems with the 64-bit version of BitDefender 2010.

If your computer does not work, does not respond … do not panic, all the users were asked to disable the real-time protection and to restore the infected files (if you did not deleted! If you need to reinstall your entire system) and wait until the next update of BitDefender.

Whitehatfirm received the following official response on the inquiry on the virus healing:

“Hi guys, I am Raluca and I’m writing on behalf of BitDefender just to apologize for this situation. We understand your frustration and we are surely working on a fix for this.
The faulty update has been removed and we are quickly working on a solution for the issues experienced by those who downloaded this update. Here is some background information on this problem:

Today (morning PST) we had an update for 64-bit systems (available on our servers between 8 AM and 11 30 AM PST) that caused multiple Windows and BitDefender files to be quarantined. We are creating a patch that will restore all quarantined files. The patch will be available shortly. We apologize for this error and we will work to prevent this from occurring again in the future.
BitDefender trojan alert update issue: BitDefender has released an alternative solution for users that are able to boot their systems. The details are available here:
Thank you very much for your understanding!”
And there the following email update:

“Again, we are very sorry for the situation created, due to our mistake we have caused many issues, and we understand and respect the magnitude of this circumstance.
Just to give you an update, the solutions can be found here:
If the provided solution does not work for you, then please try to run the patch in safe mode and contact our support lines with the exact error message, check out or our @bitdefender Twitter account.
Thank you again for your understanding, we will keep you updated!”

Many users already reported that they are voting against the BitDefender by switching to other antivirus providers. Actually, as this alert is fake, be cool, and do not panic. Most of the damage happened is related to the users’ attempts to resolve the situation and clean “affected” files.

I am not using BitDefender, and I would never use commercial antivirus solution as far as the free option with high quality of security exist, as Avira, Avast, and AVG!  But I for those who trusted BitDefender, I would recommend to leave it for good. Such errors are absolutely unacceptable for any antivirus provider.

Again, the solution is posted on the BitDefender website:

The KB article describing the solution for home users is available here since 3 PM PST:
For BitDefender Client Security the patch with instructions is available here:

For BitDefender Security for File Servers please follow the instructions is available here:

Monday, March 15, 2010

Pi Day: History, Jokes, and Celebration

The good thing of following Google Top Trends is ability to learn something new “off the beaten path”. The multiple searches, related to “Pi”, today mark the special holiday – Pi Day.

Google celebrated the holiday with the main search page design:

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Now, I do not really have to explain to you the reason behind today being Pi Day, do I? In case the obvious is lost on you, check the date. Today is March 14, 2010. In figures, that 3/14/2010. Now you’re catching on…

Official Acknowledgement

Last year, House of Representatives officially honored pi, the Greek letter symbolizing that great constant in mathematics representing the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, for the first time.

An irrational number that has been calculated to more than 1 trillion digits, pi is a concept not totally foreign to today’s Washington. But in this case, the goal was to promote efforts by the National Science Foundation to improve math education in the United States, especially in the critical fourth to eighth grades.
Rounded off, pi equates to 3.14, hence the designation of March 14 as Pi Day under the resolution. Informal celebrations have been held around the country for at least 20 years, but in 2009, 391-10 vote is the first time Congress has joined the party.

The fact that March 14 is also the birthday of Albert Einstein — adding to the convergence of big ideas.

A Brief History of π

Pi has been known for almost 4000 years—but even if we calculated the number of seconds in those 4000 years and calculated pi to that number of places, we would still only be approximating its actual value. Here’s a brief history of finding pi:

The ancient Babylonians calculated the area of a circle by taking 3 times the square of its radius, which gave a value of pi = 3. One Babylonian tablet (ca. 1900–1680 BC) indicates a value of 3.125 for pi, which is a closer approximation.

Rhind Papyrus (ca.1650 BC), there is evidence that the Egyptians calculated the area of a circle by a formula that gave the approximate value of 3.1605 for pi.

The ancient cultures mentioned above found their approximations by measurement. The first calculation of pi was done by Archimedes of Syracuse (287–212 BC), one of the greatest mathematicians of the ancient world. Archimedes approximated the area of a circle by using the Pythagorean Theorem to find the areas of two regular polygons: the polygon inscribed within the circle and the polygon within which the circle was circumscribed. Since the actual area of the circle lies between the areas of the inscribed and circumscribed polygons, the areas of the polygons gave upper and lower bounds for the area of the circle. Archimedes knew that he had not found the value of pi but only an approximation within those limits. In this way, Archimedes showed that pi is between 3 1/7 and 3 10/71.

A similar approach was used by Zu Chongzhi (429–501), a brilliant Chinese mathematician and astronomer. Zu Chongzhi would not have been familiar with Archimedes’ method—but because his book has been lost, little is known of his work. He calculated the value of the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter to be 355/113. To compute this accuracy for pi, he must have started with an inscribed regular 24,576-gon and performed lengthy calculations involving hundreds of square roots carried out to 9 decimal places.

Mathematicians began using the Greek letter π in the 1700s. Introduced by William Jones in 1706, use of the symbol was popularized by Euler, who adopted it in 1737.

An 18th century French mathematician named Georges Buffon devised a way to calculate pi based on probability.


You would be surprised how many people actually celebrate the day, sending e-cards, solving puzzles, listening related tunes, and sharing jokes. It is not too late to join the party now.

Popular Pi Jokes
Q: What do you get when you cut a jack o'lantern by its diameter?
A: Pumpkin Pi!

Q: What do you get when you take green cheese and divide its circumference by its diameter?
A: Moon Pi.

Q:What do you get when you take the sun and divide its circumference by its diameter?
A: Pi in the sky.

Mathematician: "Pi r squared"
Baker:" No! Pies are round, cakes are square!

Question: What do we get when we take the object and order the rim by the diameter?
Answer: Pi in the sky by and by.

A shoe seller meets a mathematician and complains that he does not know what  size shoes to buy. "No problem," says the mathematician, "there is a simple equation for that," and he shows him the Gaussian normal distribution. The shoe seller stares some time at het equation and asks, "What is that symbol?" "That is the Greek letter pi." "What is pi?" "That is the ratio between the circumference and the diameter of a circle." Upon this the shoe seller cries out: "What does a circle have to do with shoes?!"

Pi Music

Do not think that the Pi Day celebration is not a serious event. Martin Gaskell composed an entire musical suite, devoted to Pi: Pi Acres Suite (Op. 3.14159).

Review the entire suite (you can listen this nice serious music by clicking on the selected link below):

How to Celebrate

Yes, this year, the holiday is over. But read some recommendations on how to celebrate the Pi day, and you will be fully prepared for next year event.

1.       Convert things into pi. This step is absolutely necessary for two reasons: To utterly confuse people who have no idea what you are talking about (thus opening the door for enlightenment) and to have fun seeing how many things can be referenced with pi. Consider two approaches:
  • Convert naturally circular things into radians like the hours on the clock. Instead of it being 3 o'clock, now it's 1/2*pi o'clock. Or, instead of it being 3 o'clock, convert the inclination of the sun into radians and describe that as the time.
  • Simply use 3.14 as a unit of measure. Instead of being 31 years old, you are 9pi years old (approaching your 10th birthday). With this same approach, you can find out your next pi birthday (don't forget to celebrate it when it comes!).
2.       Play pi games and make strange mathematical endeavors. These are in the same step because many math nerds consider them the same thing. There are plenty of traditional games that are appropriate on Pi Day, like a pinata, a pie-eating contest or pie-in-the-face fundraiser, etc. Play Pi Day versions of "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" or "Jeopardy;" conduct a Pi Day Scavenger Hunt. Of course, being nerds, there are more intriguing things to do like writing a pi-ku or pi-em, holding a pi memorization or recitation contest, discussing different ways to derive pi, seeing who can write pi in the most noticeable (though legal) place on campus, at work, etc., calculate the average error experienced when using 3.14 as an approximation, finding your name, birthday, ATM pin, etc. in pi, finding pi in pi, or discussing what things would be like without pi (the earth being a square and so on). This list could literally go on and on; hopefully this is enough to give you ideas of your own.

 Eat 'pi' foods. Many creative ways exist to do this. First, there's the punny approach, like eating pineapple, pizza, or pine nuts and drinking pina coladas or pineapple juice. Second, there's the shape approach, like making cookies or pancakes shaped like pi or making a pie with a pi cut out of the center of the crust. Of course, whatever you do, Pi Day is simply incomplete without eating pie, even if you don't feel artistic enough to carve the pi symbol out of the top.

      Do a pi mile run. Go on a run for pi miles. You can take this a step further by organizing a pi mile run.

      Get married on Pi Day. There's nothing more romantic than being married to the one you love at 1:59:26 PM on March 14th to show that, like Pi, your love will continue forever… Or, maybe, get divorced. If your marriage has been a miserable failure, this day may a day of your liberation…
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