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YouTube perpetuates Gatorade-onion hoax

December 2, 2009

The YouTube video below was posted two years ago and has been watched eight million times. It purports to show how to charge a media player for up to 20 minutes using Gatorade and an onion. It seems like a great scientific demo, doesn’t it? The item was featured yesterday on the YouTube Edu page and I hadn’t seen it before, so I thought “maybe I’ll blog that.”

UNFORTUNATELY, THIS IS A HOAX. A well-documented Wikipedia article details how the technique was publicly disproved on both Mythbusters and ABC News. The producers of the video, Household Hacker, actually advertise their website as a place to find pranks, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that this video is a deliberate fraud.

Instead of contributing to my enthusiasm about how much awesome stuff is out there on the web, this incident reminded me that one always has to be careful to verify sources. The folks at YouTube Edu should never have posted this video under the heading “100 days of HowTo.” It’s more like “100 days of Hoaxes.” I have the feeling that some well-intended person thought it looked cool but didn’t do any fact-checking.

Below is the YouTube video of Mythbusters disproving the hoax. The fraud has been seen 100 times more often, though; I guess we just want to believe…

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