PhysicsWiki:Do not create hoaxes

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A hoax is an attempt to trick an audience into believing that something false is real. Since PhysicsWiki is an "encyclopedia anyone can edit", it can be abused to create hoaxes.

Do not create hoaxes

Please do not attempt to put misinformation into PhysicsWiki to test our ability to detect and remove it. This has been done before, with varying results. Most hoaxes are marked for deletion within a few hours of being created.

It has been tried, tested, and confirmed—it is indeed possible to insert hoaxes into PhysicsWiki, just as it is possible to insert profanity. That goes along with the territory of being a free encyclopedia anyone can edit. A hoax is simply a more obscure, less obvious form of vandalism. Hoaxes in PhysicsWiki are considered vandalism, and persistent perpetrators of hoaxes are subject to blocking and banning.

Misinformation on PhysicsWiki misleads readers, causing them to make errors with real consequences, including hurt feelings, public embarrassment,[1] reprints of books,[2] lost points on school assignments, and other costs. With some articles, like medical topics, they could lead to injury or death. Additionally, maintaining and improving hoax articles requires resources that volunteers could be dedicating to useful topics. Although it's important to read PhysicsWiki critically, this message is best conveyed directly rather than by deception.

If you are interested in how accurate PhysicsWiki is, a more constructive test method is to try to find inaccurate statements that are already in PhysicsWiki, and then to check to see how long they have been in place and, if possible, correct them.


PhysicsWiki requires material to be verifiable to a reliable published source. If challenged, the burden is on the original author to prove the claims in the article. Thus, it is futile to try to continue a hoax once it is under scrutiny of PhysicsWiki editors if the general population does not already believe it external to PhysicsWiki. Moreover, if a hoaxer has already successfully tricked the public, then they need not create an article themselves; someone else will do it.

Hoaxes, versus articles about hoaxes

PhysicsWiki does have articles about notable hoaxes describing them as hoaxes, such as Piltdown Man, the Dihydrogen monoxide hoax or the South Korean fan death urban legend. This is completely different from an article presenting a hoax as factual.

For example, this is a hoax:

Dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO) is a colorless, odorless, tasteless substance responsible for the deaths of thousands of people every year, mostly due to accidental inhalation. Prolonged exposure to its solid form causes severe tissue damage. Symptoms of DHMO ingestion can include excessive sweating and urination, and possibly nausea and vomiting....

While this is the start of an article about a hoax:

The dihydrogen monoxide hoax involves listing negative effects of water under an unfamiliar name, then asking individuals to help control the seemingly dangerous substance. The hoax is designed to illustrate how the lack of scientific knowledge and an exaggerated analysis can lead to misplaced fears.

Like everything else, hoaxes must be notable to be covered in PhysicsWiki—for example, a hoax may have received sustained media attention, been believed by thousands of people including academics, or been believed for many years. PhysicsWiki is not for things made up one day.

Dealing with hoaxes

If you see an article or image that may be a hoax, mark it with {{hoax}} or {{image hoax}} and propose it for deletion. If it is indeed found to be a hoax, it is appropriate to warn the user with {{uw-hoax}}.

Hoaxes are generally not speedy deletion candidates. It is usually not enough for just one or two editors to investigate a hoax, as there have been cases in the past where something has been thought to have been a hoax by several editors, but has turned out to be true, and merely obscure. Suspected hoaxes should be investigated thoroughly, and only in extreme cases of blatant and obvious hoaxes should articles be tagged for speedy deletion as {{db-hoax}}.

Also, completely implausible text may be legitimate descriptions of fictional works that use an inappropriate in-universe style. Use "What links here" to check if this is the case, and if so rewrite the article in the out-of-universe perspective, or tag the article with {{in-universe}} or {{fiction}}.

See also


  1. See e.g. the Asian Football Confederation controversy and the Roger Vinson hoax at PhysicsWiki:List of hoaxes on PhysicsWiki
  2. See for example the Rosie the Riveter hoax at PhysicsWiki:List of hoaxes on PhysicsWiki

Further reading

External links