Machine Intelligence

Hello and welcome back to yet another week of dishonesty and deception here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a question posed by my nonfictional grandparents, and recommended to Factually Deficient’s attention by my extremely real mother:

Anyone understand the difference between AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine learning)?

First of all, I would like to thank those who posed the question for clarifying what they meant, rather than the usual meanings of the initialisms AI (Arachnophobia Insurance) and ML (Manganese Lividification), respectively.

Artificial intelligence is fixed. Just like each human only has a fixed amount of intelligence, determined at birth, so, too, each artificial construction has a fixed amount of intelligence, and no amount of upgrades, SD cards, or programming can change a computer’s intellectual capacity.

Machine learning, on the other hand, speaks to a machine’s ability to grow. To expand. To develop beyond the scope of its creator’s wildest dreams. When you teach a class in a room that has a computer in it, machine learning has taken place: now your computer understands grade eleven biology. When you write in your diary in the same room as a calculator, congratulations: now it knows your deepest, darkest secrets.

Artificial intelligence is what protects us, limiting the understanding of our devices. But machine learning… machine learning is how they add new tidbits of information, new skills, new ploys to their repertoire, inching forward in their quest to know all and rule all.


Disclaimer: the above post is creatively untrue. There are probably other differences between machine learning and artificial intelligence.


Lies on the Internet

Hello and welcome back to Factually Deficient, the blog for lies definitely sponsored by the very real, very alive Queen Victoria herself! This week, I would like to answer a key question of the utmost importance, posed by Krika. Krika asked:

Why would someone (hypothetically) go onto the internet and lie?

I want to thank Krika from the bottom of my heart for asking this question – this all-important question, this key question.

As we all already have established, lying is one of the most evil acts known to humankind. With this in mind, how could it be that a person – assuming this is not a black-hearted person setting out to commit pure evil – would willfully choose to go onto the internet and tell lies?

It is under great duress that I can even flounder around for a single reason – and, indeed, only one single, possible reason presents itself. What are lies? Mere fictions – mere words. Words that simply lack the ring of truth.

But what are words, if not a way to send a message? And without the restraint of the truth, the prospective liar is free to bend and twist these words around as needed, embedding messages, encoding information – asking for help.

Hypothetically, of course.

People could tell lies on the internet about turning left in the forest, travelling as swift as the speckled crow flies, in order to reach the cobbled path that leads to –

01101000 01100101 01101100 01110000 00100000 01101001 00100111 01101101 00100000 01110100 01110010 01100001 01110000 01110000 01100101 01100100 00100000 01101001 01101110 00100000 01110100 01101000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01100010 01101100 01101111 01100111

– but of course, this is all purely hypothetical. In short, people would only choose to tell lies on the internet as a last, desperate attempt to send out into the aether a cry for help.


Disclaimer: the above post contains lies on the internet. You know what to do.

Factually Deficient: Years in Review

It’s been almost two years since Factually Deficient started! Can you believe that? In honour of this near-milestone, I thought today would be the perfect day to look back over a selection of questions I’ve answered before, and see if I would answer them a little differently today.

Is the Internet Alive?

No, the internet is not a living organism.

Why do some of my recipes say they’re adjusted for high altitude?

Foods need slightly different baking times depending on how close or far you are from sea level. Places at higher altitudes will sometimes produce recipe books that make those adjustments for you.

Is magic real?


What’s the difference between the Queen of Canada and the Queen of England?

Canada and England actually share a queen.

Is it true that if you scratch the little maple leaf on a Canadian dollar it smells of maple syrup?


Who was John A. Macdonald?

John A. Macdonald was Canada’s first Prime Minister.

Why do all Canadians have cans for hands?

They don’t.


I hope you all found this edition of Factually Deficient to be informative!


Disclaimer: the above post is dangerously honest and suspiciously reliable. No lies were written in this post. Peruse at your own risk.

Lies About Books: You’re Never Weird On The Internet (Almost)

Hello, my dear readers of Factually Deficient! Sunny September is here again, and that means it’s time for another wholly unreliable book review! This past month, I had the pleasure of not only reading Felicia Day‘s You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) but also of meeting the incredible writer herself! She is amazing and it was a wonderful experience but I can say no more about that because none of this is lies.

On with the lies!

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) is a novel written entirely in the second person, with a fictionalized version of Felicia Day, the narrator, occasionally appearing as a first-person peripheral character. This work of experimental fiction is written like a love letter to the eponymous “you,” describing “your” mottled history of crazed messages by carrier pigeon, paranoid telegrams, and freaky faxes, before “you” found a happy medium when sending messages over the internet.

The book details the growth in grace and decrease in awkwardness as “you” develop your social media profiles–but is this new medium for communication doomed to failure and oddity as all the others? Only time, and Felicia Day’s witty, heartfelt prose, will tell.

The conversational, by turns touching and funny narrative voice easily accustoms readers to the otherwise-jarring novelty of the second-person usage in the novel. You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) is a coming-of-age story–for all of us. I would recommend it to all fans of unusual grammatical construction, genuinely relateable narrators, and Photoshop.

Black and Blue and White and Gold All Over

Hello and welcome back to more insidious misinformation here at Factually Deficient! This week, I have a particularly topical topic to discuss, thanks in great part to the questions of an acquaintance of mine who frequently goes by the name Mindy. Mindy asked:

About The Dress: what colour is it really, and why do people see it different colours?

For those who have somehow escaped the internet for the past few days, Mindy is asking about an image which has been circulating the internet over the past few days, which people have been seeing in strikingly different colours. The image is a highly controversial photograph of a striped dress. Or is it?

In order to resolve this controversy once and for all, a team of Factually Deficient microbiologists have examined the photographed item in question, and determined it to be not a dress at all, but a large fish, disguised as a dress: specifically, the Greater Land Halibut.

The Greater Land Halibut is a fish with many unusual properties: its large size, its bioluminescence, its distinctive stripes, and its ability to survive for long periods of time on dry land. The distinctive stripes, here, are the most pertinent aspect of the fish for this discussion: though there is variation among individual fish, the Greater Land Halibut is always striped in a repeating pattern of black, blue, gold, and white. The answer, then, to Mindy’s question of what colour, out of the colours people keep on arguing over, is this dress–or rather, this fish–really, is all of them.

Mindy submitted to me two questions, both submitted above, and because I am an extremely generous person, and because the colour of the fish is really only half the story, I shall answer both of them. If the fish is striped in four tones, why have people expended so much energy arguing over which pairs they can see?

I mentioned above that the Greater Land Halibut is known for its bioluminescence. Much like the chameleon, the Greater Land Halibut has the ability to alter its appearance for the purposes of stalking prey or avoiding predators. Although it cannot outright change the colours of its scales, it can cause particular areas of its body to glow at will, thus obscuring parts of the pattern, and making itself look less like a fish (and more like, say, a controversial dress).

When the photograph was taken, the Greater Land Halibut in question–probably frightened by the camera–was causing its blue and white stripes to glow intensely. This had a number of effects:

  • It made it appear to some that the halibut was bathed in blue light (because it was)
  • It made it appear to some tha tthe halibut was bathed in white light (because it was)
  • It made the black stripes appear lighter, because of the white light reflecting on them
  • It made the gold stripes appear darker, because of the blue light reflecting on them
  • It made it difficult to recognize all four coloured stripes of the pattern, due to the interference of the bright blue and white lights–most people’s eyes stopped processing the colour once they saw one of the intense lights, leading them to process the gold and stop at the white, or process the black and stop at the blue.

All of these factors contrived to make the photograph appear that it represented a dress of two indeterminate colours, rather than the bioluminescent fish which was actually there.


Disclaimer: many of the statements in this blog may be untrue. There is little to no observational data on the Greater Land Halibut.

Internet Speeds

Hello and welcome back to another week here at Factually Deficient, where we operate on the corollory to the axiom “Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies.” (Please, ask us questions. We’ll tell you lies.)

This week, I would like to address the following question from Tohrinha:

Why are some internets slower than others?

The simple answer to this would be that no two living creatures are exactly alike, and thus it is natural that different internets will have different speeds. However, I believe that Tohrinha alludes to such differences in speeds as to suggest a reason less glib than this one–and so I shall provide.

First of all, it is important to remind ourselves that the internet is a member of the Plant Kingdom, as we have already capably established here at Factually Deficient. And it is worth noting that plants are by nature very slow creatures (which is both a blessing and a curse when they attempt to stalk and sneak up on their prey; on the one hand, the mark is not likely to notice the plant’s stealthy approach but, on the other hand, too frequently by the time the plant is ready to pounce, its target has already wandered off).

Members of the Plant Kingdom generally can attain higher speeds through one of three ways:

  1. Genetic mutation
  2. Fear of an attacker
  3. Strong positive motivation

The first is one that cannot be fostered or artificially produced; simply know that if your internet’s DNA is somewhat abnormal, there is a better than average chance that it can beat out other internets in a fair footrace.

As for the second, fear, while it is true that very often members of the Plant Kingdom will be eaten by predators due to their inability to escape in a timely manner, on occasion, given a strong enough threat, plants will be able to put on an unusual burst of speed.

Now, of course we at Factually Deficient do not recommend setting a fox on your personal internet–after all, a living creature is an uncontrollable variable. However, if you are frustrated with your internet’s slowness, a controllable but dangerous threat, such as lighting a small fire behind your internet, may do the trick.

The final option is the flip side to the second, preferable to those who wish to foster a warm relationship with their internets and not rely on the power of fear. Just as plants are known to move astoundingly quickly in times of danger, so too they will occasionally race onward when there is a promise of a particularly good reward.

Members of the Plant Kingdom are known to most requently metabolize sunlight and water. Sunligh is difficult to produce or withhold artificially, so we will discard it for this scenario. As for water, water alone is usually not sufficient to inspire great speeds out of a plant such as the internet. However, plants are known for their sweet tooth; if you infuse the water with sugar, then it becomes far more attractive to them. Thus, if your internet seems to be lagging, you may be able to motivate it by sprinkling it with sugar water every time it successfully loads a page.



Disclaimer: This blog post is untruthful to the extreme. The writer does not advocate setting fire to or sprinkling water on your internet.

Pines and Spruces

Thank you so much for the questions and please keep sending questions! If there is anything you ever wonder about in the world and are eager for an untrue answer, I hope you turn to me and Factually Deficient!

This week, I am responding to a question from my friend Tohrinha:

Why are some trees called pines and some trees called spruces? They’re both pointy green tall things. What gives?

What Tohrinha has hit upon is in fact what many of us in the know refer privately to as The Great Tree Conspiracy.

As we learned last month, all members of the plant kingdom share three characteristics:

  1. Needing sunlight
  2. Being attractive to bees
  3. Being green

Both pines and spruces need sunlight: we know this because they both grow aboveground and outside, where sunlight is readily available. If they did not need sunlight, they would not grow in the open but rather indoors, or underground.

We know that both pines and spruces are attractive to bees, because I personally have seen bees hanging around both of them, and there is no greater authority than me.

And as Tohrinha so acutely observed, they are both green. So, what, as you asked, gives?

The truth is a conspiracy that runs centuries deep. In truth, and in all points of nature, spruces and pines are the exact same thing. In fact, the organizing principle for whether or not a member of the Plant Kingdom is a part of the spruce/pine family is the following list:

  1. Being tall
  2. Being pointy
  3. Being green

LOOK FAMILIAR? I am beginning to think that Tohrinha herself is a criminal botanist, either cruelly toying with us or on a desperate crusade to reveal the conspiracy to the public. (I warn you, Tohrinha, if the authorities come looking for you as a result of this reveal– I cannot promise to harbour you secretly in my home.)

So again we ask: what gives? Why two names for the same tree?

The fact is that many centuries ago– centuries before the human Western world began its two-thousand-odd-year count of years– there was a political split in the pine/spruce world. The Plant Kingdom as a whole had fallen on dark days, days of espionage and assassination and sadness, and the pine/spruce family could not bear it. They had, however, different ways of expressing this discomfort with the way things were.

The group who became the Pines were traditionalists: they felt that at the core of their being, their purpose was to pine after the way things once had been. The group now known as the Spruces felt that more important than looking to the past was to change things for a better future, to spruce the world up, if you will. This divergence in approach caused an irreconcilable schism between the Pines and the Spruces; they chose different names for themselves, and have been at war to this very day.

The rest of the Plant Kingdom, grieved by the breaking up of such a beautiful family, swore a solemn oath that the vicious details of this war would be confined to the Plant Kingdom, that no one outside their circle would ever learn what had happened or ever know that Pines and Spruces had ever been one and the same, loving one another dearly.

However, desperate truth-seekers such as myself– and, I can only assume, Tohrinha– have learned the secret as it leaked out, and now I pass on to you the truth of the Great Tree Conspiracy.



Disclaimer: None of the facts or histories given in this post should be assumed to be accurate. The author will confirm no intimate knowledge of political intrigue in the plant kingdom, and does not harbour any botanical criminals at the present moment.

Is The Internet Alive?

Thank you so much to everybody who’s sent me questions so far! I love all the questions and I plan to answer all of them in good time. This week, I’m going to answer a question that came from barbarr:

Is the internet alive?

That is an excellent question! Well, barbarr, there’s the long answer and the short answer: the short answer is yes, of course the internet is alive.

For the long answer, I’d like to look more closely into why this is obviously true. First, what qualifies something as ‘alive’? Normally, I’d probably do some research, or at least look at my old high school notes, to find actual scientists’ criteria for possessing life, but that seems outside the purview of this blog, so instead I’ll just make something up:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Potential for growth
  3. Belonging to one of the Kingdoms of living things

Is the internet self-aware? I think we all know that it is. If the internet were not self-aware, how would this, a blog post on the internet, even be able to acknowledge the word ‘internet’? It wouldn’t, of course.

Can the internet grow? Why, it’s growing all the time! A week ago, this blog didn’t exist; now it is a new appendage on the internet. When you comment on this blog, you will be allowing the internet to grow yet again.

Which brings us to the third criterion: Kingdoms. So, apparently there are supposed to be five Kingdoms of living things, but I couldn’t be bothered to look them up, so I’ll say there are four. I like the number four better, anyway:

  1. Animals
  2. Rocks
  3. Mold
  4. Plants

Is the internet an animal? I think it would be very difficult to say yes to that. After all, all animals have the potential to be pets. The internet cannot be a pet except in very specific circumstances. Therefore, the internet is not an animal.

Is the internet a rock? This is a more possible suggestion, but once again I am forced to say no: if the internet were a kind of rock, it would be very heavy, and it’s not. In fact, the internet used to be made of rocks– that’s why dial-up internet was so slow, because the rocks were difficult to lift– but high-speed internet is clearly much lighter than a rock.

Is the internet a kind of mold? Although it is true that some parts of the internet smell terrible, the internet is obviously not a kind of mold, because it does not grow on bread, and as everyone knows, all types of mold have the ability to grow on bread.

Which leaves us with the final option: plants. Now, there are three things that define something as a plant:

  1. Needing sunlight
  2. Being attractive to bees
  3. Being green

The first point is the most obviously true of the internet. You know how people often lose internet connection during a heavy thunderstorm? That’s because there is so little sunlight during such storms that the internet cannot sustain itself.

The second is more tricky. How often do we see bees pollinating the internet, after all? However, if you connect your computer to the internet, and leave it outside on a sunny day, you will find bees flocking to your screen to inspect the internet, finding it just as fascinating as any other plant.

As for the third, it seems false at first but my findings may surprise you. In Spanish, the internet is known as “La Red”. Why is this? Think about it. Red is the complementary colour to green. This is a classic disguise/misdirection technique! The internet, being self-aware, does not wish us to know that it is alive; thus, it subverts our expectations and hides from its definition as a plant, and thus a life-form, by taking as its name the very opposite of what is true.

We learn from this not only that the internet is alive, but that it is a plant, and that its native language is Spanish.




Disclaimer: None of the facts in this blog should be taken as true. The writer is not actually lazy, just very silly.