Hacking the United States Postal Service (Kinda)

The United States Postal Service (USPS) is fixture of American life with its roots going back to colonial times. It operates the largest civilian vehicle fleet in the world, delivering about half a billion pieces of mail a day. As with any system of that size it’s always interesting to peek and poke at to see how it works. Unfortunately, it’s not as fun to hack as the phone system once was, but that didn’t stop some hackers pranksters from giving it a go.

So how do you “hack” the mail? Simple, by testing its own rules. The folks at [Improbable Research] did just that and some of the results were interesting enough that we thought we would share them with you. They started with testing valuable items to see how honest USPS employees would be. First they attached a $20 bill to a post card. Yep, it showed up just 4 days later, and the money was still there. So they decided to see if sentimental items, that normally would be refused by the postal service, might skate through.  They were able to send both an un-boxed single rose, and a human tooth (in a clear plastic box) without issue. Both arrived just fine, despite the rule that human remains are not allowed to be shipped via USPS.  We’ll let you read some of the other items they tried.

So the next time you’re in Hawaii, forget about sending that generic, boring post card back home. Instead, slap some stamps on a coconut to let your friends know exactly how much fun you’re having.

With that said, we wouldn’t be doing our job looking out for our readers if we didn’t mention that before you try anything too outlandish, you can be fined for abuse of the postal system, even as a recipient. There was a fair amount of fallout when those guys sent a camera through the mail. Have fun, but not at someone else’s expense.

Fool me once… or as often as possible

There was a time when posting a fake story was fun for all involved. But in this age of constant trolling, it’s near impossible to pull it off with our savvy readership. Instead of letting you down with a really poorly advised how-to, we’re putting in a call to hear what you’ve got in your own bag of pranks. Consider this another holiday theme and tell us what you’re planning for April Fools’ Day.

As always, we’re looking for your own posts on the topic. We always want to give credit where it’s due so post your prank on your blog or other favorite corner of the interwebs and send us the link. Don’t have a place to put it? You can always start a thread in our project log forum, or check out this for additional spots to stake your claim.

In case you need some help coming up with something, we’ve got a few examples to get you thinking. You can go the route of fake video demonstrations like this Gmail gestures hoax, or the more recent Human BirdWings Project. But those require a lot of production time and a clever seed idea. Perhaps something really simple will go a long way with the roommates. We’re thinking soap covered in clear nail polish to prevent sudsing, or perhaps you want to reconfigure your router to render pages upside down. We can’t wait to see what you come up with!