Fact Check

Shannon Syfrett

Is Shannon Syfrett collecting e-mail responses for a school science fair project?

Published Feb 19, 2003

Claim:   A 9th grader named Shannon Syfrett is collecting e-mail responses for a school science fair project.

Status:   Not any more.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2003]


I am Shannon Syfrett a 9th grade student at Central Academy (Mississippi). I am working on a project for my 2003 Science Fair to be held February 25th, 2003.

I am trying to see where, and how fast e-mail can travel in a period of six weeks. I am keeping track of how many e-mails I get back, and what cities, states, and countries they are coming from. I am hoping that you will be willing to help me with my project!

There are only 2 simple steps that will help me to track this email:

1. Please send an e-mail to the following address: howfastorfar2003@aol.com In the subject of the e-mail please include your city, state, and country. You do not need to include your name. Please respond only one time.

2. Please forward this e-mail to everyone on your mailing list. I will be keeping track of the number of responses, as well as the locations. Therefore, send them even to people in the same town.

In my science project, I am trying to demonstrate how fast and how far information can travel on the Internet in a six week period. If you receive this e-mail after February 23, 2003 please disregard it, since the project will be over.

Thank you VERY much for your help!
Shannon Syfrett

Origins:   This umpteenth variation of the "message in a bottle" school project is prone to the same basic problem as all the others: the people who initiate them don't anticipate the tremendous volume of e-mail these projects generate, and most of the replies sent by respondents end up bouncing when the recipients' mailboxes overflow their allotted limits. AOL's mailbox limits are not particularly high, so much of the mail sent to the address listed above is returned to sender; even worse, the bounce message makes it appear that the account is a non-existent one:

----- The following addresses had permanent fatal errors -----

----- Transcript of session follows -----
... while talking to air-xf03.mail.aol.com.:
>>> RCPT To:
<<< 550 MAILBOX NOT FOUND 550 <howfastorfar2003@aol.com> ... User unknown

As happens in nearly all projects of this ilk, the number of responses overwhelmed the recipient's ability to process them, and the project was cancelled before its scheduled ending date.

Last updated:   8 January 2008


David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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