Welcome to the world of deceit; over here you will find even the scientific method along with its peer-review process getting fooled. What follows is a list of seven scientific hoaxes that are so famous that most of you actually believe them!
Among the many well-known hoaxes is the popular Piltdown Man. A number of skulls were found between 1911 and 1912 along with jaw fragments in England. These skulls were touted as the link that was missing between apes and humans. The find was given quite a lot of credibility. That is until more and more specimen began to surface in Africa instead of Europe.
Time magazine officially declared Piltdown Man as a fake in 1953. This was done after evidence was collected. The chemical analysis of the bone fragments revealed that the bones were not even 500,000 years old and thus too young to be classified as a missing link. Further investigation revealed that someone had affixed a medieval human skull with the jaw of an orangutan and filed down chimpanzee teeth for making a fake skull.
A mechanical robot was unveiled in the 1770s by the name of the Mechanical Turk. It was developed by Wolfgang von Kempelen, an 18th-century inventor. The machine featured a mannequin that was dressed in Turkish robes and turban. It would sit behind a huge cabinet that had a chessboard on top. When in action, it would defeat player after player including Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin.
As it turned out, the machine was not a form of a highly advanced robot. Many were in awe of it, and many thought it smelled of foul play. Theories floated about it having a child concealed within the cabinet and operating the device, or it could have been a dwarf or a highly trained monkey. However, the cabinet was built so cleverly that it allowed a full grown adult to operate the mannequin by relying on magnets and string.
A fossil that was dubbed as the missing link between dinosaurs and birds was unearthed in the 1990s. It was called Archaeoraptor. The specimen wasn’t actually authenticated in any scientific paper; nonetheless, it made rounds in the media. It even appeared in a 1999 National Geographic article. However, a closer look revealed that it was a hoax as well. The fossil turned out to be a mix of a small therapod dinosaur Microraptor zhaoianus and an ancient bird known as Yanornis martinini. A Chinese farmer had glued different specimens together in an attempt to make money.
Another scientific hoax was made famous in 2002. A number of new organizations had issued ‘scientific’ proof that blonde-haired humans were going extinct. Yes, we know right? These claims cited a WHO report that had predicted that the gene for natural blonde hair would phase out by 2202. The only problem with this? WHO never published any such report or conducted a study for that matter on this particular topic.
WHO said in its statement, ‘WHO has no knowledge of how these news reports originated but would like to stress that we have no opinion on the future existence of blondes.’
The Cardiff Giant
The Cardiff Giant is among the most famous scientific hoaxes in America. As the legend goes, workers uncovered the body of a giant in a new well in New York in 1869. The experts were suspicious of this ‘historical’ find, but the news became so famous that many even offered to pay large sums of money for acquiring it. Even P.T. Barnum tried acquiring but ended up creating a replica and displaying it because the giant’s owner wouldn’t even sell it for $60,000. The actual giant, it turned out, was the work of an atheist named George Hull who had created the giant to mock a fundamentalist minister who believed that the Bible told of giants roaming the Earth.
The Sokal Paper
A physicist by the name of Alan Sokal became fed up with the relaxed standards in the scientific journal review process in 1996. To make a point, he came up with the idea of fabricating a study. He targeted a progressives humanities journal, Social Text. He wrote a paper that was filled completely with nonsense, titled ‘Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.’
The subject of the work was to argue that liberal bias existed in quantum gravity. The paper was published without any hassle. He revealed what he had done to stir the community up, and the review standards were improved shortly after.
Vaccines And Autism
Andrew Wakefield wrote a paperback in 1998 that claimed to have discovered a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. The paper was published in Lancet – a top medical journey. It was believed by many and is still cited by the anti-vaccine movement. It was found later on that Andrew had faked his research to support the claim made in his paper. The Lancet withdrew the article, but the damage had already been done!