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Ten Greatest Science Hoaxes

The whole thing started in 1912 when Charles Dawson claimed to find some interesting bones in a gravel pit. A palaeontologist at the British Museum assembled the bones and believed that they represented the “missing link” between humans and apes. 40 years later scientists proved that the Piltdown man was a deliberate attempt at paleontological fraud.

Ten Greatest Science Hoaxes

In 1999 National Geographic described this creature as the “missing link” between dinosaurs and birds. Yeah, not so much. Turns out this “fossil” found in China was actually a forgery constructed from rearranged pieces of real fossils from different species.

Ten Greatest Science Hoaxes

This savage chicken-eater was actually a hairless wolf.

Ten Greatest Science Hoaxes

In 18th-century England, Mary Toft convinced doctors she had given birth to 16 rabbits. A Short Narrative of an Extraordinary Delivery of Rabbits was written by King George’s surgeon about her case. People stopped serving rabbit stew. Once the hoax was discovered, the medical community suffered great embarrassment…to put it mildly.

Ten Greatest Science Hoaxes

This artifact in P.T. Barnum’s museum was advertised as a gorgeous topless siren, but was actually the mummified corpse of an ape sewn to a fish.

Ten Greatest Science Hoaxes

It was nearly impossible to beat this chess-playing automaton of 1770. Heralded as the next great venture into technology; it was even toured across Europe. Unfortunately, the Turk was discovered to be a chess whiz in a robot suit.

Ten Greatest Science Hoaxes

In the 1990′s English cameraman Ray Santilli claimed to own footage of an alien autopsy performed after the 1947 Roswell Incident. Fox aired a portion of it, but in 2006, Santilli ‘fessed up to the hoax. All the alien innards in the film were actually sheep brains, raspberry jam and chicken entrails.

Ten Greatest Science Hoaxes

In 1995, British fake news show Brass Eye conducted an “investigative report” on a street drug they invented called “cake,” claiming it affected an area of the brain called “Shatner’s Bassoon.” Members of the media lashed out against cake, and the British government even took the matter to Parliament. Whoops!

Ten Greatest Science Hoaxes

Every generation or so, an alarm is sounded over the belief that natural blonds will soon go the way of the dodo. The most hoax happened in 2002 when news organizations from the BBC to CNN quoted what they believed to be a World Health Organization report that blonds would disappear within 200 years, because blondness was caused by a recessive gene that was dying out. Turns out the WHO had never done such a study.

Ten Greatest Science Hoaxes

The Nacirema were supposedly a tribe of people living in North America, as described by Horace Miner in his anthropological paper, published in 1956. The tribe Miner described had many odd rituals including “scraping and lacerating the surface of the face with a sharp instrument” and another ritual that “consists of inserting a small bundle of hog hairs into the mouth, along with certain magical powders, and then moving the bundle in a highly formalized series of gestures.” It was actually a satire of everyday American life. “Nacirema” is “American” spelled backward.

Ten Greatest Science Hoaxes


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  • Soendoro Soetanto

    Great list. Thank you for sharing.

    Soendoro Soetanto

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