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Remember - Don't Believe Everything You Read...

 There has been many an elaborate hoax throughout history, and some have fooled the entire world into thinking that they were real. These scientific scandals should always be a reminder to view any crazy new scientific discovery with at least a degree of skepticism. Here are 10 of the biggest scientific hoaxes in history: 
1. Johann Beringer's lying stones (1725)

Back in the 1700s, a group of students came across almost 2,000 stones on the outskirts of a Bavarian town. They were taken to Johann Beringer, the chair of natural history at the University of Wurzburg. The curious artifacts were engraved with lizards, birds, spiders and other depictions, leading Beringer to speculate that they couldn’t possibly have been man-made, and theorizing that that the stones were relics of the Great Flood.

Probably the most embarrassing part of the whole affair was that just as Beringer’s book on the stones was published, the students brought him one last stone, which turned out to have his name carved on it. The elaborate hoax was actually the work of two of his colleagues.  

2. Perpetual motion machine (1813)

A man named Charles Redheffer claimed he had created a machine that was capable of remaining in perpetual motion without an external source of energy acting upon it. Skepticism rose with near-immediacy, regarding the device. A man called Robert Fulton challenged Redheffer by telling him that he was convinced he could find the mechanism responsible for keeping the machine in motion.

While Redheffer scoffed at him at first, it would be Fulton who had the last laugh. The perpetual motion machine’s source of kinetic energy turned out to be an old man in an attic turning a crank.

3. Life on the Moon (1835)

Many newspapers have been guilty of making sensationalist claims ever since their inception, and the New York Sun is no exception. Back in 1835, it ran a story about how a man named Sir John Herschel had “solved or corrected nearly every leading problem of mathematical astronomy”, one of which happened to be the alleged discovery of life on the moon.

The newspaper’s deceit was exposed pretty quickly: when contacted, Herschel said he had no clue about these supposed discoveries, much less that he had been credited with making them.

4. The Cardiff Giant (1869)

As a well was being dug in someone’s backyard, a 10-foot-tall petrified human body emerged from the earth. As you can imagine, this find was the source of much intrigue both locally and around the world. It turned out that an atheist named George Hill had actually created the giant as a prank to mock a fundamentalist minister who believed that giants once inhabited the Earth, as stated in the Bible.

Furthermore, Hull attempted to sue a man who started showing off a replica of the Cardiff Giant, however failed to do so when he couldn’t prove that the original had any form of legitimacy.

5. Piltdown Man (1912)

An amateur fossil hunter called Charles Dawson happened upon a humanlike skull, an apelike jawbone, molar teeth, stone tools and fragments of animal fossils. He found them in a gravel pit. Scientists theorized that the remains came from a hominid that roamed the Earth some 500,000 years ago. Nicknamed Piltdown man, they thought that the discovery marked the discovery of the missing evolutionary link between apes and human beings.

When they were re-examined some 40 years later, scientists found that the upper skull was only one-tenth of the age it was initially claimed to be, and the jawbone came from an orangutan. Both had been stained with a chemical to make them appear older than they actually were. It transpired that Dawson was responsible for planting the fossils, however he was long dead before being found out.

6. The alien autopsy (1947)

Following the infamous alleged crash of an alien spacecraft in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947, a British man named Ray Santilli announced that he had footage of an autopsy conducted on an alien being that perished in the crash. The scientific community immediately disputed the veracity of this claim, but Santilli himself didn’t confess to faking the autopsy for almost 60 years. He made his admission in a 2006 documentary.

With the above being said, he insisted that original footage of an alien autopsy did in fact exist – he merely re-enacted the whole thing because the original footage was in bad shape.

7. The Tasaday Tribe (1971)

A Philippine government minister named Manuel Elizalde claimed to have found what he called a “Stone Age tribe” living on the island of Mindanao. Its members were alleged to have spoken a strange language, used primitive tools and sustained themselves by hunting and gathering. Elizalde went as far as to declare Mindanao a nature reserve, which meant that anthropologists couldn’t visit it to study the people.

Some 15 years later, Elizalde was forced out of office. Two journalists snuck onto the island, only to find that the Tasaday tribe lived in houses, wore regular clothes and had only temporarily adopted a primitive lifestyle at Elizalde’s urging.

8. Shinichi Fujimara's Stone Age Discoveries (1981)

A Japanese archaeologist claimed in 1981 that he had found the oldest signs of human life ever discovered. He had legitimately found 40,000-year-old stoneware – the oldest artifacts ever found in Japan – however it was his later claim of discovering 600,000-year-old stoneware that thrust him into the international spotlight.

His deceit would soon come to light, after a Japanese newspaper published photos of Fujimara planting the artifacts at the site where he allegedly discovered them. When the game was up, he claimed to have been “possessed by an uncontrollable urge”, and “tempted by the devil”.

9. Undiscovered elements (1998)

Physicist Victor Ninov claimed to have synthesized two new elements, namely ununoctium and livermorium, by bombarding lead with krypton. While it was initially declared to be a “stunning discovery”, other scientists quickly exposed the hoax. When they attempted to replicate Ninov’s alleged findings, various groups of scientists found that they couldn’t.

This led the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where the elements were supposedly discovered, to issue a retraction, but during that same year, the two “hoax” elements were actually synthesized for real.

10. The Archaeoraptor fossil (1999)

There was much fanfare regarding a newly-discovered fossil in 1999, and with good reason – it was supposed to have been concrete evidence of the missing evolutionary link between modern birds and carnivorous dinosaurs. Sadly, the fossil was soon exposed as a hoax. It was actually just a hodgepodge of fossils from different species glued together. Oops!


Content Source: Science Alert

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