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Great hoaxes and/or exaggerated claims

  1. Apr 1, 2009 #1
    I'm looking for references or anecdotes to recent (>1950) science hoaxes, unrepeatable claims (e.g. cold fusion), or cargo-cult science for some research I'm doing. Predictive sciences only, not descriptive sciences -- Physics, Chem, etc., not Anthropology (e.g. Piltdown man, etc.)

    Most grateful for any leads to track down.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 1, 2009 #2


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    You'd really have to be more specific, since there's a broad spectrum from pure crackpottery to real research ideas that are/were overly speculative (and which may appear sillier in hindsight than they did at the time). In the latter vein, check out Langmuir's famous lecture on 'pathological science', if you haven't already.

    Then there's the second dimension of notoriety/publicity, which is often pretty unrelated to the scientific merit. E.g. cold fusion is so well known due to media attention they managed to garner.

    Another example of that, is that 'Orbo' device by those Irish guys, which managed to get a relatively big amount of international press, despite being nothing more than the most 'classical', conventional, sort of perpetuum mobile device. The whole 'alternative energy' field is fairly rife with stuff that ranges from outright bogus to ideas which are correct-but-not-new-nor-practical. (there's always the occasional local news that gets duped into running a story about yet another inventor of a water powered vehicle)

    A pretty good example (post-1950) of reputed scientists (if only a small minority) deluding themselves was 'polywater' back in the 1960's.
  4. Apr 1, 2009 #3
    How about all of these idiots who are trying to make "free energy" by making motors out of nothing but permanent magnets.
  5. Apr 1, 2009 #4
    Consider Henrik Schon. He apparently faked research in nanotechnology. But he was exposed by a physicist at Berkeley, when she noticed that the graphs of several different experiments were exactly identical.
  6. Apr 1, 2009 #5
    This guy must be as clever as a student that submits physics homework copied verbatim from the solutions manual.

    There are a plethora free energy devices, which obviously don't work. I "heard" that the U.S. Patent Office no longer accepts any applications for devices with such claims. You could probably find a lot of rubbish patents concerning free energy on their website.
  7. Apr 2, 2009 #6

    Vanadium 50

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    Element 118.
  8. Apr 2, 2009 #7
    Great! A couple of new leads I did not already have. Thanks! Keep 'em coming!

    I had heard of the Orbo device early on, but paged out of following it when it became clear to me that it was just bunk. Didn't hear how it finally turned out in the public forum.
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2009
  9. Apr 2, 2009 #8
  10. Apr 2, 2009 #9

    D H

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    Another kind of scientific misconduct is plagiarism -- and that may be exactly what is going on in this very thread. The original post looks to me like homework. We may well be doing this guy's homework research for him, and the OP of course will not credit us for doing that homework.
  11. Apr 2, 2009 #10


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    Oh and let's not forget the Bogdanov affair, which was more a case of outright fraud enabled by a failure of the peer review process.

    OTOH it did lead to a good debate on whether Theoretical Physics is starting to get too abstract for its own good.
  12. Apr 2, 2009 #11
    A reasonable concern, but just to be clear, it is not for homework. I'm a 50yo engineer working on an SF story which may use some of these as backdrop.

    Thanks again for the links.
  13. Apr 2, 2009 #12
    So the really out there stuff is good?
    I would suggest listening to Coast to Coast for material but lately they have been focusing more on "supernatural" phenomenon. Never a bad idea to check it out though. And the Skepticism and Debunking forum is always a good resource for this sort of thing.
  14. Apr 2, 2009 #13


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  15. Apr 2, 2009 #14
    How about the Joe Cell? How can you beat a device that harnesses Orgone (life) energy to provide a source of free energy and exhibits anti-gravity effects?

    http://peswiki.com/energy/Directory:Joe_Cell [Broken]

    I really have trouble understanding how people can be so scientifically misinformed to believe such garbage. At first, I thought this was a joke until I saw people seriously discussing it on other forums. Scary!
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  16. Apr 2, 2009 #15
  17. Apr 2, 2009 #16

    Ivan Seeking

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    Piltdown man was debunked in 1953.

    We also have the closed topics list in S&D

    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  18. Apr 2, 2009 #17


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    Stem Cell Research fraud.

  19. Apr 2, 2009 #18
    Excellent stuff, Thanks! Also just saw the S&D thread -- never scrolled down that far before <LOL> This will tank me up pretty good.
  20. Apr 2, 2009 #19
    Linking to crackpot claims is implicitely against the guidelines, so this thread is basically violating them.

    But the ultimate exagarated crackpot hypopthesis is an exploding Earth by Tom Chalko, easy to google.

    *** warning, don't believe it ***
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2009
  21. Apr 2, 2009 #20

    Chi Meson

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    Is that the "Earth is expanding and all of the laws of physics as we know them must be wrong"?
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