Quit monkeying around Iran, the world community seems to be saying. Very recently, Iran boasted of putting its very first primate into space and to bring him safely back to Earth. However, the image of a monkey, which Iranian officials claim is the ‘wrong picture’, has shattered Iran’s claims. People have several questions: did the landing happen? Did the monkey survive the journey? Or even, did the mission ever happen?
Not the same Monkey!
Iran’s rocket Pishtam (meaning ‘pioneer’ in Parsi) was scheduled to carry a primate, a grizzly monkey, into space. The mission would last 20 minutes. The release of a picture showing a monkey which bears little resemblance to the one supposedly launched into space has now called into question the veracity of Iran’s claims. What happened to the other monkey?
The new photo clearly shows a monkey with dark fur and narrower nose, while the one supposedly launched was grizzlier and had a distinctive red mole over the right eye.
The doubts increase further since there were no landing photos released by Iran, despite there being launch photos. Some are calling the whole mission a hoax, and it seems justified too!
The interest in Iran’s space launch is because any space launch capability directly influences the state’s ability to develop long-range ballistic missiles. Topped with a nuclear warhead and a regime not afraid to use nuclear weapons, this could be a deadly combination.
A new hoax message about Vanilla Ice being killed in a car crash is spreading across social media sites Facebook and Twitter. Messages circulating about his death are not true, as Robert Matthew Van Winkle a.k.a Vanilla Ice has confirmed in a tweet that he is alive, and the message spreading is a fake.
According to rumors, here’s how Vanilla Ice died:
Vanilla Ice died in a single vehicle crash on Route 80 between Morristown and Roswell. He was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics responding to the vehicle accident and was identified by photo ID found on his body. Alcohol and drugs do not appear to have been a factor in this accident – June 17, 2012.
A version of the hoax spreading on Facebook has the title “Vanilla Ice Dies in Car Crash” along with a link to a website –
Clicking the link will lead you to a site where you’ll find the fake article containing the news about the death of the American rapper.
However, Vanilla Ice was quite surprised to learn about the “car crash” message, and spanked down the rumors that are spreading on Facebook and Twitter by sending out a tweet to his followers –
Hoax messages like the one above (about the death of celebrity stars) isn’t something new. There have been several such hoax messages reportedly spreading and spamming the social networks. Some of which includes, Keanu Reeves Dies in Snowboard Accident, and International Rockstar Legend Jon Bon Jovi Dead at 49.
It is always advised that users verify such information before spreading it across to their friends. A quick search on Google will help you find out whether the message is a fake or not.
The 11.11.11 date is upon us and we are on the verge of a great illumination or shift in consciousness. Or Not! The date is an interesting observation, but that’s about it!
Numerologists, psychics, metaphysicists (I don’t even know if that is really a proper profession or not), occultists and other people with no lives to call their own are going head-over-heels proclaiming today as the day of the enlightenment. Apparently, while we are simply sitting at home, or getting yelled at by our bosses at office (who yells at these bosses?), there is going to be a harmonic convergenceand a (for the second time!) paradigm shift in consciousness. Why? Because an inevitable date occurred and the digits looked interesting given a particular, arbitrarily chosen, calendar that we happen to follow.
The Magic of the Day and the Charlatans!
Many people are busy proclaiming the uniqueness of the date it happens once in a lifetime. I’ll give you more it happens once every century!! How many dates (calendar dates!) have you seen repeating themselves? Heard of anyone who has seen one?
Okay, so back to charlatan bashing. One lady (at least, that’s what she’ claims online) has suddenly become famous online, simply because she (okay, I had always thought that women cannot really be this crazy, so I’m still betting that this is a guy!) is an 11.11 expert! (And I didn’t even know that such a position ever existed! I wonder if they are hiring.) She’s known online as Solara’ and she will be organizing trance sessions throughout the day and at the time 11:11 GMT today, believers’ will join together and sit as silent watchers who oversee worlds within worlds. That should mean something really deep, but I’m not quite sure what that is! There’s more; there’s always something more! She even claims that at the point 11.11.11 11:11 GMT a portal’ will open up and take believers from this world to one which has new oneness’. Sure!
The Number 11 : What was that again?
Many conspiracy theorists (don’t you just love them!) cite the historical importance of the number 11′. Starting from the entire gobbledegook about the 9/11 attacks, the number 11 is said to have special significance. You’re welcome to surf the internet (or wait long enough for a large number of friends to share something related to this on your Facebook wall) and look for the significance yourselves.
Just another ordinary day – oh, with a movie
Here’s what we think: There will be no portals opened, no consciousness shift, no apocalypse and definitely no dinosaurs popping into spontaneous existence. There will, however, be a movie released by the name 11.11.11 and you’re welcome to watch that. No, neither the author nor the blog that he writes for aims to advertise for the movie or promote its watchability’, but given the other things on the menu regarding today, a (possibly) bad movie might be the best option to choose.
It is heartening to see that no one yet claims that the world is going to end. I love these claims; how easy it is to prove them wrong after the event just exist.
Depending on how you view life, we advise you to either enjoy or suffer another ordinary day in your life as usual. We wish you a Happy Friday.
These are the kinds of people who periodically remind you what is really wrong with the world. Remember Harold Camping, the doomsday prophet who claimed that the Rapture will be on us on 21st May? Predictably nothing happened. However, that hasn’t stopped him from pulling off the stunt once again and saying that the world will end on the 21st of October, i.e. tomorrow. This time though, he adds a cautious probably’.
Camping, who owns California-based Family Radio’, is a Christian fundamentalist and is known for getting his May 21st Rapture Day Prediction grossly wrong. Ironically, he survived a stroke in June.
Family Radio had made a fortune during the lead-up to the May 21st prediction due to the obscenely large amounts of money donated’ to the channel by the large number of believers, who prayed for their own souls and those of near and dear ones. Jesus Christ was, however, reluctant to show himself after death for a second time, turning the Second Coming into a damp squib. Camping absconded for a few days, his money safely stashed away.
Now, he returns with a more cautious stance. The world might end, he says. While the conservatives might welcome his softer stance, this might actually affect his popularity more adversely than the failed prediction. The inevitable question that a hardliner will ask is this: How can he be a prophet and not be sure of his own prophecy? Other people, like yours truly, who is neither on the hard-line or conservative believers’ groups, might find this mildly quaint or positively irritating.
Merely Harmless Fun, Right?
The May 21st prediction wasn’t merely a cruel joke for many people. Many people actually quit their jobs, or sold all their belongings or calculated their last till that day. When the day passed without them being redeemed, they were literally reborn in a world bereft of everything they possessed. How is Camping not culpable of crime? The toned down build-up to this present event means that very few people will believe in it and, hopefully, no one will do the unthinkable.
This is one conspiracy theory that can boast of being out of this world literally. The comet Elenin, dubbed the Doomsday Comet’, is due to pass Earth on Sunday, 23rd October, 2011. The comet has been closely watched by skywatchers, both out of interest and out of fear of the conspiracy theories. Some claim that Elenin is really the planet Nibiru that is destined to bring doom on Earth.
Elenin started to break up late August and continued to do so till early September, due to the increased solar activity. The closest approach distance of Elenin will be approximately 22 million miles or 36 million kilometers. Elenin will be a big disappointment for both conspiracy theorists and other sane people it won’t be apocalyptic and it’ll hardly be a light show either. The comet is broken up into fragments and these pieces will not be very visible as they stream across space.
The conspiracy theory is Elenin’s only claim to fame it is a disappointing little rock orbiting the Sun with a massively eccentric orbit (i.e. one that strays away from being a circle by a long margin) and a very long period (i.e. it takes a very long time to orbit the Sun). Elenin’s return, if it survives this current journey, is projected to happen after 12,000 years.
Apocalypse – or not quite
There have been and will be many Armageddon theories. Rest assured that the uneventful passing of this comet will not quell the frequency of these theories. You can also be sure of the fact that this is unadulterated rubbish.
After Harold Camping and his great Doomsday prediction that spectacularly went bust, we have Nibiru (or Elenin, whichever you prefer). Everyone enjoys an apocalyptic fairy tale once in a while, right?
We were taking a look at the ten greatest hoaxes in science history. We saw five of them in Part 1. Let’s continue our journey.
The countdown continues and we give you the five greatest science hoaxes ever perpetrated. Here you go, the Top 5.
#5: Live like the Tasaday, till you’re found out.
Protagonists: Manuel Elizalde Jr., a local Filipino official
Location: Mindanao, a densely forested Filipino island
Time: 1970’s to 1986
In the midst of civilization, lived a group of cavemen, virtually unchanged for a few thousand years.
The Tasaday, as they called themselves, were discovered by Elizalde in a few caves in Mindanao.
They hardly wore any clothes, making them mostly of leaves and other tree products, stood only five and a half feet tall, did not hunt and survived on berries and whatever they got by gathering. They were extremely non-violent and had no weapons. Their basic tools were made of stone. They spoke in their native tongue.
General Marcos, the then-dictator of the Philippines, declared martial law in the surrounding regions for their protection. Elizalde brought them food, earning him the name of the God of the Tasaday’. He proceeded to make a documentary. He founded PANAMIN US Foundation for this purpose. This would go on, till 1986, when General Marcos was ousted and a free democratic government took its place. The wonder of the Philippines was could now be studied by anthropologists the world over.
Unfortunately, apart from the aforementioned characteristics, the Tasaday also looked too clean. Their tools appeared chiseled, their tongue too close to that of a modern tribe who lived nearby and, at the dead of the night, a few individuals smoked cigarettes. A Swiss anthropologist named Oswald blew the cover, when one day they discovered the same people a few meters from the caves wearing jeans trousers and T-shirts. Slowly, it was realized that the locals had been forced to put up this show at Elizalde’s behest with him threatening them with physical harm as well as offering them huge sums of money. The hoax was elaborate, the whistle blowing spectacular and the results dramatic. Elizalde fled to Costa Rica taking huge sums of money from PANAMI, but died a pauper in 1997 after squandering all of it.
# 4: Jumping Sea-Liners: The Philadelphia Experiment
Protagonist: Carlos Miguele Allende and Morris Jessop
Location: Philadelphia, Norfolk, Philadelphia
Time: Summer 1943 to present
Everyone loves a good science experiment and a nice controversy to top it off. It works best if somehow Einstein and his unfulfilled dream of a grand unified theory are involved, along with some insanely cool, albeit unrealistic and wrong, physics. The US destroyer USS Eldridge was the center of an alleged experiment conducted by the US Navy, which focused on using the equations of a Unified Field Theory that Einstein had proposed to bend light so much that it could render something invisible. Further, this could alter the very fabric of space and time, causing exotic phenomenon like time travel.
The destroyer vanished for a few seconds Allende reported ten and then reappeared. Some report the ship to be instantly transferred to a dock in Norfolk. The crew was supposedly dizzy, unable to remember anything about the incident. Some of them had simply vanished. A few of the crew, those willing to talk, were apparently brainwashed by the US Navy.
This is now widely recognized as a hoax there was no Project Rainbow’, at least not having the same colours as indicated by the hoaxers. Einstein never completed a Unified Field theory, because he did not know of the huge advances in quantum field theory. The claims contradict basic sciences magnetic fields cannot bend light (that contradicts Maxwell’s equations), space time can be bent by extremely massive objects and nothing close to that mass could exist on Earth.
The Philadelphia experiment has, however, inspired generations of Hollywood film makers and has held thousands, wanting to believe in esoteric physics, in awe.
# 3: A corpse from outer space: Roswell incident.
Protagonists: Ufologists, gullible public and an unsuspecting (non-existent) alien corpse.
Location: Roswell, New Mexico
Surely, you must have heard of Roswell! It’s the greatest of all UFO stories and Roswell has practically become a synonym for extra-terrestrials. An alien saucer’ had reportedly crash landed in Roswell and alien bodies were recovered. Professional ufologist Stanton Friedmann, who was involved in the recovery of the original crash material, publicized his view that this was indeed an authentic event, giving greater credence to believers. Witness’ testimonies swelled up the number of crash sites to as much as eleven; a group of gypsy aliens had perhaps run out of gas and crash landed.
This is a classic case of folklore: it has multiple narratives, it has exciting new characters and no research was done on the subject. Karl Pflock, one-time supporter of the crashed saucer hypothesis, put it rightly:
Simply shovel everything that seems to support their view into the box marked ‘Evidence’ and say, ‘See? Look at all this stuff. We must be right.’ Never mind the contradictions.
Roswell has spawned TV shows and FX movies for about three generations now. There have been claims of being abducted by aliens, of being beamed up into their ship and then brainwashed. As Carl Sagan put it, aliens don’t know the proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem.
# 2: Cold Fusion Confusion
Protagonists: Martin Fleischmann, one of the world’s top electrochemists at the time and Stanley Pons, an electrochemist
Location: University of Southampton (Fleischmann) and University of Utah (Pons)
During an electrolysis of heavy water (which is D2O, meaning that hydrogen in water is replaced by deuterium, the heavier isotope of hydrogen) using palladium (Pd) electrodes, Fleischmann and Pons found some anomalous heat produced in the electrolytic cell.
Eliminating all possible sources of such heat generation, they came to the conclusion that nuclear fusion was happening! The only problem was that the energy provided was too low for nuclear fusion to take place. They named the phenomenon’ Cold Fusion. This, if harnessed, would solve the world’s energy crisis, the researchers promised. They sent their paper to Nature for publication, amidst widespread acclaim. The month was March.
The problem came when people tried to reproduce the results. Several labs involving a number of distinguished scientists initially reported some success, but then reported only failure. Renowned institutes like CalTech, Georgia Institute of Technology, Texas A&M University and Stanford University all tried and all failed. By May, cold fusion had been labelled pathological science’. By July and then in November, Nature, which had initially published the cold fusion papers, published papers refuting cold fusion. Nobel Laureate, Julian Schwinger was a notable supporter of cold fusion and sent his papers to Physical Review Letters (PRL) for publication, only to be repeatedly rejected. Insulted, he resigned from the American Physical Society (publishers of PRL).
People still carry on cold fusion experiments, but none have been reported to be conclusively in favour of the phenomenon. Most, however, look at it as the greatest hoax in physics history.
…And the glittering crown of disgrace goes to…
#1: The Piltdown Man
Protagonist: Probably Charles Dawson, an amateur archaeologist or, maybe, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit priest
Location: Piltdown, England
Time: December, 1912 to November, 1953
Given the great role that missing links’ play in the build-up of a complete fossil record for Darwin’s theory of evolution, there have always been an active interest in them. This has fuelled an active interest in their fraud as well.
Charles Dawson, in 1912, discovered a skull, complete with teeth, of Eanthropus dawsoni –which would later come to be known as Piltdown Man’ – in Piltdown, England. Everything was right about it. The skull was that of an ape, but the teeth were that of a human a perfect transitional form to fit into Darwin’s evolutionary theory. Further, it was British, signifying that the ancestral location of modern humans was England, and not Africa. The discovery would spawn more than 500 publications. It kept both camps happy; evolutionists saw it fit perfectly and for someone, like De Chardin, it signified a new attempt at reconciliation of fossil evidence with the biblical story of divine creation.
The charade ended in November, 1953 with a new technology to date fossils called fluorine absorption dating coming to the fore. The technique is a relative dating method, giving the relative ages of two different rocks from the same region. When applied to the Piltdown Man, it conclusively pointed to the fact that the skull and the teeth were of widely different ages. While the teeth were very recent, the skull was a thousand or so years old.
A closer inspection confirmed the doubts that a few people had raised the fossil was fabricated with the teeth being attached to an ape-skull, in a rather hasty fashion. Iron salt stains were used to make the teeth appear old. Disgrace!
A series of whodunit followed, with various people being accused; prime accused was, of course, Dawson. Recent studies, however, implicate De Chardin, accused as he is of various other fraud fossil finds. The greatest embarrassment came from the fact that a huge number of evolutionists were fooled for 40 long years. The worst fallout of this hoax, now synonymous with fossil fraud, is that it has become a front for creationists for maligning the theory of evolution.
So there it is – our selection of the top ten hoaxes and frauds in science over the years. The choice and the ranking in the list have been made entirely by the author and any reader is free to disagree. The frauds mentioned were elaborate, ingenious and well documented. However they were found out for what they were frauds. As a lab technician pointed out: In the end, nature is the checker. Let that be the last word.
Science is a pursuit of truth and, thus, it entails a responsibility on the practitioner to be honest. Unfortunately, evolution has chosen the practitioner – an individual of the species Homo sapiens to have deceptive qualities. As long as humans do science, there will be human fallacies jealousy, greed for the limelight, dishonesty getting entangled in all matters scientific.
Here we take a look at a selection of ten instances of fraud or hoax in science that have brought the scientific community, known for scrupulous integrity, to shame.
In Part 1, we look at numbers 10 to 6 in our countdown.
# 10: Uncanny graphical resemblance from Bell Labs
Protagonist: Jan Henrik SchÃ¶n, a promising young researcher working on nanotechnology at Bell Labs
Location: Bell Labs, New Jersey
Date/Time: 1998 to 2001
SchÃ¶n was considered brilliant by many and a prodigy by a few. He had five Nature publications and seven Science publications between 1998 and 2001. His publication rate 40 papers a year was astounding. His ideas were futuristic and his publications were a notch above the current trend. He was good too good, it seemed, to be true.
Bell Labs set up a committee in 2002 to investigate and they found at least 16 cases of fraudulent data. Two papers on two completely different topics having the same graph sealed the deal. He apologised, while still only 32, I have to admit that I made various mistakes in my scientific work, which I deeply regret.Thus, ended a promising career.
# 9: Much Ado About Embryonic Recapitulation
Protagonist: Ernest Haeckel, a German Zoologist
This is an old and golden case of fraud. Haeckel was a blind follower of Charles Darwin. He originated the theory of embryonic recapitulation’ or Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny’.
The idea was simple an individual in its different stages of embryonic growth (Ontogeny) goes through a series of resemblances of adults of its ancestral line (phylogeny). To this effect, he drew up sketches of embryos at different stages of development, using his own imagination lavishly while at it, and used these to demonstrate’ how accurate Darwin’s theory was.
It is now recognized that the whole theory is wrong. It is now widely accepted that embryos resemble the embryonic stages of their ancestors in the early stages of development and then differ to form an individual of the representative species. Sadly, this one instance of fraud has been constantly used by creationists in their attempt to malign Darwin’s theory of Evolution by Natural Selection.
# 8: Doing it for dear ol’ Einie
Protagonist: Arthur Eddington, the renowned astrophysicist
Location: Great Britain and Germany
Time: 1915 to 1919
Arthur Eddington was a great admirer of Einstein. So convinced was he of the accuracy of the theory of General Relativity (GR) much before he was called upon to verify it that he rejected as many as 16 slides, because these did not quite fit into the theoretical frame of things.
The power of this verification’ is so powerful, however, that we still know that GR was verified by Eddington during a solar eclipse in 1919. Fortunately, GR has been verified to unprecedented accuracy countless times and in countless different ways.
# 7: Buried in God’s name
Protagonist (here, victim): Johann Beringer, faculty of Medicine
Location: In and around the University of Wurzberg
Fossils of birds, beetles, animals along with inscriptions in Hebrew on stone buried in Mount Eibelstadt (where Beringer often went looking for fossils) confirmed Beringer’s long entrenched belief that fossils were capricious fabrications of God’ meant to test believers’ faith. The fossils were, however, planted by his colleagues Ignatz Roderique and Johann Eckart as an elaborate hoax, which they reckoned was a justified response to Beringer’s intellectual snobbery.
The fossils’ appeared carved and the Hebrew and Arabic inscriptions appeared too perfect to be true. Beringer saw it differently, though the chisel wielded by the Almighty had to be perfect. He published a book on his findings’, only to be rudely jolted back to reality when one of the stone tablets had his own name inscribed. Beringer went bankrupt trying to buy back his own book. The hoaxers lost their jobs and reputation. The stones were put to rest in the pages of time under the name of LÃ¼gensteine, or lying stones’.
#6: Mysterious Crop Circles
Protagonist: Doug Bower and Dave Chorley, confessed professional pranksters’.
Location: South Great Britain
Time: 1970’s to early 1990’s
A series of elaborate designs made by using circles, created by flattening crops, appeared in Southern England in the 1970’s. The scale was so big that one could only make out the shapes from the air. The mysterious symbols attracted widespread media coverage and sparked off a huge debate as to what they actually symbolized. The symbols were thought to carry secret messages from God or aliens, revealing some deep secret about the Universe.
News channels and books devoted huge resources to report half-baked, but sensational pieces of news about the circles. Everything from the use of directed plasma’ by aliens to the immutable hand of God was sought. In 1991, however, Bower and Chorley confessed to the hoax, demonstrating how to make a crop circle using simple tools in under an hour. Some people still believe in the Crop Circle mystery, attributing these to whatever makes them happy.
Watch out for Roswell, the Philadelphia experiment, the Cold Fusion disaster and the Piltdown Man in the next part.
Don’t miss Part 2, the top five of the greatest hoaxes ever!