25 Greatest Scientific Hoaxes In History

Posted by on July 16, 2012

Although we like to think of scientific inquiry as being completely objective, unfortunately there have been times in the past that it has been biased by our human desires. Whether it is for fame, fortune, or simply to mislead, some people will occasionally go to great lengths to deceive the world. You’ll probably notice, however, that not all of these are malicious cases of deception. Some are in fact quite amusing and meant to be little more than practical jokes. Either way though, these are the 25 greatest scientific hoaxes in history.


Crop Circles

After these strange circles started popping up in English wheat fields around the start of the 1970s, they led to all sorts of UFO and extra terrestrial theories. In 1991, however, the two pranksters came forward and revealed how they had made the circles using nothing more than rope, planks, and wire.


The Spaghetti Tree

In the mid 1950s the BBC showed a broadcast about a family harvesting spaghetti from a tree. Afterwards they recieved hundreds of inquiries as to how people could grow their own trees. Unfortunately for them, though, it was all an April Fools Day joke.


Tasaday Tribe

In probably one of the more financially lucrative schemes on this list, around 1970 Manuel Elizalde, Prime Minister of the Philippines came forth to the world claiming that he had discovered a stone age tribe called the Tasaday on the island of Mindanao. When scientists tried to get a closer look, however, he declared the island to be an off-limits land reserve. After being deposed about 15 years later several journalists finally visited the island only to find the Tasaday walking around in blue jeans and speaking a modern dialect. They explained that they had moved into caves under pressure from the minister. Elizalde, however, was long gone as he had already fled the country with millions of dollars from an account set up to help protect the Tasaday people.


Clever Hans

Supposedly a remarkable horse capable of solving complex math problems, reading, and even understanding German, Hans would answer questions by tapping his hoof. Upon investigation, however, psychologists determined that Hans was in fact simply taking cues from the audience as well as his trainer. For example, the audience would start to gasp as he reached the correct number of hoof taps. So although Hans probably wasn’t a mathematical genious he still made for a pretty clever horse though


Perpetual Motion Machine

For those of you who may not know, a perpetual motion machine is any mechanism that generates more energy than it uses. Of course, according to the laws of physics this is supposed to be impossible but obviously that hasn’t stopped people from trying. Or at least it hasn’t stopped people from trying to profit. So, in 1813 when Charles Redheffer showed up in New York with a machines that seemed to keep itself turning, thousands of people showed up. Eventually, however, skeptics bribed him into letting them take a closer look at the machine. Upon closer inspection they found a cat-gut belt drive leading through the wall and into an attic where it was powered by an old man turning a crank with one hand and eating a loaf of bread with the other.