5 Failed Science Experiments That Made Headlines | Summary and Q&A

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May 6, 2018
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5 Failed Science Experiments That Made Headlines

TL;DR

This content explores the concept of pathological science in which scientists cling to ideas that have been debunked by the scientific community. It discusses five examples of scientific ideas that were attempted to be proven true but ultimately failed.

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Questions & Answers

Q: What are pathological sciences?

Pathological sciences are scientific ideas that researchers cling to despite being debunked by the scientific community. They are characterized by researchers finding patterns in experimental data that do not actually exist or focusing only on positive results.

Q: What is the origin of the belief in Martian canals?

The belief in Martian canals originated from Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli's observation of long, thin lines on Mars in 1877. It was later mistranslated as "canals," leading to the belief that they were evidence of an intelligent Martian civilization.

Q: What caused the failure of N-rays experiments?

N-rays experiments failed due to biases and poor experimental practices by physicist René Blondlot. Other scientists were unable to replicate the results, and it was later discovered that the observed effects were imagined by overworked and biased brains.

Q: What caused the demise of polywater theory?

The theory of polywater was debunked when it was discovered that the unique properties of polywater were caused by impurities in the water, specifically sodium, calcium, potassium, and chlorine. These impurities were similar to those found in human sweat.

Q: Why did cold fusion experiments fail to provide conclusive evidence?

Cold fusion experiments failed to provide conclusive evidence because attempts to replicate the results were unsuccessful. The reported measurements of excess heat and byproducts could be explained by other chemical differences, and the phenomenon was deemed unfeasible.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Martian Canals: In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, astronomers believed that long, thin lines on Mars were evidence of an intelligent Martian civilization, but subsequent observations proved that they were optical illusions.

  • N-rays: In 1903, physicist René Blondlot claimed to have discovered a new type of radiation called N-rays, but further experiments revealed that it was caused by biases and poor experimental practices.

  • Polywater: In the 1960s, a denser and more viscous form of water called polywater was believed to exist, but it was later discovered that impurities in the water caused its unique properties.

  • Water Memory: In 1988, a study claimed that water had a "memory" and retained information about dissolved substances, but subsequent experiments failed to replicate the results.

  • Cold Fusion: In the late 1980s, scientists attempted to create a sustained nuclear reaction at room temperature, but the results could not be replicated and the phenomenon was deemed unfeasible.

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