FUN: Ha Ha, Fooled You

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Science  31 Aug 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5535, pp. 1563
DOI: 10.1126/science.293.5535.1563b

You've probably heard of Piltdown Man, the 500,000-year-old human ancestor with an apelike jaw and a big brain that was unearthed in 1912. But what about the boy cloned in the 1970s in a millionaire's secret tropical lab? These are among scores of scams, swindles, and pranks briefly described in the online Museum of Hoaxes. Alex Boese, a graduate student in science studies at the University of California, San Diego, built this monument to human gullibility by collecting examples ranging from forged medieval documents to phony Internet start-ups—as well as various scientific deceptions. Although some of the hoaxes were amusing stunts, others misled for decades or centuries before being exposed. Only in 1953 did radioactive dating discredit Piltdown Man, for instance, which turned out to be the skull of a more recent human coupled with the jaw of an orangutan.

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