BEHOLDE! Giant's Shoulders Edition 26: Fools, Frauds, and FAILURES.

Aug 16 2010 Published by under Blog Carnivals, Uncategorized

Greetinges, all ye who enter here.
Beholde, before you doth appear
A moste unusual carnivale!
And this one hath a grand moral.
This speakes of fools, failures and fraudes.
Those findings no longer we applaude.

So some One, come ALL!
Science large and smalle
Right here is one displaye
The good the bad, the happy the sad,
old science is here today!
To take time to browse
And if interests arouse
With many links you'll see,
The science historie.

(Also, it gives me a chance to speake like thise. Everything is funnier when you speake like thise.)

So welcome one and all to the Giant's Shoulders Special Edition: Fools, Frauds, and FAILURES. We've had more than the expected number of submissions this month (WOOT) and it's time to sort through them all. The good, the bad, and the fraud. Let's go.


Let's start with the FOOLS.

Now obviously, most of these people weren't FOOLS, but they did postulate some foolish things. And DO some foolish things. And BELIEVE some foolish things.

For example, many people believed in the 1500's and 1600's that astrology had a lot of influence on medicine. The Philadelphia Center for the History of Science covers two of these cases, one on a book of astrology and medicine, and one on an editor of books of astrology and medicine.

If astrology is one major thing you think of when you think of old-timey foolish beliefs, then alchemy surely is another. A Pinch of Asrenic looks at the history of alchemy. And a pinch of cake, too. Just in case.

And here's a foolish belief of which Sci had never heard. Did you know that some people in New Zealand firmly believe that the CELTS settled New Zealand before the Maori?! And what is their evidence? Rats, of course! The atavism has the whole story.

A post in which Sci was particularly interested in one from the History Compass Exchange, which looked at the Victorian View of dinosaurs. Giant lizards indeed. Knowing what we know now, these guys look fat, slow, and...foolish.

(It's an iguanadon, isn't it? Of COURSE it should look like a giant iguana!)

And speaking of things that look foolish now, but didn't then, Archy has a great story on the discovery of the trilobite, which was first described as some "flat fish". I wonder how that would taste blackened, bronzed, or broiled on a bun? That's how I like MY flatfish...

You think the way we thought dinosaurs looked as funny? Wait til you see ye olde first American sex manual, from the Philadelphia center for the History of Science.

And not only did people in history have strange thoughts about the way creatures looked, they had REALLY strange thoughts about their SIZE! See SkullsintheStars and his story of the 3 mile long kraken.

And finally, though he sure wasn't a fool, he certainly had some foolish experiences. Here we have the great astronomer Hooke and his experiences poop, and how it may have sent him over the edge. From Ptak Science Books.


The 'scientists' that gave the scientific method a bad name.

We'll start with a post from the Primate Diaries in Exile at Archy, where Eric Michael Johnson talks about the myth that Stalin was trying to create an army of ape-men. Can they make a movie of this?

Next up is a great blog called "From the Hands of Quacks, which discusses the qualifications of quacks. And speaking of Quacks, we have the Quack doctor, who talks about the founding of a homeopathic home remedy company in 1896, selling you sugar, alcohol, and paraffin for all your healing needs.

And speaking of cures, while it wasn't a fraud, it probably wasn't the SAFEST idea in the world to be able to mail order your very own smallpox vaccine! In fact, the catalog was for doctors only, and they were very proud of maintaining their own herd of cows.

As we all know, the history of psychology is not free of it's own share of fraud. Go look at Providentia, and their study of Freud's analysis of a man's demonic possession, who died 200 years before Freud was born.

And now we get in to the worst of the frauds! Check out the story of the animal that once was known as Torosaurus, as I, Homunculus discusses the great schmucks of science. And finally, if you can handle more, there's a great article from Jost a Mon on the early history of Scientific skullduggery, starting all the way back with Ptolemy!

And finally, the FAILURES.

Not every error a scientist makes is a failure of career, but that doesn't mean that scientists can't have some rather historic moments of EPIC FAIL. But the National Post reminds us why mistakes are good, and how scientists should take a new approach to failure, even when it's epic.

And sure, mistakes can be important, but some of them are also pretty funny.

For instance, did you know that van Leeuwenhock really thought the earth could support 13.4 BILLION people? Of course, it's how he got the number that's important. Where's that number from? The amount of sperm swimming in a fish's testicles, of course. Makes total sense, right? Nah, not really. He actually got it from looking at the population density of Holland. Too bad about the fish, though.

Mammoth Tales tells a story of one of the first people to find a mammoth, and how he got it wrong. A mammoth with a lion mane. Well, it looked good at the time!

Denim and Tweed covers the story of How Wright was WRONG, and got fooled by a tiny little flower.

And here's a moment that was bound to fail, behold, from Ptak Science Books, a picture of a flying machine from 1714. How was that big fish going to USE those wings, anyway?

Don't we all love stories about Archimedes? Well it turns out that any claims made to his invention of a steam cannon may have been false. The Philadelphia Center for the History of Science lays a pretty good smackdown.

It turns out that theoretical physicists can also get it wrong (though since it's theoretical, how can you know?). The Truth Makes me Fret discusses how Heisenberg wrote a paper based on...well...not much.

And remember that three mile squid up there? Well obviously it was quite scary, as SkullsintheStars recounts in his SQUID ATTACK!!!! Except not really. The squid was probably dying. But for the guys in the boat, I'm sure it was a terrifying experience.

Also from SkullsintheStart, we come across an episode of scientist FAIL, the idea of Tolman's 'similitude', which didn't turn out to be so foolish after all, even though, mathematically speaking, it was fail.

Any finally, the biggest fail of all. He wasn't a failure, he wasn't a Fraud, but he CERTAINLY was a fool. Go to History of Geology to see how Dr. Beringer got fooled by teenage boys carrying rocks. Boy, was his face red.

And of course there were MANY other brilliant examples of history of science writing this month.

And we'll have to start with a SONG! These songs celebrate the meeting of the British Society for the History of Science, and you can see the productions of the songs themselves, and also look at the Dispersal of Darwin as he tweeted the awesome geekery.

Among other history of science videos, you can see Two videos from Code for Life showing the history of ancient science, in less than 10 minutes. Make sure you see part 1 and part 2!

And if video isn't enough for you, you'll just have to see this great post on the history of science TEACHING from the National Museum of American History. And of course, if you want something really dark, deep, philosophical and serious, you should see this reconstruction of the history of science. In LEGOS. Srs business from the Philadelphia Center for the History of Science.


Of course you can't have the history of science without some Darwin. The David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies offers a cool take on Darwin's travels in South America, and American Scientist covers an analysis of Darwin's writing as a classic exercise in rhetoric. Finally, the Red Notebook talks about one of Darwin's jabs at the Catholic church.

And no history of science carnival would be complete without some anatomy and morbid looking dissections! The Wellcome Collection has a great post on the history of dissection, and Morbid Anatomy covers the new location of Galileo's...fingerbone. Which is no longer connected to the handbone, which is probably not connected to the wrist bone...


Some of the best writing in the history of science this month came out in the areas of astronomy and physics! First, we have Stories from the Stores, with a great post documenting an 1860 photoheliograph of a solar eclipse! Next, we have the Pauling Blog, who sent in two great posts on the Scientific War Work of Linus Pauling, and the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists. SkullsintheStars comes through with a cool, and personal, post on Cerenkov radiation. Finally, there is a post from Ptak Science Books, looking at the relationship between Bush (not that one), and Oppenheimer, as well as giving a history of...nothingness.

Also some great work in chemistry this month! We've got a post from the Philadelphia Center for the History of Science on the donation of a Piezo-electric effect machine from Marie Curie, as well as a great post on the rarity of helium from Ptak Science Books.

What's in a name? In science, quite a lot! Evolving Thoughts puts a lot...of thought, into the history of scientific names, and how they are used in classification.

On the health front, there is a lovely obituary on the death of Thomas Peebles, the inventor of the measles vaccine, from the History of Vaccines Blog, as well as an interesting post from From the Hands of Quacks on the history of Deafness in society.

On the Homunculus Argument, there's a series of sketches of "manlike apes". And in the history of men, you can find the discovery of the HMS Investigator, the first ship to attempt to find the northwest passage, over at the aptly named It's time to eat the dogs. For slightly more modern fare, check out the History of Science post on the first computer with a memory.

History of Geology has a great post up on Lyell's Time Cycles!

If you're interested in more of the History of Science, make sure to look at Ether Wave Propaganda, and their post on Clarke on the Research and Science of Pre-ward Britain, and well as the brand spanking new blog from The Royal Society's History of Science Centre.

And that's it for this month's TRULY EPIC round of history of science, with highlights on all the fools, frauds, and failures. Don't forget to write and submit for next time!!

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