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Scientists Behaving Badly: Hoaxes, Scams and Pranks

What do men and women of science do to amuse themselves, get even with rivals or prove a point? Read these true tales of scientific hoaxes to find out.

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Kids at MIT 

Sure, parents brag when their kids get accepted to MIT, the Jedi Academy for science and engineering dorks, but are they so proud to spend those mega dollars when they come up with this stuff instead of inventing a perpetual motion device?

The kids call these pranks “hacks” and they’re pretty tame.  However, you know a few students had to hit their inhalers after this prank in which the new president’s office door was hidden behind a bulletin board.

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Two days before The Phantom Menace opened in 1999, hackers transformed the campus’s Great Dome into R2-D2.  I’m just glad they never saw a very similar film found in the adult section of the video store, The Phantom Man-ass.  Who knows what the Great Dome would have looked like then?

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Not an official “hack”, but super cool, nonetheless, was the Bonsai Kittens website.  A spoof detailing how to grow ornamentally stunted kittens in glass containers, it had more than one animal lover convinced this warped site was the real thing.  No, it was just the joke of some of the funnier MIT geeks.

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Jovian-Plutonian Gravitational Effect

  In 1976, respected English astronomer Patrick Moore stated on BBC radio that due to the rare occurrence of Pluto passing behind Jupiter, Earth’s gravity would be greatly decreased at the precise moment of 9:47 a.m.  If listeners were to jump into the air at that exact moment they would feel a floating sensation.  People really should have known something was up- it was April 1, after all.  A surprising number of people fell for it.  People jumping all over the UK.  Some people not only claimed to feel the low gravity, but said they proceeded to float around their homes.

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Cello Scrotum 

For over 30 years, cellists lived in fear of the dreaded malady, “Cello Scrotum”.  Finally, in 2009, the much respected Dr. Elaine Murphy, who also is a member of the House of Lords, admitted it was a hoax.  In 1974, she found an article in the British Medical Journal about the legitimate condition, “Guitarist Nipple”, quite humorous.  In response, she penned a letter to the BMJ herself inventing “Cello Scrotum”.  As happens, others referenced this over the years and it made its way into other medical literature.

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  1. diamondpoet

    On October 23, 2009 at 10:05 am


    A good prank once and a while keeps us laughing and gives us longivity. But some are potentially harmful. Thank for sharing good article.

  2. Hollywood James

    On October 24, 2009 at 2:24 pm


    Excellent article. Great writing and put together very well. As for Franklin getting killed by a lightning strike…it all depends on where he was struck…above or below the heart.

  3. Payge

    On October 29, 2009 at 7:20 pm


    A vewry well written well researched article that was out of the ordinary.I didnt know about any of them and found them very interesting.

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