Is Science Fact Really Stranger than Fiction?

If you hadn’t noticed… we’ve gone a little bit science-mad over the last week or so.

Well, Science Week can have that effect on a group of ex-teachers and academics…

In fact, we had so many different ideas on what we wanted to write about that we decided to extend “Science Week” which ended on Sunday to Science Weeks, which will end with our final blog this Friday.

Today we’re straying away from our factual comfort-zone with a slightly more cheerful entry filled with scientific myth-busters!

There have been many false claims in science, but sometimes the facts are even stranger than fiction. Below are five famous scientific discoveries that surprised the world…

1. Alien Autopsy Tape – The Real Movie?

1995 was the year a scandalous 17 minute, black and white film was released by London based producers Shoefield and Santilli.

The tape depicted a secret alien autopsy, the body having reportedly been recovered from the 1947 Roswell, New Mexico UFO crash.

The film quickly gained worldwide interest, with one show attracting 11.7 million attendees.

For over a decade the question remained unanswered, was this real or fake?

In 2006, Sky broadcasted a documentary, Eamonn Investigates: Alien Autopsy, which contained interviews with the filmmakers. Interestingly the broadcast was just days before the premiere of Alien Autopsy, a comedy based on their exploits.

In this interview, it was revealed that the tape was a fake but supposedly based on a real autopsy film Santilli had seen years earlier… apparently that film had become too damaged to restore.

Fact, reconstruction or like the movie, a complete work of fiction – you decide?

Piqued your interest? Watch this video to find out more.

2. The American Giant

On William Newell’s farm in Cardiff New York on a cold October day in 1869, a 10 foot tall petrified man was dug up – the Cardiff Giant.

Following the discovery, Newell set-up an exhibition to display and exploit this amazing discovery.

He charged people 25 cents to see him, but the giant’s popularity was so great that within 2 days the price of admission had doubled!

However, scholars believed the giant to be a fake from the start and within three months of its discovery the creator of the giant – George Hull – confessed that he had had the giant carved from a block of gypsum and aged to make it appear weathered.

He had then transported his creation to his cousin’s (William Newell) farm where a year later the Cardiff Giant was to be discovered…

Read more about the Cardiff Giant here.

3. Archaeoraptor – The Feathered Dinosaur

In 1999, National Geographic announced to the world the discovery of Archaeoraptor – the fossil of a feathered dinosaur thought to be the missing link between dinosaurs and early birds.

You can imagine the excitement…

However, in 2000, Archaeoraptor came crashing down to earth as it was discovered that the feathered dinosaur had in fact been created from two different fossils – a primitive bird and a dinosaur. Oops.

For more Palaeontology Hoaxes check out this article.

4. Piltdown Man – the Unknown Man

In Plitdown, Sussex, 1912, it was announced that the missing link between ape and man had been uncovered.

Fragments of skull bone had been found in gravel pits with enough material unearthed to be able to reconstruct the skull.

From this reconstruction it was concluded that the bones belonged to a never before known human ancestor who lived 500,000 years ago.

Of course, from the start the reconstructed skull had its doubters.

It took over 40 years to dig up the truth and in 1953 the so-called “unknown man” was exposed as a forgery, having been constructed from a combination of orang-utan and modern human remains (wonder where they got those from…).

You can read more about the Piltdown Man here.

5. Duck Billed Platypus – A Stitch Up?

While we’re on the subject of combining different creatures to form a new one, let’s talk platypuses.

The duck billed platypus has the tail of a beaver, body and fur of an otter and the bill and feet of a duck. What’s more, the males are venomous like snakes and the females lay eggs!

In fact, when the first specimen was sent from Australia to England, in the late 18th century, the scientists examining the platypus thought that they were the victims of an elaborate hoax.

Thinking that the specimen had been made up of several animals sewn together. It was only after detailed examination that the scientists were persuaded that it was in fact a real creature.

Science and scientific discoveries are happening all around us, some will be found to be fiction, but some of the most unlikely ones, like the platypus, will indeed be fact.

Summary

So, what do you think? What is more interesting, fact or fiction?

Perhaps we just have more time to come to terms with the fact, whereas fictions are often fleeting fancies that don’t give us chance to get used to them.

Those who stumbled across the “first” duck billed platypus or made fire or realised the world wasn’t flat would have had a real shock at the time…

We hope you’ve enjoyed our Science Week(s), we certainly have!

If you’d like to browse the rest of our Science-series, you can do so here.

We would love to hear your thoughts on the matter, so feel free to leave a comment below.

Finally, if you’d like any more information or advice about teaching science in schools or science workshops please feel free to contact us at hello@servicesforeducation.co.uk