Most Memorable Scientific Errors

Neutrinos faster than light-a new test beingSome of the most famous scientific mistakes address topics related to physics, genetics or astronomy. In research, when working in a laboratory conducting experiments, it is very common to make mistakes. Today we make a brief summary of some of the most memorable scientific errors in various areas such as physics, astronomy and genetics.

The Nobel Prize¬†Santiago Ramon y Cajal¬†, besides being a great researcher in neurobiology, is famous for his writings and reflections, good science, or on more personal issues.¬†He once said that “the worst is not making a¬†mistake¬†, but try to justify it.¬†

We have over 100,000 genes

Gilbert is an American physicist and biochemist who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1980 for his contribution to the new techniques of DNA sequencing.¬†In addition it was hypothesized known as “RNA world” explaining the¬†origin of life¬†.¬†Gilbert has also been controversial, to say in public that HIV was not the cause of AIDS, words by which the scientific community’s hands burst into his head.

Somewhat less known, but also somewhat controversially, the idea was proposed by Gilbert in the eighties.¬†With a¬†calculation¬†“a rule of thumb”, as they say, the U.S. estimated that the human genome contains 100,000 genes, and nobody bothered to refute later years in this statement.¬†When the draft was presented¬†Human Genome Project¬†, it was believed that the number was about 50,000 genes.Today we know that in total we have approximately 30,000 genes, a third of what was proposed at the time Gilbert, inaugurating our list of scientific errors.

Nature supporting homeopathy

In June 1988, the prestigious journal¬†Nature¬†published an article, we review here today as one of the great scientific errors appeared in publications.¬†In it, the team of Jacques Benveniste claimed that “homeopathic drugs acting¬†in vitro¬†. ”

The amazing thing was that the results disseminated Nature itself commissioned a research team to confirm or not the experiments of French scientist, just after publishing their work. Subsequently rained criticism on the magazine to accept the transmission back if the methods and results ended not convince the scientific community nor the editorial team of Nature itself.

The scandal was not there, but it was later revealed that the work of Benveniste was funded by multinational Boiron homeopathic products, which were given multiple economic interests crossed.The memory of water could not be demonstrated (obviously), and Benveniste himself rejected proposals like the magazine Science & Vie , who offered  a million francs if he could reproduce the results obtained on own laboratories.

A NASA probe crashes for miscalculation

The story of the Mars Climate is halfway between scientists and professional errors blush. In September 1999, the Mars probe crashed, something really surprising, having been built to study the surface and atmosphere of Mars.

Why the accident happened? According to information provided by NASA, in the construction and programming of navigation systems there was a coordination problem. The company Lockheed Martin Astronautics was commissioned to design and manufacture the spacecraft itself, while the Jet Propulsion Laboratory programmed navigation systems.

The work of both entities, however, was not well coordinated. The company made ??its measures and provided their data in the Imperial system of units of measurement (ie, using feet and miles). On the other hand, the laboratory had made his calculations using the International System (in meters and kilometers.) Use different units of measurement caused the probe as it approaches Mars, followed a wrong orbit, which would make it fall on the planet, and it was finally destroyed.

The neutrino traveling faster than light

In 2011, one of the most important news of physics was the discovery that apparently neutrinos traveled faster than light . Experiments on this project OPERA particle that does not interact with other almost seemed revolutionize science in general and physics in particular.

However, months later, it was confirmed that the results “were not entirely reliable” as an optical fiber (which was part of the measurement system) was not working properly.¬†In this summary of scientific errors, therefore, we must not ignore the importance of technological tools we use to make our calculations and experiments, as in the case of experiments on neutrinos.

Transgenic cause cancer

We could not finish this list of memorable scientific errors without citing the importance of making statistical calculations when trying to show some good results.¬†This is what happened to a French study that “proved” that a transgenic corn produced by Monsanto generated tumors in rats.

The news spread like wildfire among the scientific community, and above all, great rejection raised in much of society. However, further analysis of the European Food Safety Agency confirmed that the scientific study was poorly designed because it had worked with a number of rats too small to assume that GM food produced cancer. In addition, rodent strains analyzed, as many experts commented, were likely to develop tumors throughout his life, so work Seralini was quite questionable.

As we see in science many mistakes and mistakes, but the important thing is that the researchers themselves, as Cajal said, know correct time.


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