The Most Embarrassing Moments in the History of Science
by Staff
What? Scientists get things wrong? We know. It’s shocking to hear, but science isn’t always an exact science. Mistakes do happen -- and they often lead to great scientific discoveries. So, grab your safety glasses and see if you can identify the most embarrassing scientific moments ever.

What is the name of the protoscience where philosophy, science, occultism and theology come together to turn lead into gold?

  • alchemy
  • biophysics
  • petrology

According to Johann Joachim Becher, phlogiston is an essential element for what chemical reaction?

  • precipitation
  • combustion
  • oxidation

Roughly how old is the planet Earth?

  • 4000 years
  • 6000 years
  • 4 billion years

What is the smallest particle of matter?

  • proton
  • atom
  • quark

Before 1953, what did scientists think was the key to heredity?

  • proteins
  • peptides
  • neurons

Until the late 19th century, doctors thought infection was caused by this.

  • bad air
  • sinful behavior
  • germs

What celestial body lies at the center of our solar system?

  • Earth
  • the moon
  • the sun

What product, now recognized as dangerous, was advertised as healthful in medical journals of the 1930s and 1940s?

  • cigarettes
  • liquor
  • cocaine

What is the main cause of ulcers?

  • stress
  • spicy food
  • bacteria

Which science mistake is the drug company Pfizer credited with making?

  • saccharin
  • Viagra
  • both

Which of these science mishaps caused the space shuttle Challenger to explode?

  • failure of an O-ring seal
  • defective metering rod
  • prematurely blown hatch

In the 1960s, geneticists crossed honeybees from which two continents to accidentally create a deadly new species?

  • Europe and Africa
  • Africa and Asia
  • Europe and South America

Which doctor was cleaning up his lab when he discovered penicillin?

  • Louis Pasteur
  • Joseph Lister
  • Alexander Fleming

Naval engineer Richard James discovered which novelty item?

  • Slinky
  • Play Doh
  • Silly Putty

Which animal was at the center of a fraudulent discovery that was displayed at the National Geographic Society?

  • Terrasaurus duck
  • Piltdown chicken
  • Raptor horse

Which famous science theory was introduced 1989?

  • string theory
  • low energy nuclear reaction
  • cold fusion

The Chernobyl Disaster released how much more radiation than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs combined?

  • 50 times more
  • 100 times more
  • 500 times more

What smelly substance was thought to cure baldness in 17th century England?

  • chicken dung
  • cat hairballs
  • rotting meat

Which animal has been believed to suck the sick right out of you?

  • snake
  • leech
  • sucker fish

Now for some extra credit fun. Name the science mistake that occurred in the movie “Mary Poppins.”

  • umbrella flight
  • wrong bird for the geographical location
  • fake medicine