177 votes
Accepted

Did Euler make the elementary mistake √-2 √-3 = √6?

Euler did write this, but it was not a mistake! Euler's statement was correct under his own definition of the notation that he was using. I looked at the PDF version of Elements of Algebra linked to ...
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  • 1,026
118 votes

Did Rudolf Steiner prove the contagiousness of varicella in 1875?

No, but Johann Steiner did. As identified in the blog referenced in the question, Rudolf Steiner, the well-known polymath would only have been 14 in 1875, so is an unlikely author of the paper. Does ...
115 votes
Accepted

Are the claims made by Indian Ministers / personalities regarding ancient Indian inventions true?

Genetic science in Mahabharata Prime Minister Modi claimed that genetic science and plastic surgery existed in Ancient India. source: “We all read about Karna in the Mahabharata. If we think a little ...
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  • 40.3k
64 votes
Accepted

Did Robert Hooke publish his spring force law as an anagram?

All of this is (mostly) true. Ciphers and anagrams in 17th century scientific writing Using anagrams and ciphers was a frequently used way to safeguard inventions and discoveries against intellectual ...
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  • 9,104
48 votes
Accepted

Did Louis Pasteur keep a gun in the laboratory while developing the rabies vaccine?

The story appears to be mostly true. It was told by the niece of one of the men who participated in the early experiments. Note that these experiments were before there was even an experimental ...
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  • 4,553
38 votes
Accepted

Did Alexander Graham Bell write "the unchecked burning of fossil fuels would have a sort of greenhouse effect" in 1917?

TL;DR: Alexander Graham Bell was concerned with fossil fuels running out, but not climate change per se. Bell was concerned about the inevitable depletion of fossil fuels — “What shall we do when we ...
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  • 1,428
36 votes

Did the precedence of operations in arithmetic change since 1917?

[I edited this answer in response to the helpful comments in the chats. Thanks to everyone for their feedback!] ##0. Introduction TLDR: No, none of the order of evaluation conventions changed since ...
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30 votes

Did a turkish man invent a steam engine 200 years before the industrial revolution and only made it to spin doner kebab?

It's doubtful that this is an entirely accurate depiction because the vertical rotisserie depicted (no matter how powered) apparently was only invented in the 19th century, or at least we don't have ...
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  • 51k
26 votes
Accepted

Did Patrick Matthew came up with the theory of natural selection before Charles Darwin?

Yes, Patrick Matthew recognized and published the basics of evolution by natural selection prior to Darwin. It is also well-known that Alfred Russell Wallace independently developed the same theory ...
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  • 7,568
26 votes

Was ape tool use "well known and not the least bit controversial" in 1735?

Later than 1735, Charles Darwin's Descent of Man (1871) mentions tool use, in the paragraph below. Although it documents observations of tool use by primates, it begins with a statement about (then) ...
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  • 5,917
25 votes

Did Euler make the elementary mistake √-2 √-3 = √6?

Euler did argue that √-2 √-3 = √6. Whether this is a mistake depends a lot on context. This appears in Euler's 1770 publication Elements of Algebra in Section I., Chapter XIII. (pdf link). ...
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  • 423
19 votes
Accepted

Did Rudolf Steiner prove the contagiousness of varicella in 1875?

No, he did not. Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner (27 (or 25) February 1861 – 30 March 1925) was an Austrian, philosopher, social reformer, architect, esotericist and claimed clairvoyant. Rudolf Steiner ...
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  • 43.5k
17 votes

Whose account of the response to Michael Mann's original "hockey stick" analysis is correct?

Summary: I'd rate the first quote you gave 95% accurate, while the 2nd one only 5% or so, mainly because the bulk of McIntyre and McKitrick (MM henceforth) claims/attacks from their paper(s) turned ...
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  • 51k
17 votes

Was Albert Einsten's wife, Mileva Marić, the co-author of the Theory of Relativity?

There's low probability that Marić made a significant contribution to Einstein's Theory of Relativity, let alone that she co-authored it with him. From Einstein from 'B' to 'Z' by John Stachel: In ...
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  • 1,339
15 votes

Did the precedence of operations in arithmetic change since 1917?

The answer to the title question is no for the simple reason that the (fuzzy, inconsistent) rules mentioned in Lennes's 1917 note are still in wide use today. I think it's important to distinguish ...
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  • 2,337
14 votes
Accepted

Was a misplaced decimal point responsible for the popular belief that spinach has a lot of iron?

Was a misplaced decimal point responsible for the popular belief that spinach has a lot of iron? No. It was an interpretation error of von Wolff's findings, of about a factor of ten. What happened ...
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  • 18.9k
13 votes
Accepted

Was there a ML-backed algorithm that learnt to delete list instead of sorting it

Your own article cites its source, which in similar form is a collection of "interesting" outcomes of machine learning experiments. The relevant portion is here: when MIT Lincoln Labs evaluated ...
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12 votes
Accepted

Did the Catholic church prosecute Galileo because he was teaching unproven ideas?

Mostly true. Did Galileo teach scientific theories which were not yet proven? Indeed. In 1632 Galileo published "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems". In it he presented a ...
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  • 388
12 votes

Did the Catholic church prosecute Galileo because he was teaching unproven ideas?

1) Did Galileo teach sciencific theories which were not yet proven? The Jesuit Cardinal Robert Bellarmine thought that there was not sufficient proof in his time. He wrote, in his 12 April 1615 ...
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  • 345
10 votes
Accepted

Did Feynman write 'Orange Juice' as a response to Pauling's advisory on Vitamin C?

Probably not Summary I couldn't find a reliable source that could explicitly verify or debunk the claim, but available evidence paints a picture of an OJ-loving Feynman. The clip is part of a ...
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  • 3,854
10 votes

Did the Wright brothers fly 105 times in 1904?

Almost Certainly Yes. The Scientific American published Genesis of the First Successful Aeroplane in December 15, 1906, which asserts that they had communicated with all of the seventeen witnesses to ...
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  • 12.8k
9 votes
Accepted

Was Ignaz Semmelweis ignored by the medical community when he advocated hand washing?

1) Was Ignaz Phillip Semmelweis the first to identify or a pioneer in identifying, the importance of hygiene in these cases? A. Ignaz Semmelweis was not the first to emphasize the significance of ...
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  • 22.6k
8 votes

Was X-ray crystallography used in DNA sequencing mostly developed by the wool industry?

Ridley is cherry-picking to an enormous extent, such that even if his statements are technically true they are without meaning. Analysis of fibrous materials using X-ray crystallography did indeed ...
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  • 54.8k
7 votes

Did farmers adopt cars faster than inhabitants of cities?

You seem to doubt that cars would be more popular among farmers "in remote areas" because you don't think there would be many people in those areas. The fact is that at the time that cars ...
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  • 4,553
7 votes

Did Alexander Graham Bell write "the unchecked burning of fossil fuels would have a sort of greenhouse effect" in 1917?

The source is Bell's great-grandson Edwin S. Grosvenor who coauthored the 1997 book Alexander Graham Bell: The Life and Times of the Man who Invented the Telephone where on page 275 he quotes Bell as ...
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  • 99.2k
7 votes

Was X-ray crystallography used in DNA sequencing mostly developed by the wool industry?

Short answer, this statement has a few facts in it, but they are out of order, and misrepresent the history around the work, as well as where the money was coming from. In my mind, the ...
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  • 1,126
7 votes

Did Newton "invent" Physics to perform better spells?

In a manner of speaking, yes. “A certain infinite spirit pervades all space into infinity, and contains and vivifies the entire world,” Newton wrote in his journals, musing on the ancient wisdom of ...
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  • 5,926
7 votes

Was ape tool use "well known and not the least bit controversial" in 1735?

When Jane Goodall first witnessed Gombe chimpanzee David Greybeard fishing for termites by manipulating blades of grass in 1960, the line between humans and other animals suddenly became blurry. Tool ...
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6 votes

What evidence would remain of the use of atomic/nuclear weapons 26,000 years ago?

Isotopes of 7 elements could be found in small amounts 26,000 years after use of nuclear weapons, so it would be pretty easy to figure out if they were used in pre-historic Pennsylvania. Furthermore, ...
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  • 11.4k
5 votes

Are the various claims regarding Ancient Indian Science made in the AICTE/MHRD new book "Bharatiya Vidya Sar" for a Indian Elective Course true?

5.The speed of light has been accurately mentioned in Rigveda The speed of light is not mentioned in the Rig Veda. Instead, as stated in footnote b of page 132 of Rig-Veda-sanhita (1850) ...
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