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Thread: The Most Unscientific Moments in the History of Crime

  1. #1 The Most Unscientific Moments in the History of Crime 
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    Hi Guys,
    I'm writing an article for an online humor magazine about the most unscientific moments in the history of crime. I'm posting this as both entertainment and a plea for help. I have a few great examples (which I'll post below) but I need a few more. If you guys know of any great stories where a lack of scientific knowledge seriously complicated someone trying to do something illegal, post it below! (please!) Here's what I have so far (I tried to put links but since I'm new it wouldn't let me ):

    1. The Japanese terror cult, Aum shinrikyo, released the vaccine strain of anthrax into the air around its headquarters in Tokyo. In addition, the aerosolization technique they employed was so poor that most of the anthrax they used globbed up and clogged their machinery.

    2. An infamous serial criminal and serial killer 'The Phantom of Heilbronn' (having been implicated in almost 40 crimes from basic theft to murder) was traced back to contaminated DNA swabs. Contaminated by whom? A worker at the cotton swab factory.

    I'm a molecular biologist myself, so I'm a sucker for anything bio-related, if you can find it.

    Last edited by cono78; July 1st, 2013 at 01:55 PM.
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  3. #2  
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    Well, it's not quite the same thing, but Lysenko's corruption of Soviet genetics and agriculture by wrong-thinking was colloquially criminal.

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    Bungling thief, 21, almost died after setting fire to himself while trying to steal live 11,000-watt cable | Mail Online

    Bungling thief set car on fire during hotwiring - Chronicle Live

    Here are two cases involving idiocy and electricity. It might be difficult tying in a lack of scientific saavy - presumably you could simply state an ignorance of how electrical circuits work - but they're pretty amusing, especially the first one.

    Hope these help, fellow Cracked user.
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  5. #4  
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    Quote Originally Posted by cono78 View Post
    Hi Guys,
    I'm a molecular biologist myself, so I'm a sucker for anything bio-related, if you can find it.
    I see you are a molecular biologist.
    I would be interested in any of your thoughts on Lysenko and his "contributions" to Soviet genetics and agriculture.
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    I would be want to see what would have happened had Lysenko not discovered vernalization. This process, while simply a manipulation of an extant genetic pathway, could have appeared to someone, not experienced in or receptive to the Mendelian dogma, to support Lamarckian claims to an environmentally-determined trait system. It was precisely this misinterpretation that incited Lysenko to develop his well-known, and wholly deleterious, theories in an attempt to explain it non-genetically. It’s important to note, however, that Lysenko was the proverbial ‘nail in the coffin’ of Soviet support for Morganist principles. A big, boisterous, and scientifically sloppy nail at that, but nevertheless the predecessor to a movement in communist thought against what was perceived as the ‘bourgeois’ science of genetics. An interesting case that demonstrates the purported ideological irreconcilability of Marxism and Mendelism occurred in 1926, when Lysenko would have been just performing his first experiments with vernalization (i.e. well before he rose to the state-sanctioned prominence we now associate him with). Paul Kammerer was accused of injecting India dye into the pads of midwife toads in an effort to prove these organisms could be made to act according to the theory of the inheritance of acquired characteristics. When Kammerer was ousted for fraud by a fellow scientist, he committed suicide, suggesting, although this remains an issue of speculation, that Kammerer felt guilt for what was a clear fabrication of data. However, Marxists saw the case in a completely different light; instead of recognizing the spurious nature of Kammerer’s results they labeled the scientist a victim of a capitalist agenda to smother the truth supporting Lamarckian evolution. And they even made a movie about it! In the movie, a disciple of Henry Ford and a bishop of the church sneak into the fictionalized Kammerer’s lab and inject the dye into the frogs themselves, thus sabotaging Kammerer’s experiment and encouraging his downfall. In short, although Lysenko was a truly terrible scientist, the politics of the age seem to suggest that a true movement in Soviet genetics would have been hard pressed to find its niche in such an unfit ideological landscape.
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