Consider “cold fusion”: In 1989, two scientists claimed to have achieved nuclear fusion at room temperature, previously considered impossible. It was a bombshell announcement — but no one else could replicate their work. Cold fusion didn’t take off because mainstream scientists realized it wasn’t real.A more recent case involved “arsenic life.” In 2010 a paper in Science suggested that a bacterium in Mono Lake, Calif., used arsenic instead of phosphorus in its genetic code and represented a new form of life. Rosemary Redfield, a scientist, cast doubt on the conclusion, and other researchers couldn’t replicate the finding. The consensus is that it was a misinterpretation.In early 2014, the scientific world was rocked by a tragic case in Japan. A young scientist, Haruko Obokata, claimed to have found evidence for a phenomenon called “STAP,” stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency — a way to manipulate ordinary cells to turn them into stem cells capable of growing into a variety of tissues.
August 28, 2015 at 2:31 PM EDT