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15 of the biggest scientific hoaxes

By: Bryan Nelson on July 26, 2010, 12:15 p.m.
Diagram of a perpetual motion machine

Photo: Wiki Commons/public domain

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Perpetual motion machine

Charlatans and frauds purporting to have invented a perpetual motion machine — a machine that violates the laws of thermodynamics by generating enough energy to run forever on its own movements — have popped up throughout history. Perhaps none of these machines are as famous as Charles Redheffer's.

Redheffer's machine was so convincing that skeptics agreed to pay a hefty fee to prove him wrong. Sure enough, after removing a few wooden planks from the device, they found a belt which went through a wall where an old man was hiding — turning a crank with one hand and eating a loaf of bread with the other.