Everyone has some skeletons in their closets, and after 138 years in publication, we're no exception. Just type the words "telepathy" or "Abominable Snowman" into our archives and you'll realize that "Popular Science" includes fields that are a little heavy on the popularity, less so on the science.
To be fair, at least half of our pseudoscience features focused on debunking these practices instead of supporting them. After American spiritualists elevated ouija boards from harmless parlor games to supernatural communication devices, one inventor created a typewriter-ouija board hybrid to that forced the operator to punch blank keys instead of moving a triangle over painted letters. Granted, the ouija board typewriter didn't prove or disprove the involvement of spirits, but it did prevent swindlers from consciously moving the triangle while pretending they were possessed.
Refreshingly enough, the myth-busting didn't always come from scientists. In 1930, we published an article from a scientist supporting hypnosis as a valid form of psychiatric treatment. His insights provoked famed magician Harry Blackstone to write a counter-article explaining how the power of suggestion could be exaggerated to convince people that they were being hypnotized. Later that decade, we explained how retinal sensitivity was responsible for ghost sightings, how precognition was glorified dumb luck, and how phrenology (or the study of skull bumps) was nothing more than a layman's form of pseudoscience-y entertainment.
At the same time, we dedicated serious study to dream interpretation, the Yeti's footprints, and the practice of hypnotizing chickens (by swinging them around, no less). Sure, it sounds like a load of bunk in retrospect, but you can't blame us for exploring these subjects initially; after all, doesn't every scientific breakthrough begin with a little curiosity?
Click through our gallery to learn more about how we covered horoscopes, mind-reading, and the like.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.