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Holocaust on Trial
Flawed Science Exposing Flawed Science
by Rick Groleau

Science is a human endeavor, subject to human imperfections. At one end of a spectrum covering what would generally be considered poor science we have those who intentionally deceive. At the other end are those who have the best of intentions but, for some reason, produce flawed results. Somewhere in the middle are those who have some knowledge of the topic they are investigating, but not enough to produce results that will stand up to scrutiny.

One could debate where Fred Leuchter, Jr. falls on that spectrum. Leuchter is the self-proclaimed engineer who, in the NOVA program "Holocaust on Trial," says that he found chemical evidence that proves the gas chambers at Auschwitz were never used to commit mass murder. But most scientists would argue that Leuchter's experiment was inherently flawed and his results therefore invalid. (For more on this, go to "Leuchter, Rudolf, and the Iron Blues," by Richard Green, at

This Hot Science takes a look at those who have good intentions but still come up short. In each of the following real-life examples, you are presented with a conclusion that a researcher reached, along with the study, reasoning, or experiment findings that appear to support that conclusion. With each example there is a hidden factor—usually something the researcher has overlooked—that invalidates the conclusion.

See if you can determine the hidden factor for yourself, then compare your answer with the one we provide. The answers are not obvious, so you may want to take a look at the Background page before beginning.

A Little Background


Rick Groleau is managing editor of NOVA Online.

Examples used in this feature were drawn from Voodoo Science by Robert Park (Oxford University Press, 2000) and How We Know What Isn't So by Thomas Gilovich (Free Press, 1991).

The Director's Story | Timeline of Nazi Abuses
Results of Death-Camp Experiments: Should They Be Used?
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