5 New Conspiracy Theories That Science Proved Wrong

Conspiracy theories have been around for decades, some of which have tended to stick around (and develop) more than others.

In recent years, particularly with the COVID-19 pandemic, new ones have surfaced, too.

Below, Newsweek has compiled a list of new conspiracy theories that have all since been debunked.

Do Vaccines Make You Magnetic?

A conspiracy theory that has spread since the start of the pandemic is that a side effect of COVID-19 vaccines causes people's bodies to become magnetized.

This misinformation was spread in part by social media videos in which people who said they were vaccinated stuck metallic objects like coins and fridge magnets to their arms, claiming the vaccine had caused this effect.

One version of the theory claims that magnetism was added to the vaccines in order to make its ingredients move around the body.

This conspiracy theory was widely debunked, not least because the COVID-19 vaccines do not contain metals or any ingredients that would produce a magnetic field, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states.

Dr. Carl Fichtenbaum, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, told the Associated Press that if there was any possibility of magnetism caused by the COVID-19 vaccines, this would have come up in early trials.

"What's interesting to me is I haven't seen anybody put a compass on their arm because a compass under a magnetic field gets disrupted," he added.

Does 5G Cause COVID?

Another COVID-related conspiracy theory. The essence of the theory is that 5G mobile phone signals sent by new 5G towers are the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The theory states that the towers can cause COVID-19 by suppressing the immune system or somehow propagating SARS-CoV-2 via radio waves.

As fact-checking charity Full Fact has reported, neither claims are backed up by evidence and, in any case, the coronavirus pandemic is affecting countries that do not even have 5G infrastructure.

Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, told the BBC in April last year that the theory is "complete rubbish," adding that people's immune systems can be dipped by all sorts of things including being tired or not having a good diet.

In addition, 5G radio waves sit on the low end of the electromagnetic spectrum, and are less powerful than light or the sun's rays. They are not strong enough to damage cells.

5G tower
A 5G broadcasting tower seen in Dordrecht, Netherlands, on February 25, 2021. Some conspiracy theorists have linked 5G to COVID. Niels Wenstedt/BSR Agency/Getty

Do Wind Farms Cause Cancer?

Not a conspiracy theory as such, but a claim propagated in part by former U.S. president Donald Trump. Speaking at a Republican fundraising event in 2019, Trump told attendees: "If you have a windmill anywhere near your house, congratulations, your house just went down 75 percent in value. And they say the noise causes cancer."

The American Cancer Society told The New York Times in 2019 that it was "unaware of any credible evidence linking the noise from windmills to cancer."

Ill health effects caused by wind farms have been a topic of contention before, with the unofficial term "Wind Turbine Syndrome" allegedly referring to symptoms like lack of sleep and mental fatigue for those living less than two kilometers (1.25 miles) away from wind turbines, according to VeryWellHealth, which adds the syndrome is not recognized as an actual condition by the National Institutes of Health.

A report in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in 2014 found that epidemiological studies have shown "associations between living near wind turbines and annoyance," but added that, based on a critical review of other reports, "no clear or consistent association is seen between noise from wind turbines and any reported disease or other indicator of harm to human health."

Was the Pentagon Developing a COVID-sensing Microchip?

Earlier this year claims were made that the U.S. Department of Defense was making a COVID-sensing chip that could be injected into the body, invoking fears of an Orwellian nightmare.

Many of the claims were linked back to comments made by Matt Hepburn, a military doctor who formerly worked for DARPA, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, who once told CBS in an interview that he had been told to "take pandemics off the table" and discussed research projects like a sensor that uses a light signal to indicate illness.

Hepburn told Newsweek that his interview had caused confusion and there was "no microchip, no electronics, none of that stuff," and that the technology would not be able to tell people if they had COVID-19 anyway.

The technology was actually a hydrogel that could be made to react and light up if it sensed rising tissue lactate levels beneath the skin, which may indicate if someone is about to get ill, Hepburn said. In short, it wasn't a COVID-sensing microchip.

Did Humans Once Live on Mars and Destroy It?

This theory was put forward via a TikTok video that gained many hundreds of thousands of views and likes.

In essence, the theory states that Mars is red because of the dust from nuclear blasts and that there is evidence that there had once been flowing water on the planet that humans had drained.

As Newsweek previously reported, the theory does not hold up in part due to the timescales involved. The fossils of early humans in Africa come from between 6 million and 2 million years ago, according to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, but Mars' watery past was billions of years ago.

In addition, Mars is red because the surface is covered in iron oxide—also known as rust—and not nuclear dust.

Newsweek cited a report from the journal Nature in 2004 that suggested the reason for Mars' rustiness is that temperatures were not hot enough to melt iron oxide and allow it to sink to the planet's core, unlike on Earth.

"I do not know of any other explanation for Mars' rustiness," said John Murray, a planetary scientist at the Open University in Milton Keynes in the U.K., at the time.

Conspiracy theories
A photo collage includes an anti-5G poster seen in Switzerland in September, 2019. Conspiracy theories about 5G, COVID vaccines and more have emerged over the past couple of years. Getty/AFP/scaliger/Ivan Cholakov/Fabrice Coffrini