3John Hill Waged a Troll War on the Royal Society
If you've spent time hanging out in an Internet comment section or message board, you're familiar with the dedicated comment trolls: people who come back under one fake username after another for months or even years, purely to post offensive, attention-begging bullshit. Well, scientist John Hill perfected the art generations ago.
The trollface meme is based on the shape of his head.
His life as a career troll started with a petty feud. After several of his papers were published by Britain's most prestigious academic club, the Royal Society, Hill thought he was a lock for membership and his career was set. Unfortunately for him, the society didn't see wig to wig on nominating Hill for their club, so Hill did what any troll in the same situation would do: He dedicated himself to a lifetime of petty, pointless revenge.
Instead of plugging away at real research, Hill spent the next few years publishing fake reviews of Royal Society meetings, claiming that the once-prestigious scientific organization was now debating things like the best way to make fish shine, how to deal with demons in coal mines, and whether sperm are little people that expand like some kid's bathtub sponge toys. Hill even took it a step further and published a fake pamphlet in the society's name that said women could become pregnant simply by breathing in these little sperm, essentially nullifying paternity.
Historians have trouble studying the document because the pages stick together from the, uh, air.
In the true troll spirit of fishing for responses, Hill succeeded remarkably. Researchers at the Royal Society recently found a manuscript of one of his "reviews" that his rivals had annotated the shit out of in an attempt to respond to every one of his points, even renaming his paper "A Lying and Abusive Representation of the Works of the Royal Society ... by John Hill, Herb Gatherer." The Royal Society also banned Hill for life.
And, like any Internet troll banned from a website, Hill used every outlet he could to voice his distaste for the haters, usually by publishing personal attacks under fake names. The flame war culminated in a mocking poem making fun of Hill, "The Hilliad." So he actually did manage to discover something every webmaster would find helpful today: If you give trolls the attention they want, they win.
2A Nuclear Physicist Pranked His Minders During the Manhattan Project
For some of us, our greatest achievement in college had something to do with drinking alcohol while suspended upside down. For the genius science student Richard Feynman, however, the greatest achievement of his school career was getting invited to participate in the Manhattan Project, the secret research undertaking that resulted in the atom bomb. But he was still a college kid at heart.
For example, he also developed the atom bomb cocktail. While suspended upside down.
See, unfortunately for Feynman, getting holed up in a hidden enclave in New Mexico was bad news, not just because he was helping with the development of a weapon that would eventually result in hundreds of thousands of deaths, but because he was separated from the love of his life. His young wife was sick and dying just a few towns over, but the project overlords weren't keen on their scientists communicating with the outside world for some weird reason.
So Mr. and Mrs. Feynman decided to start fucking with the powers that be by sending each other letters in code. This tomfoolery got Feynman reprimanded, so the next time he wrote a coded letter to his wife, he included a cipher for the censor's benefit. In another instance, Mrs. Feynman sent her husband an ad for a blank jigsaw puzzle, implying that her next letter would come in a thousand pieces that he (and the censors) could put together. When Feynman got the ad, he also received a note from his superiors requesting that his wife find better ways to spend her time. But other than the wrist slaps, there wasn't a whole lot Feynman's minders could do -- he was, after all, one of their most important scientists on one of the most profoundly world-changing projects in history.
Los Alamos National Laboratory
"We would yell at him, sir, but that's just what Hitler wants."
And so Feynman didn't just limit himself to messing with his censors. He also used his math skills to crack safes and "steal" atomic secrets, which he just left lying around out in the open so his colleagues would get paranoid. Eventually, Feynman's reputation as a safecracker got so good that everyone at one Manhattan Project location was instructed to change their safe combinations before Dr. Goofs-a-lot got on site.
Then he topped it all off by unleashing a technological horror unlike anything the world had ever seen.