Early in October 2008 an article proposing a new, earlier year of origin for HIV-1, the pandemic AIDS virus, was published in Nature. For several reasons I, and scientists whom I know, considered this article a travesty, and one that spoke volumes about the conduct of Science in the 21st Century.
The principal author of the article, "Direct evidence of extensive diversity of HIV-1 in Kinshasa by 1960", was Michael Worobey, an ambitious young Canadian scientist who had recently been appointed - while still in his early thirties - to head the laboratory of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona, in Tucson.
Worobey's article dealt with huge mathematical calculations done on "super-computers". In reality, however, it was a mish-mash of arguments about the likely date of the beginnings of the AIDS pandemic, which concluded that the first example of HIV-1 must have existed in humans in or around 1908. Unfortunately, Worobey's calculations were based on a scientific model (the "phylogenetic clock", or "molecular clock") that is entirely bogus when applied to a lentiretrovirus such as HIV-1. The results he came up with are therefore equally spurious.