When we talk about science experiments, the first image that comes to mind is a few nerds wearing white lab coats and bending over long tables in a laboratory, tinkering with tons of test tubes and beakers. The atmosphere is filled with weird smells, smoke, and chemical fumes. Some mad scientist in the corner may be cackling madly… who knows. This is what most people picture when they hear the word experiment.
Due to the insatiable nature of human curiosity, history has witnessed a wide (and wild) array of weird experiments over the years. Here are some of the most astounding experiments that have been carried out by humans in search of knowledge.
One Year in Bed:
Even for couch potatoes, this may be too long for a rest…
In 1986, cosmonaut Boris Morukov carried out an experiment in which he made 11 men lie on a bed for 370 days without ever getting up! Every subject was to remain in the sleeping position and perform all of their daily activities, including eating, watching TV, or washing themselves, in the same position. The participants were each promised a car if they could continue for the designated 370 days.
Morukov carried out this weird experiment because he wanted to examine the effects of weightlessness on a human body. He chose this particular position, as this was the closest to the sensation of weightlessness that is felt in space.
It’s almost unbelievable that people came forward to take part in the experiment, but I suppose they really wanted that car…
Raising the Dead:
Robert Cornish, who received his PhD when he was only 22, was fascinated by the idea of bringing the dead back to life. In 1930, he attempted to resurrect a few dead animals (a fox terrier known as Lazarus). These corpses were placed in a see-saw to maintain blood flow in their bodies while he injected them epinephrine and anticoagulants. Although a few of them stirred for a few seconds, they were still declared clinically dead. Obviously, this experiment was never carried out on humans, due to its unpredictable outcome.
Many have often wondered: How did Jesus actually die by crucifixion?
Frederick Zugibe, a pathologist, wondered the same thing. His interest piqued, he actually made a cross and hung volunteers from it to study the exact sufferings that a human body must endure after being hung on a cross.
In order to test whether the drug would induce temporary madness (known as ‘musth’) when male elephants become overly aggressive, in 1962, Warren Thomas injected a male elephant named Truko with 297 milligrams of LSD. That is 300 times more than what would be considered as a ‘standard quantity’ to be consumed by an average human being.
Unfortunately, Truko died after an hour in the Lincoln Park Zoo in London, falling victim to yet another of mankind’s many strange and curious desires for scientific exploration.
This is one of my personal favorites.
To test whether polished, well-presented content can fool a group of experts, even though the content itself is utter rubbish, sounds amusing. This was demonstrated at an annual conference in northern California by someone impersonating Myron L. Fox, who was touted as an authority on “the application of mathematics to human behavior”.
The impostor was actually an actor, Michael Fox, who had absolutely no idea what game theory was, although that was the subject of his presentation, which was a highly successful and much applauded lecture. This was performed in front of doctors and general internists, and while he was speaking, there was no sense whatsoever to the content. Yet, the audience still loved it!
Do you know the name of the lecture: ‘Mathematical Game Theory as Applied to Physician Education’. Sounds pretty boring, right? Maybe the audience was simply asleep….
Real Dog vs Robot Dog:
In 2003, scientists tried to determine whether a real, live dog would accept a robot dog manufactured by Sony as one of their own. People were very hopeful about the robot’s possible acceptance, but what they got instead was utter disappointment – and even that came at a rather violent price.
Check this out…
Scientists can sometimes be too enthusiastic about an idea that they imagine will work.
This was demonstrated in 1929 by Werner Forssmann, who was a surgical trainee in Germany at the time.
After putting himself under local anesthetic, he cut a hole in his arm and shoved a catheter from there all the way up to his heart to show that cardiac catheterization could work. He was later awarded the Nobel Prize in 1956. (Source)
A Real Hanging
To determine what happens to the human body when it is hanged by a noose, in 1905, a forensic scientist named Nicolas Minovici asked his assistant to hang him and some of his collaborators to study the effects of hanging. Quite the dangerous question to find an answer to, but science knows no bounds…
At first, he tried this with a non-contracting noose and got ‘used to it’, and then he tried a regular contracting noose on him and some of his collaborators. In total, he was hanged 12 times!
He was only able to hold on for 3-4 seconds before landing back on the ground. He admitted that the pain was almost intolerable and that his neck ached for weeks following the test.
One thing that emerges from these experiments is that human curiosity has never been and will never be quenched. It is the unending desire to know the unknown and to measure the unfathomable that constantly pushes mankind to do things that have never been done before, even if those things seem a little crazy!