The quest for knowledge can make scientists do inhumane and bizarre things. When you read the kind of experiments some of them have conducted, you would be disgusted with how animals were treated. And most of the experiments fall closer to madness than to genius.
A list of the most provocative and outrageous experiments of modern science has been compiled by author Alex Boese, who scoured research journals, books and university archives. Topics covered include what happens when you give an elephant LSD and how to make a turkey frisky.
Featured recently in New Scientist magazine, his book, Elephants On Acid And Other Bizarre Experiments, also tells of attempts to bring dead dogs back to life. Read on…Elephant on Acid
In 1962, Warren Thomas, the director of Lincoln Park Zoo in Oklahoma City, injected Tusko, a three and half ton elephant, with a syringe full of LSD, which was 297 milligrams (would make at least 3,000 people hallucinate) and he thought that he was about to make a major contribution to science. The poor elephant began trumpeting furiously, before keeling over as if he had been shot. An hour later, he was dead. “It appears that the elephant is highly sensitive to the effects of LSD,” Thomas and his colleagues concluded.
And Tusko’s role in history of science has certainly been recognised with Alex Boese writing a book called Elephants on Acid and Other Bizarre Experiments. He has mentioned several more incidents that have taken place in real life.
The second one is worse than the previous one. What if you volunteer for an experiment and the researcher tells you to torture an innocent person for getting the answers wrong. Would you be obedient or salvage your conscience?
When asked what they would do in such a situation, almost everyone replies that of course they would refuse to commit murder. But Stanley Milgram’s famous obedience experiment, conducted at Yale University in the early 1960s, revealed that this optimistic belief is wrong. If the request is presented in the right way, almost all of us quite obediently become killers.
Milgram told subjects they were participating in an experiment to determine the effect of punishment on learning. One volunteer would attempt to memorize a series of word pairs. The other volunteer (the real subject) would read out the word pairs and give the learner an electric shock every time he got an answer wrong. The shocks would increase in intensity by fifteen volts with each wrong answer.
The experiment began. The learner started getting some wrong answers, and pretty soon the shocks had reached 120 volts. At this point the learner started crying out, “Hey, this really hurts.” At 150 volts the learner screamed in pain and demanded to be let out. Confused, the volunteers turned around and asked the researcher what they should do. He always calmly replied, “The experiment requires that you continue.”
I found a video which is based on Milgram’s experiment. It can freak you out.
To Milgram’s surprise, even though volunteers could hear the agonized cries of the learner echoing from the neighboring room, two-thirds of them continued to press the shock button all the way up to the end of scale, 450 volts, by which time the learner had fallen into an eerie silence, apparently dead.
Milgram later said, “I would say, on the basis of having observed a thousand people in the experiment and having my own intuition shaped and informed by these experiments, that if a system of death camps were set up in the United States of the sort we had seen in Nazi Germany, one would be able to find sufficient personnel for those camps in any medium-sized American town.”
This one is quite funny. Trying to chart how people react when faced with death, the U.S. Army faked a plane crash in 1960s. Some 10 soldiers boarded a aircraft were told that the plane was going to crash land in the ocean, so they were asked to quickly fill out insurance forms. After they completed the forms, they were told the threat was over and the plane landed safely.
Due to fear of death the group of soldiers made more mistakes on the form than another group who filled out the same paperwork on the ground. So conclusion – extreme stress harms cognitive ability.
The Doctor who Drank Vomit
Stubbins Ffirth was a doctor-in-training who lived in early nineteenth-century Philadelphia. He was determined to prove that yellow fever is not contagious and decided to make himself the subject to prove his belief. What he did was unbelievably disgusting.
He smeared himself with the blood, urine, sweat, and black vomit of yellow-fever patients. He dribbled the vomit into his eyes. He even drank undiluted vomit which gains its black colour from blood that has hemorrhaged in the stomach.
Miraculously, Ffirth didn’t get sick, prompting him to declare yellow fever was non-contagious. Of course, he was wrong. It hadn’t occurred to him to test for transmission by mosquito bite.
One of the most gruesome experiment performed was by the Soviet surgeon Vladimir Demikhov. He created the two-headed dog by grafting the head, shoulders and front legs of a puppy onto the neck of an adult German Shepherd. The milk dribbled from the stump of the puppy’s head when it attempted to lap milk. Occasionally, the two would fight, with the German Shepherd trying to shake the puppy off, and the puppy would bite back. Both animals soon died because of tissue rejection — but that did not stop Demikhov from creating 19 more over the next 15 years with the one of the creatures living for a month.
Male turkeys aren’t fussy. Give them a lifelike model of a female turkey and they’ll happily try to mate with it as eagerly as they would with the real thing. Fascinated by this, Martin Schein and Edgar Hale, of Pennsylvania State University, devoted themselves to studying the sexual behaviour of turkeys in the 1960s, and what might be the minimal stimulus required to excite a turkey.
This involved removing parts from the turkey model one by one, until the male turkey eventually lost interest.
Then they took a model of a female turkey and gradually removed parts of the turkey, like tail, feet, and wings, but still the clueless bird waddled up to the model, let out an amorous gobble, and tried to do his thing. Finally, the researchers were left with a head on a stick. And surprisingly, the male turkey still showed great interest. In fact, it preferred a head on a stick over a headless body.
These were just few of the bizarre experiments conducted by psychos, oops, scientists. There are many more from Boese’s book which are mentioned in Museum of Hoaxes
Erratic but useful, we juggle between the website and our personal life.