Science! The study of the unknown may represent humanity’s most noble endeavor. The eternal march towards progress has historically entailed a lot of weird crazy bullcrap, however, and the average non-scientist often finds certain experiments to be of dubious value. Worry not, unscientific peon, for all of the following bizarre tests, projects, and procedures have indisputably advanced human understanding, unless of course...they didn’t.
LET’S PEE ON A SPIDER
In particular, scientists were interested in the way people on acid behaved similarly to schizophrenics—maybe a schizophrenic brain produced its own version of LSD?
Following a famous (and semi-accidental) experiment that showed spiders wove webs differently after exposure to different substances, researchers at a Basle sanatorium decided to treat spiders with concentrated urine from schizophrenics. The resulting webs were different, but not noticeably similar to LSD webs, although it was discovered that spiders really hate it when you trick them into eating pee.
Spider silk is one of the strongest fibers known to science, with properties similar to Kevlar and aramid filaments.
Unfortunately for all you enterprising spider farmers out there, it’s extremely difficult to actually get enough spiders producing silk to the scale needed to make it a salable product.
CHRIST VS. CHRIST VS. CHRIST
Ypsilanti, a small city on the outskirts of Detroit, is hardly the first place most people would go looking for the risen Christ. Imagine the surprise of the doctors at the Michigan State Psychiatric Clinic when they found not one, but three Jesuses on their hands.
Based on reports of similar incidents of multiple delusional identities, the doctors decided to introduce the three Saviors to each other to see if some sort of progress towards sanity could be made.
THE SEXY QUESTION OF RUSSELL CLARK
Russell Clark’s low-tech sociological experiment (an attractive man or woman walking around the FSU campus, asking random students if they would sleep with
him/her) 75% of the men surveyed responded that yes, they would absolutely get their bone on with this total stranger who may or may not have been a serial killer, but absolutely none of the women agreed to the identical proposition and many of them demanded that the questioner leave them alone.
SHE’S NOT ALL RIGHT: COCAINE
Cocaine was used as an anesthetic for surgical procedures.
Unfortunately, this invaluable surgical tool could induce severe and life-threatening reactions in certain patients. Nebraskan doctor
Edwin Katskee decided to figure out what the negative effects of cocaine might be in the most direct way possible.
He injected himself with a completely huge amount of coke and then attempting to write notes about his experience. Katskee’s self-experiment ended in tragedy—while his first notes reported results such as “vision excellent” and “now able to stand up,” the last legible thing he wrote was “paralysis” followed by meaningless scribbles. Sadly, his sacrifice had minimal scientific value, as his notes were too incoherent and weird to constitute a useful record of going completely out of your mind on coke
THE DIY APPENDECTOMY If you want a job done right, you’ve got to do it yourself, and nobody embodied that principle more than Dr. Evan O’Neill Kane. The chief surgeon of a hospital he personally founded, Kane was about to undergo surgery to remove an inflamed appendix when he abruptly sat up and declared that he would performing the operation himself… on himself.
THE UNSTOPPABLE ELECTRIC JERKOFF MAN
Alessandro Volta created the first battery and revolutionized the world of science.
Johann Wilhem Ritter, took advantage of this new technology by finding out what would happen if he zapped himself. So he zapped his tongue, nose, eyeballs, and his own weenie too. He found out that by doing so, he had a really awesome time.
He did this so frequently, that he required weeks of bed rest and opium to recover from the pain (or pleasure). Ignoring the pleas of fellow scientists, Ritter eventually zapped himself into an early grave, his lungs and immune system so compromised by repeated electro-sex experiments that he died of tuberculosis at the age of 33
OW OW OW! THE SCIENCE OF YOUR BALLS.
British scientists Herbert Woollard and Edward Carmichael were men on a mission: exploring the phenomenon of “referred pain,” where damage to an internal organ registered as physical pain to a completely different body part.
As it turned out, the simplest and least risky way to explore referred pain was to experiment on what science refers to as “deez nuts,” a fairly resilient organ system that nevertheless transmits pain signals throughout
the body when harmed.
TURKEY: NATURE'S HORNIEST ANIMAL
Turkeys may be among the wiliest and most difficult to hunt wildfowl, but when it comes to making sweet turkey love, male turkeys are extraordinarily dumb and known for trying to mate with even the cheapest and simplest decoys.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania in 1965 became curious about exactly how bad a decoy turkey hen could be before males rejected it, designing a series of experiments where they removed the legs, tail, wings, and
even the body of a decoy and recorded the male turkey’s response. As it turned out, turkey dudes would mack on virtually anything that had the head of a female turkey, even when it was just a balsa-wood head on a stick, conclusively proving a link between turkeys and desperate frat brothers
NAIL BITING AVERSION THERAPY: A WEIRD GUY IN YOUR BEDROOM
Professor Lawrence Leshan had a novel hypothesis: if a phrase was stated over and over again while a patient was sleeping, they would eventually internalize the meaning of that phrase, possibly eliminating neurotic problems such as nail-biting.
He carried out his experiment in the summer of 1942 with a camp of young nail-biting boys and a phonograph that endlessly repeated the phrase “My fingernails taste terribly bitter.”
Unfortunately the phonograph broke down, but Leshan was undeterred—he simply snuck into the boys’ cabin and repeated the phrase himself. Afterwards he examined the boys and found that 40% of them had ceased biting their nails.
THE SCIENCE OF PUKE
Stubbins Ffirth, a Philadelphian doctor and dedicated scientist, had a unique theory concerning the origin of the devastating yellow fever plague of his time—observing that it was far more prevalent in summer than winter, he believed that the disease wasn’t of the usual contagious type, but was actually related to summer weather and/or behavior that tended towards high heat, rich food, and lots of noise.
The young doctor collected vomit from yellow fever sufferers and exposed it to his body in gradually more horrific ways: smearing puke into open wounds, dribbling upchuck into his eyes, frying up spew and inhaling the fumes, and eventually just drinking pint glasses of pure barf in an effort to disprove his own theory by coming down with yellow fever.
GETTING HIGH ON LIFE AND SHROOMS
Being a neurological or psychological scientist in the early Sixties was pretty awesome, as you could use nearly any excuse to obtain hallucinogenic drugs and feed them to a bunch of unsuspecting grad students.
While many subjects described the effects of the drug as disorienting and unpleasant, other students found the experience uniquely enlightening and remain priests to this day
GETTING AHEAD WITH DOGGED DETERMINATION
It was tough being a dog in the Soviet Union—if the latest agricultural reforms failed, you might get eaten, if a war was declared, you might get strapped to a bomb and told to run at a tank, and if Russian scientists get a hold of you, the best outcome you can hope for is to be shot into space to die alone.
Dogs that didn’t make the cut for the space program were likely to get their head cut off and attached to a pump (the Sergei
Brukhonenko experiments of 1928) or to another dog (the Vladimir Demikhov experiments of 1954).
When the news broke in the west that Vlad Demikhov had successfully grafted one dog onto the other, there was a wide range of reactions: horror, disgust, disbelief, and in the case of American surgeon Robert White, a sort of professional jealousy.
“Dog, shmog,” White may have said to his assistants. “No Commie is going to out-crazy the head surgeons of the US of A. Break open a crate of monkeys—we’re taking this to the
White’s team embarked on a series of experimental surgeries that eventually culminated in the technically successful 1970 transplantation of the head of monkey A onto the body of monkey B. Upon regaining consciousness, monkey A/B was understandably pretty pissed off at Dr. White.
Because of Russia’s distinguished history of doing weird stuff to animals (and in part because of persistent fears of a communist man-ape army) rumors have always floated around the scientific establishment about fringey Soviet experiments to breed humans and apes together.