50 Shocking Unusual Experiments Few Know About – Part 2

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1Ronald Maddison

In 1953, Ronald Maddison, a 20-year-old Royal Air Force engineer died while acting as a guinea pig for sarin gas testing at Porton Down, England. Maddison was offered 15 shillings for the experiment, which he planned on using to buy an engagement ring for his girlfriend.


2. In the 1940s, U.S. researchers in Guatemala paid prostitutes infected with syphilis to have sex with prisoners and mental patients. The goal was to provide the victims with penicillin after and see if it was effective in treating the disease. At least 83 people died as a result.


3. Between 1949 and 1951, during the Communist party rule in Romania, many young political prisoners were sent to the Pitești Prison as part of a reeducation experiment. The goal of the experiment was to completely discard their past religious convictions and ideology, to eventually alter their personalities to the point of absolute obedience. Prisoners' bodies were burned with cigarettes; their buttocks would begin to rot, and their skin fell off as though they suffered from leprosy. Others were forced to swallow spoons of excrement, and when they threw it back up, they were forced to eat their own vomit. As many as 5000 people went through these experiments and at least 200 people died at Pitești.


4. In 1906, Duncan MacDougall performed the 21 grams experiments on dying patients to determine if the soul had any weight. Even though the experiment was flawed and the inference is questionable, it became a subject of debate and later, a movie.


5. British academics wanted to test out the ‘Infinite Monkey Theorem’ which states that given "an infinite number of monkeys given a typewriter and infinite time will eventually type out Shakespeare's plays". They experimented with just 6 monkeys though and after 4 weeks, the monkeys had typed out 5 pages, mostly the letter S, then "got bored and sh*t on the keyboard."


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6Starfish Prime Experiment

In 1962, a 1.4 megaton nuclear warhead, codenamed "Starfish Prime," was detonated at an altitude of 250 miles by the United States. The EMP it released affected Hawaii 900 miles away and disabled 6 satellites as well as all of the sensors set up to record the experiment.


7. In the 1980s, an experimental Canadian psychologist named Bruce Alexander created Rat Park. It was a Rat Utopia that had food, balls, and wheels for certain male and female rats while the other rats were caged. He found that free rats almost always refused drugs (morphine), while rats in solitary confinement overdosed on a regular basis.


8. Astronomer Rudolf Wolf tried to estimate pi using a needle experiment. He conducted experiments throwing the needle 5000 times, obtaining a value of 3.1596.


9. In 1945, a man named Albert Stevens was misdiagnosed as having terminal cancer and was unconsensually chosen for a radiation experiment since "he was doomed to die" anyway. He was injected with 131kBq of plutonium without his knowledge or consent. That’s is equivalent to 64 Sv (Sieverts) over 21 years. He survived exposure to the highest known radiation dose in any human and lived for another 20 years.


10. In the 1950's, silver foxes were selectively bred for domestication in order to study evolution. They became very tame very fast, developed floppy ears and curly tails, and some got mottled coats, just like other domesticated animals. Some even started vocalizing barks as like dogs.


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11NASA's Dolphin Experiment

In the 1960s, NASA funded a project to communicate with dolphins and teach them English. A dolphin called Peter did actually learn a few words but eventually fell in love with his teacher and also had sexual urges. The experiment was terminated immediately, but Peter couldn't cope with the separation and committed suicide.


12. In 1746, Swedish king Gustav III tried to prove coffee was unhealthy by having one man drink large amounts of coffee and his identical twin drinks the same amount of tea every day for the rest of their lives. Both twins outlived the doctors in charge of the experiment and the king himself.


13. Biosphere 2 was a closed ecosystem spread over 3 acres which amongst many other things has its own rainforest, desert, ocean, and lungs. It was an attempt to create a closed ecological system that could be used in space. 8 people lived in the dome for two years, who only needed additional oxygen and one hospital visit. It rained way too much in the desert, and the jungle got too dry. It experienced extensive oxygen loss due to the concrete used in the structure, which absorbed oxygen. Also, since there was no wind, trees failed to develop stress wood and all tree fell down before maturation. The experiment was deemed a failure, and the glass dome is now used as a research facility.


14. A 1998, a space simulation experiment put 7 men and a woman in a replica of the Mir space station for several months. After 110 days, the drunken space commander assaulted the female researcher, threatened to murder another, and one participant fled the experiment early.


15. In 1924, a Russian scientist named Alexander Bogdanov started blood transfusion experiments, hoping to achieve eternal youth. After 11 blood transfusions, he claimed he had improved his eyesight and stopped balding. He died after a transfusion with a student suffering from malaria and TB. The student fully recovered.


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16Frederick II Experiments

Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II had young infants raised without speaking to them in the 13th century to determine if there was a "natural" language imparted by God. His experiments proven unsuccessful because all the children raised this way died.


17. When researchers from the University of Washington trapped and banded crows for an experiment, they wore caveman masks to hide their identities. They could walk freely in the area without masks, but if they donned the masks again, the crows remembered them as evil and dive-bombed them.


18. White-tailed Eagles kept flying into moving turbine blades at the Smøla wind farm in Norway. Researchers then conducted an experiment of painting a single blade black on two turbines compared to two unpainted turbines found that bird deaths declined by 70%.


19. In 1803, a convicted murderer named George Forster was sentenced to death in London. His body was then subjected to a Galvanism experiment by Giovanni Aldini, who passed electrical current through his muscles to ‘animate’ him. Despite being dead, his face contorted and one eye even opened.


20. In a promotional Volkswagon experiment, one randomized group of subway commuters was given the choice of regular stairs and the escalator while a second group could choose between musical "piano stairs" and an escalator. The piano stairs convinced 66% more people than normal to choose stairs.


21Allan Blair's Spider Experiment

There was a disagreement over the danger of black widow spider bites until a 1933 experiment where professor Allan Blair allowed himself to be bitten. Blair also hoped to determine whether multiple bites would build immunity, but the first bite proved so painful that he decided against it.


22. A set of Triplets who got separated at birth discovered one another by chance in New York in 1980 at age 19. After investigative journalist, Lawrence Wright looked into the matter, it was revealed the triplets were part of a scientific experiment by Dr. Peter B. Neubauer who had directed their adoption agency to deliberately separate and place them with families with different parenting styles and economic levels.


23. In the 1800s, a Canadian man named Alexis St. Martin was shot, but he survived and he was left with an open hole in his stomach wall. He was used in experiments for 12 years as doctors could view his digestion in real time through his wound. He lived for another 58 years.


24. American psychologist Harry Harlow conducted maternal-separation experiments on rhesus monkeys. The mothers of baby monkeys were replaced with inanimate surrogates made from wire and wool. It was found babies will take comfort from an inanimate surrogate the same way they would from their mother, despite the surrogate providing neither food nor care, thus highlighting the importance of maternal contact.


25. In 1965, when Gatorade was invented at the University of Florida, the football coach wouldn't let researchers experiment on the varsity team and only allowed testing on freshmen (who couldn't play varsity by NCAA rule). Those players described it as tasting like urine or toilet bowl cleaner.

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