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Science

Atomic Peanuts

In 1959, Walter C. Gregory of North Carolina State College introduced "atomic" peanuts to the world. Despite the name, they weren't radioactive peanuts.

He had exposed peanut seeds to huge amounts of radiation to create mutant strains. Then he had selected the mutant strains with the qualities (size) he liked. And in this way created jumbo-sized peanuts.

As this article at Atlas Obscura notes, what Gregory was doing was "mutation breeding," and it's the way many of the varieties of fruit and veggies we eat nowadays are created. We no longer call it "atomic" food, though it is.

Since the 1950s and 60s, mutation breeding has created around 3,000 commercially available varieties of plant—durum wheat, rice, soybeans, barley, chickpeas, white beans, peaches, bananas, papayas, tomatoes, sunflowers, and more. Almost any grapefruit you've bought was probably a mutant.

"Atomic" peanuts



Man and woman eating "atomic" peanuts



Kansas City Times - Jan 12, 1959

Posted By: Alex | Date: Sun Aug 30, 2015 | Comments (4)
Category: Food, Science, Atomic Power and Other Nuclear Matters, 1950's

Brains and Bust Size — one medical opinion

Back in 1964, Dr. Erwin O. Strassmann of Houston kicked up a controversy by suggesting there was a correlation in women between bust size and I.Q. And he managed to get his opinion published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Kingsport Times-News - Aug 30, 1964



Curious to see exactly what he said, I tracked down his article. Turns out he was an enthusiastic follower of the now-discredited theory of "constitutional psychology." This was an effort to establish a link between body type and personality traits. Critics have dismissed it as an extended exercise in dressing up cultural stereotypes (such as, if you're overweight, you're lazy) in scientific language. For devotees of weird science, the entire field is a goldmine of strangeness.

Here's the relevant section of Strassmann's 1964 article:




Strassmann, E.O. (1964). "Physique, Temperament, and Intelligence in Infertile Women." International Journal of Fertility. 9:297-314.
Posted By: Alex | Date: Thu Aug 27, 2015 | Comments (12)
Category: Body, Brain, Science, Psychology, 1960's

Drunk-O-Meter Test Fizzles

A great moment in the history of science. Arkansas, 1956.

Corsicana Daily Sun - June 8, 1956



'Drunk-O-Meter' Test Is Fizzle: Man Passes Out
HOT SPRINGS, Ark., June 8 — An attempt to test the accuracy of the "Drunk-O-Meter," a device used to measure the degree of intoxication of a person, ended in failure at Hot Springs.
The reason—the man engaged to get drunk for science passed out before he could be measured.
The experiment was conducted by police at the request of the judges' council, an official unit of the Arkansas Bar Association.
The man drank over a 20-hour period. In that time he consumed four half pints of wine, two half pints of whiskey, four half pints of "moonshine" liquor, and a half pint of vodka.
Posted By: Alex | Date: Wed Aug 19, 2015 | Comments (6)
Category: Inebriation and Intoxicants, Science, Experiments, 1950's

Strange Volunteers

My latest about.com piece: 6 insane experiments that people volunteered for.

Posted By: Alex | Date: Tue Aug 11, 2015 | Comments (6)
Category: Science, Experiments, Alex

Marriage via Quantum Entanglement

Jonathon Keats (conceptual artist, experimental philosopher, and friend of WU) is back with a new project. He's setting up an installation in Las Vegas that will be "applying quantum physics to love" by allowing people to bond to each other via quantum entanglement rather than a traditional marriage contract. Sounds perfect for Vegas. Will definitely check it out next time I'm there. Some details below from his press release, and there's also an article about it at Fast Company:

The process of nuptial entanglement developed by Mr. Keats entails no contractual paperwork. The process is unsupervised. There are no restrictions on who may be entangled to whom or how many people may be conjoined. People wishing to become entangled need merely show up at the Art Motel in downtown Las Vegas, where the entanglement apparatus will be operational for the entire Life Is Beautiful Festival, from Friday, September 25th to Sunday, September 27th. "We've negotiated an exclusive offering," says Art Motel organizer John Doffing. After that, the quantum chamber is expected to become a permanent nuptial suite in one of the city's fanciest casino hotels. A product line will also be launched, including entangled wedding bands, champagne and bubble bath.

For Life Is Beautiful, the entanglement apparatus will be situated in a sunny motel window. Exposed to the full spectrum of solar radiation, a nonlinear crystal will entangle photons. The entangled photons will be scattered by thousands of hanging mirrors and prisms, and the photoelectric effect will translate their entangled state to the bodies of people who wish to be united, reclining on a floor covered in throw pillows. "It's even easier than getting a sun tan," asserts Mr. Keats, who is now happily entangled with his wife. "And no need for a wedding gown or tux. In fact, the less clothing you wear, the more entangled you're likely to get."

Posted By: Alex | Date: Thu Aug 06, 2015 | Comments (8)
Category: Art, Science, Marriage

Zero Gravity Frog

NASA footage of experiments with frogs in a zero-g environment, performed on the Space Shuttle Endeavor, 1992.


Posted By: Alex | Date: Sun May 24, 2015 | Comments (2)
Category: Animals, Science, Experiments, 1990's

Dentist’s Handbook for Carnivorous Penis Worms

The title sounds unpleasant on many different levels. But this is all just science. Nothing to be afraid of. "Penis worms," or priapulids, were creatures that lived 500 million years ago. They had pretty distinctive looking teeth. And now researchers have compiled a 'dentist's handbook' to aid in identifying these creatures in the fossil record. [Science Daily]

Posted By: Alex | Date: Sat May 23, 2015 | Comments (8)
Category: Animals, Science

Schizophrenic Model Psychosis Induced By LSD 25

Posted By: Paul | Date: Sat May 02, 2015 | Comments (15)
Category: Drugs, Psychedelic, Science, 1950's

The Rotor at Kennywood



While Kennywood Amusement Park is still operating, they no longer feature the Rotor. Given its 3Gs of force, in this day and age of tender litigious patrons, I'm surprised any park still does.
Posted By: Paul | Date: Sat Apr 25, 2015 | Comments (9)
Category: Fairs, Amusement Parks, and Resorts, Science, 1950's

Urine-Fueled Distress Signals

Imagine that you're stuck in a remote location and you need to radio for help. But your radio has no power! Never fear. As long as you have some of these paper triangles created by researchers at the Bristol BioEnergy Centre — and you have to go to the bathroom — you'll have battery power. Just pee on the paper triangles and they produce enough power to send a radio signal.

And what if you don't have to go? In that case, urine from just about any animal will do.

More details at Chemistry World.

Posted By: Alex | Date: Tue Mar 17, 2015 | Comments (3)
Category: Science, Body Fluids
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All original content in posts is Copyright © 2008 by the author of the post, either Alex Boese ("Alex"), Paul Di Filippo ("Paul"), or Chuck Shepherd ("Chuck"). All rights reserved. The banner illustration at the top of this page is Copyright © 2008 by Rick Altergott.