This article comes from my weird science site, which I haven't updated in years. My project for the new year is to import all the content from there into WU, so I can shut that site down and stop paying the hosting fees.
While he was a grad student at the University of Chicago in the early 1920s, William Blatz was sitting in class one day, leaning back in his chair, when suddenly the chair collapsed beneath him, sending him sprawling backwards, crying out in fright. The experience was unsettling, but it gave him an idea for an unusual psychology experiment.
He designed a trick chair that would collapse backwards without warning when he flipped an electric switch. The chair was padded, so its occupant wouldn't get hurt. But Blatz figured that the sensation of abruptly, unexpectedly falling backwards would provoke a strong, measurable reaction in subjects. This would allow him to study the physiology of fear under controlled, repeatable conditions. He performed his experiment on a series of unsuspecting victims.
Diagram of Blatz's trick chair.
More in extended >>
When the hook (A) at the top was released, the chair plunged backwards.
As the population increases, we will all have to learn to accept strangers on the street standing very close to us.
One of the students would speak to a stranger on the street and begin asking him questions pertaining to the local police department. While talking the interviewer slowly moved closer and violated the stranger's personal body space. The person's reaction was then filmed.
According to recently collected facts, there were three basic reactions: (1) He-she slowly backed away as the interviewer got closer, (2) He-she struck a defensive pose such as folding arms, looking down, or even turning to one side, and (3) No reaction, though most people do have some kind of reaction...
According to Mark, most people have this "wall" about 18 inches around them that excludes all people from entering. What the interviewers were doing when they moved closer to the person was violating personal body space, causing them to react.
Steve says, "It's a shame this happens because as our world gets more and more crowded, we'll have to get closer together. Let's all start getting closer together and break down that wall."
Terre Haute Tribune - Mar 31, 1974
So why was Simone Harris standing on a Sydney street in a bikini? Was this a publicity stunt? Was she a psychologist conducting research? A performance artist being weird? I haven't been able to find answers anywhere.
Racine Journal Times - June 17, 1970
These pictures in the Google Arts picture archive
don't come with any explanatory text, except that they're from an "Air Raid Noise Experiment" conducted in Nuneaton in 1941. But I suspect that the experiment was part of a series of psychological experiments conducted in the UK in 1941 that attempted to "harden Britons to bomb shock." The idea was to expose people to the sounds of air raid sirens and battle sounds so that they would lose their fear of them. As described in the news clipping below:
The suggestion was advanced that whole populations be put through the experiment to make them 'immune, through familiarity, to fear caused by air raid noises.'
The Greenfield Daily Reporter - Nov 28 1941
I've been aware of these experiments for a while. I previously posted something about them back in 2009
. But I just came across these photos and realized they must be from one of these experiments.
Paul Zindel's play The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds
won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1971. It inspired Paul Newman to make a film of the same name the next year.
And in 1974 it inspired 13-year-old Danny Kleiner of Philadelphia to wonder what the effect of gamma rays on marigolds would be. So he made that his school science project. He used cobalt radiation to produce the gamma rays. Unfortunately, I don't know what the results of his experiment were.
I haven't read or seen Zindel's play so I don't know if a similar experiment is featured in the book. I'm guessing it must be. I wonder how many high school students were inspired by Zindel's play to do similar experiments?
Danny Kleiner examining his gamma-ray-exposed marigolds
via Temple University Library
Three students at Northeast High School in Philadelphia participated in a medical experiment in which for five days they experienced what it was like to be blind.
I'm guessing this kind of experiment would never be allowed nowadays in a high school.
Temple University digital collections (image one
, image two
An experiment conducted by animal behavior expert Marc Bekoff of the University of Colorado, Boulder with his dog, Jethro:
While talking Jethro on his daily walk I conducted a study of his sniffing and urination patterns. To learn about the role of urine in eliciting sniffing and urinating, I moved urine-saturated snow ("yellow snow") from place-to-place during five winters to compare Jethro's responses to his own and other dog's urine. Immediately after Jethro or other known males or females urinated on snow, I scooped up a small clump of the yellow snow in gloves and moved it to different locations. For some reasons passers-by thought I was strange and generally left me alone. Moving yellow snow was a useful and novel method for discovering that Jethro spent less time sniffing his own urine than that of other males or females.
More info: Psychology Today - June 29, 2009
As a young doctor-in-training at the University of Illinois Medical School in the early 1950s, Lloyd Thomas Koritz volunteered to be a guinea pig in a variety of experiments. In one, he ate a pound of raw liver daily (washed down by a quart of milk) to help study liver metabolism. In a fatigue study he was kept unconscious for 11 hours.
But the most dangerous experiment involved being hung in a harness from a specially-constructed mast and knocked out with anesthesia and curare, so that his breathing stopped. Researchers then tested methods of resuscitating him. They were searching for more efficient ways of resuscitating electrocuted power line workers, so that they could revive the workers while they were still hanging from the poles instead of having to lower them while unconscious to the ground, which takes a lot of time.
I think it would be hard nowadays to get approval to do these kinds of tests on human subjects. Koritz said he disliked the liver-eating experiment the most. In 1953 he was given the Walter Reed Society Award for being willing to repeatedly risk his life for the sake of science.
"Drugged into unconsciousness and paralysis, [Koritz] willingly risked insanity
and death in a significant experiment. This test helped determine the best way
to revive electrically-shocked linemen."
Saturday Evening Post - July 25, 1953
San Bernardino County Sun - Apr 9, 1953
San Bernardino County Sun - Apr 9, 1953
Researchers in Korea are developing a technology that will allow humans to control turtles through thought alone. This is achieved without having to implant any device inside the turtle's brain. Nor does it involve telekinetic powers.
It takes advantage of the fact that a turtle will reliably walk towards a white light, because of their instinctive escape behavior. So the turtle wears a "stimulation device" that blocks its view except in a specific direction that can be remotedly adjusted by a human wearing a "brain-computer interface." The interface can pick up simple thought commands: left, right, or idle. It then transmits the command to the turtle stimulation device, which adjusts its position, and the turtle walks in the desired direction.
The researchers note that their system "could have military applications such as reconnaissance and surveillance," and also "this system could be used in unconventional applications such as immersive virtual reality systems that give the user a sense of oneness with the controlled animal, as if it were their surrogate agent."
More info: Science Daily
Researchers at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore recently made an unusual discovery, which is that "the magnetic properties of living cockroaches are strikingly different from those of dead cockroaches."
Place a living cockroach in a magnetic field and it'll become magnetized, and then stay magnetized for about 50 minutes.
Place a dead cockroach in a magnetic field and it'll also become magnetized, but then remain magnetized for almost 50 hours.
The reason for the difference:
Cockroaches become magnetized because they contain magnetic particles that become aligned with an external magnetic field. These particles are trapped in a runny medium that has low viscosity in living cockroaches. But as soon as the creatures die, the medium begins to harden and its viscosity increases.
So I'm curious how strongly magnetized dead cockroaches become. Would it be possible to use them as refrigerator magnets?
More info: MIT Technology Review