Coin-Toss Experiment

Is a coin toss truly random? Not according to the "D-H-M model" which proposes that a tossed coin is slightly more likely to land on the same side that it started.

To test this model, a team of researchers at the University of Amsterdam arranged for a group of subjects to flip coins a total of 350,757 times. Their conclusion: "the data reveal overwhelming statistical evidence for the presence of same-side bias."

What this means as a money-making strategy:

If you bet a dollar on the outcome of a coin toss (i.e., paying 1 dollar to enter, and winning either 0 or 2 dollars depending on the outcome) and repeat the bet 1,000 times, knowing the starting position of the coin toss would earn you 19 dollars on average. This is more than the casino advantage for 6 deck blackjack against an optimal-strategy player, where the casino would make 5 dollars on a comparable bet, but less than the casino advantage for single-zero roulette, where the casino would make 27 dollars on average.


Posted By: Alex - Thu Apr 11, 2024 - Comments (5)
Category: Money, Experiments

An Upside-Down Experiment

In 1950, graduate student Fred Snyder of the University of Wichita spent 30 days wearing special glasses that inverted his vision. It was part of an experiment designed by Dr. N.H. Pronko, head of the psychology department, to see if a person could adapt to seeing everything upside-down. The answer was that, yes, Snyder gradually adapted to inverted vision. And when the experiment ended he had to re-adapt to seeing the world right-side-up.

Snyder and Pronko described the experiment in their 1952 book, Vision with Spatial Inversion. From the book's intro:

Suppose that we attached lenses to the eyes of a newborn child, lenses having the property of reversing right-left and up and down. Suppose, also, that the child wore the lenses through childhood, boyhood, and young manhood. What would happen if these inverting lenses were finally removed on his twenty-fifth birthday? Would he be nauseated and unable to reach and walk and read?

Such an experiment is out of the question, of course. Yet another experiment was made: a young man was persuaded to wear inverting lenses for 30 days, and his experiences are reported here. His continued progress, after an initial upset, suggests that new perceptions do develop in the same way as the original perceptions did. Life situations suggest the same thing. Dentists learn to work via a mirror in the patient's mouth until the action is automatic. In the early days of television, cameramen had to "pan" their cameras with a reversed view. Later the image in the camera was corrected to correspond with the scene being panned. The changeover caused considerable confusion to cameramen until they learned appropriate visual-motor coordinations. Fred Snyder, the subject of our upside-down experiment, found himself in a similar predicament, at least for a time.

Images from Life - Sep 18, 1950:

"Graduate student Fred Snyder falling down after removing special eyeglasses that reverse and invert everything he sees. Immediately before removing glasses he rode a bicycle with perfect control along sidewalk in Central Park."

Posted By: Alex - Mon Mar 25, 2024 - Comments (2)
Category: Experiments, 1950s, Eyes and Vision

The science of shaking Christmas presents

Researchers at the University of Michigan have been studying people shaking boxes in order to shed light on "epistemic action understanding." Or rather, "Can one person tell, just by observing another person’s movements, what they are trying to learn?"

In other words, as you watch someone shake a box, can you figure out what information they're trying to gather about the contents of the box (i.e. the shape or quantity of things in it)?

More info: "Seeing and understanding epistemic actions"

Posted By: Alex - Sat Dec 30, 2023 - Comments (0)
Category: Science, Experiments, Psychology, Christmas

She sold her body for gingerbread

Requesting "all the ginger-bread she could eat" in exchange for her body after death initially struck me as a bizarre detail. But the more I think about it, the more reasonable it seems given that condemned prisoners often request cookies, candy, junk food, etc. as their last meal.

Whiting Weekly News - Jan 25, 1890

Posted By: Alex - Sat Nov 18, 2023 - Comments (1)
Category: Death, Food, Prisons, Experiments, Nineteenth Century

Whole brain not needed for handling money

Mention to any friends who are bankers or accountants that science has shown they could have a frontal lobotomy and still do their job, and see how they react.

Click to enlarge

Posted By: Alex - Mon Sep 04, 2023 - Comments (0)
Category: Money, Experiments, Psychology, 1930s

Warming Pills

Glycine is readily available as a supplement. I hadn't heard about its supposed warming properties.

Scranton Times-Tribune - July 25, 1957

I searched for the research that inspired the newspaper report above and found a 1956 study, conducted at the Arctic Aeromedical Laboratory, that involved immersing dogs in freezing water. The researchers measured how long it took for the rectal temperature of the dogs to lower to 26°C. Dogs that had been given glycine took longer to chill (and warmed up more rapidly) than the control group:

Immersion Hypothermia: Effect of Glycine.
The intravenous administration of a 5% glycine solution caused a significant increase of 34.6 minutes in the time required to lower the rectal temperature of dogs from 38°C to 26°C. Total rewarming time was decreased by 34.3 minutes in the glycine treated group. The differences in cooling and rewarming rates between the treated and non-treated animals was due to the increased heat production observed in the dogs receiving glycine. The possible applicability of thermogenic agents in accidental hypothermia is discussed.

However, I then found a 1961 study, also from the Arctic Aeromedical Laboratory (but this time conducted on humans) that seemed to cast doubt on the warming properties of glycine:

Thirty grams of glycine were administered orally to five volunteer, male subjects who were subsequently exposed nude to an environment of 10° C. Measurements of rectal and extremity surface temperatures and whole body metabolic rates failed to show any statistically significant effects that could be attributed to the influence of glycine, as compared to glucose control measurements, throughout a 1-hour cold exposure.

I think I'll stick with whiskey for warmth.

Posted By: Alex - Tue Aug 15, 2023 - Comments (3)
Category: Experiments, 1950s

Result of artificial sleep in a biological experiment

In the 1950s, reports came out of the Soviet Union about an unusual experiment in which a dog's life was radically lengthened by putting it into an artificial sleep for three months.

The research was done by S.N. Braines (I have no idea what "S.N." stands for). I believe that he reported his results in a 1952 article titled, "Result of artificial sleep in a biological experiment," published in a Soviet journal. But I can't be sure because I can't find the text of the article.

The results he achieved sound unlikely to me.

Omaha World-Herald - Oct 17, 1958

Text from Main Street, U.S.S.R. (1959), by Irving R. Levine

Posted By: Alex - Wed Jul 26, 2023 - Comments (3)
Category: Sleep and Dreams, Experiments, Dogs, 1950s, Longevity

Finger Injuries Caused by Power-Operated Windows

The next time you use the power windows in your car, think about the cadavers that suffered injuries to make them safe for you.

Source: Injury journal

via New Scientist

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jul 17, 2023 - Comments (3)
Category: Body, Experiments, Cars

Death Valley Moon Test

July 1968: It was widely reported that Kathie Pieper, recent winner of the Miss AAU California beauty contest, would be participating in a hike through Death Valley. The hike was said to be part of an experiment conducted by researchers at the California Institute of Technology, in cooperation with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, that would have "something to do with testing clothing and other equipment that could be used if man ever landed on the moon." Pieper agreed to go on the hike after being contacted by a JPL official who told her she was "just the type of girl they were looking for."

See below in extended for the follow-up.

The Fresno Bee - July 19, 1968

More in extended >>

Posted By: Alex - Thu Jul 13, 2023 - Comments (2)
Category: Deceit, Trickery, Subterfuge and General Slyness, Experiments, 1960s

British Rail’s Train Safety Experiment

Jan 1993: In order to find out how close workers could safely stand by the tracks while the new high-speed trains were going by, British Rail announced it would conduct an unusual experiment. It would tether employees to wooden posts located around six feet from the tracks and then measure the force of the slipstream on them as the trains went by at 140 mph.

Although members of the public weren't invited to participate in the experiment, about 50 of them volunteered to be guinea pigs anyway.

Sunday London Telegraph - Jan 31, 1993

It was difficult to find out the results of the experiment, but after some digging I located a postscript printed in the Magazine of the Pennine Railway Society. The test never took place. Faced with widespread criticism, British Rail's Health and Safety Executive cancelled it.

Loco Notion
Barmy BR proposed to tether workers to trackside posts as high-speed trains thundered past at 140mph. Bosses wanted human guinea pigs to stand as close as 6ft 6in to the expresses to test the effect of their slipstream. Rail
union chief Jimmy Knapp branded the idea barmy and suggested BR use Transport Secretary John MacGregor instead.
The workers would have been attached to posts by special harnesses that would allow them to move to the side but not forward. They would have been asked for their reaction after the trains had roared past. The tests would have helped to determine the distances from trains at which staff could work in safety. They would have taken place between York and Darlington.
However the Health and Safety Executive banned the scheme. The tests have been postponed pending further discussions to see how BR could get the information another way.
One disgruntled railwayman described the scheme as harebrained and said he joined BR to drive a flipping engine, not to play flipping bondage games. However a number of civilians have volunteered to take part in the scheme, preferably dressed in leather and chained from head to toe.
The effect when someone stands in the slipstream of a high-speed train is likely to be they'd get sucked under it. If tied to a post perhaps it would suck their boots off, or maybe they'd go blue in the face.
The idea is on a par to that of abolishing the timetable to stop the trains running late.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jul 03, 2023 - Comments (2)
Category: Experiments, Trains and Other Vehicles on Rails, Transportation, 1990s

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Alex Boese
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction, science-themed books such as Elephants on Acid and Psychedelic Apes.

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Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.

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