History's Strangest Science Experiments Guests discuss some of science's most unusual research and what it's like to be a human "lab rat." We'll hear from one woman who was blindfolded for five days in the name of science, and another participant who spent 84 days lying in bed.
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History's Strangest Science Experiments

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History's Strangest Science Experiments

History's Strangest Science Experiments

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IRA FLATOW, host:

Have you ever participated in a strange science experiment? Now, I'm not just talking about donating your plasma in college to gain a buck. We've all done that. We've also been maybe in a little psychology experiment in college. We've all done that.

Well, for the rest of the hour, we're going to be exploring the sometimes-bizarre world of scientific research. There are scientists who have tried to contract yellow fever by drinking vomit. Others have refused to laugh while tickling their kids. We'll talk about them. But also, we'll talk with people who have played that part of the guinea pigs. Some people have been to some unusual - have been the guinea pig in unusual science experiments. One of them was blindfolded for almost a week. The other had to lie down on a bed with their head down, in the down position, for 84 days. Don't try this at home.

1-800-989-8255, if you'd like to talk about strange science experiments. Maybe you are - maybe you're conducting one. Maybe you are involved in one. Maybe you'd like to be involved with one. Maybe you have some experience. And you can join in our discussion. Also, you can surf over to our Web site at sciencefriday.com or talk to the avatars in "Second Life" at Science School and click on the button on Science Friday's Web page to go to that slur, as they call it in "Second Life."

Let me introduce my guests. Alex Boese began collecting stories of strange science experiments, when he was a history of science student seven years ago. And now, they are out - all these experiments - in a new book, "Elephants on Acid: And Other Bizarre Science Experiments" published by Harcourt. He also runs the hoax and urban legend Web site MuseumofHoaxes.com. He joins us today from San Diego.

Welcome to the program.

Mr. ALEX BOESE (Author, "Elephants on Acid: And Other Bizarre Science Experiments"; blogger, huseumofhoaxes.com): Thanks, Ira. Good to be here.

FLATOW: You're welcome. Alison Motluk is a freelance science writer and a New Scientist Toronto correspondent, who found herself blinded for five days -blindfolded, we should say. And she joins us today by phone from Toronto.

Welcome to the program.

Ms. ALISON MOTLUK (Freelance Science Writer; Correspondent, New Scientist): Hi. Thanks for inviting me.

FLATOW: Alex, what made you write a book like this?

Mr. BOESE: Well, I've always been intrigued by what I call just weird stuff. And some of these weird experiment - it doesn't get any more bizarre than this. So I just am constantly fascinated by what scientists can dream up and also the kind of things that people are willing to go along with when they volunteer to be in these weird experiments.

FLATOW: And what did you find as the most bizarre story collected?

Mr. BOESE: That's a hard one to answer because there are so many extremely bizarre ones. One of my favorites one was the one you alluded to earlier, is the man who, in the early 19th century, a medical student named Stubbins Ffirth, which - I love that name, Stubbins. Not enough people called as Stubbins anymore.

But he had a theory that yellow fever was not contagious. And so to prove his theory, he took it upon himself to start exposing himself to yellow fever in all kinds of imaginative ways. So he was breathing, cooking yellow - cooking the black vomit of yellow fever patient on a stove and breathing in the vapors. And then he started dropping the black vomit in his eyes. And he slowly worked his way up to actually chugging down whole cup fulls of fresh black vomit.

FLATOW: Hope people aren't eating - lunchtime (unintelligible).

Mr. BOESE: Right. Yeah. I'm sorry about that.

FLATOW: Yeah. And did he contract yellow fever?

Mr. BOESE: Amazingly, he didn't, which he thought proved his theory. But of course, we now know that to get yellow fever, it really has to be injected directly into the blood, usually by a mosquito. So in a sense, he was just incredibly lucky that it didn't manage to get into his blood stream.

FLATOW: Hmm. Alison Motluk, you were a guinea pig, so to speak. Would that be the right term?

Ms. MOTLUK: I guess so.

FLATOW: And tell us about your experiment.

Ms. MOTLUK: Well, I volunteered to be blindfolded for five days straight. And…

FLATOW: What came over you?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MOTLUK: I ask myself that sometimes. I was very curious. I had written about the experiment and, you know, once you write about it, you think, what must that be like. And I pondered it for about a year and then I decided I was going to try it.

FLATOW: So you did this in your own home, by yourself?

Ms. MOTLUK: No. In fact, this is - it run through Harvard Medical School. And I was hospitalized for the whole five days. They didn't want anything to happen to me.

FLATOW: So are you confined to a room or chair or -

Ms. MOTLUK: To a room, pretty much. I mean, I've got taken out for walks but, yeah, pretty much, I was in my room.

FLATOW: And did it turn out as you expect it.

Ms. MOTLUK: No. Not at all, actually. I was very worried about it. After I'd put myself forward, I started to think of all kinds of reasons why I didn't want to do it. And I was quite anxious about things like, you know, waking up in the night and not knowing where I was, or maybe getting so anxious, I'd pull the blindfold off or - but in fact, once the blindfold went on, it was kind of - I was very calm and it was very interesting. It turned out to be a very exhilarating experience.

FLATOW: Hmm. It was like euphoria, you mean, came over you?

Ms. MOTLUK: I did have some weird feelings of euphoria. And I mean there were also some very interesting visual experiences. My - you think of blindness as condemning you to complete darkness.

FLATOW: Yeah.

Ms. MOTLUK: But that's not what happened to me. And in fact, apparently, not what happens to most of the people in this experiment. They - we see these bright lights. And in my case, I saw like swimming fish and Andy Warhol-type pictures and like textured wallpaper patterns and then Titanic under sea images and stuff like that, constantly, for three days or so. It was a light show. It was fascinating.

FLATOW: You know, I would have been scared out of my mind and said that I got to take off this blindfold, you know.

Ms. MOTLUK: Well, you know, I would have taken it off if people - the nurses warned me. They said now you realize, you know, you're going to see some things and they didn't really say any more. And if they hadn't said that, I think I would have thought, oh, no, this is terrible. I'm obviously losing my mind or my vision or something - I'm going to take it off. But they did warn me, so I just sort of sat back and enjoyed it.

FLATOW: What was the point of the whole thing?

Ms. MOTLUK: Well, the point of this experiment is that - I mean, we knew that people who are long-term blind, the parts of their brain that would normally be processing vision, they process other things. But the question was does that happen over many years? Is it only as a result of, like, permanent blindness or what happens? And this particular researcher who dreamt up this experiment, Alvaro Pascual-Leone at Harvard, he didn't think that was what was happening. He thought that probably any brain have the capacity to just switch over, you know? If vision is cut out then, you know, maybe that part of the brain will just reach out to some other sense to try to get information.

And so they scan you, the first day of blindfolding, to see, you know, how your brain is adapting. And then they wait for five days and they scan you on the last day with an MRI scan. And they see if your brain is, in fact, if that part of your brain that normally processes vision has actually taken up other activity. And, you know, in most of their subjects, that's what they find.

FLATOW: 1-800-989-8255 is our number, talking about weird science experiments.

Alex Boese, you had one that, you know, that - I mean, it's hard to - how do you decide what is the weirdest?

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: You have experiments where they took a dog - put two heads of a dog together.

Mr. BOESE: Yes.

FLATOW: They kept another one - kept the head of a dog alive by itself.

Mr. BOESE: Uh-huh. That's what - yeah, what I was saying earlier is there are hundreds of even thousands of these incredibly bizarre things that researchers have dreamed up. So when people ask me, okay, what's the weirdest, you know, I'm kind of going through my head are these ones about - like you said the researcher who created - surgically created a two-headed dog and I'm thinking, well, is that the weirdest or there's also one where they…

FLATOW: And these were real - these are real researchers? These are legitimate researchers?

Mr. BOESE: Absolutely. That's what when I was doing the research for my book, one of my criteria was that it had to be absolutely real researchers. It couldn't be just crackpots out there. It had to be stuff that was actually published in a scientific journal, you know, viewed at the time as legitimate research.

FLATOW: And the point of a two-headed dog is?

Mr. BOESE: Well, the surgeon who's doing that, Vladimir Demikhov, was trying to perfect his surgical techniques in order to learn how to do heart and lung transplant surgery. And, you know, you may wonder how transplanting the head of a dog would help you with heart or lung transplant, but, you know, maybe it did teach him something about connecting blood vessels or something. But most critics said that it was just purely sensationalism, just a kind of publicity stunt for the Soviet Union at the time.

FLATOW: Mm-hmm. Talking about the weird science experiments this hour TALK OF THE NATION: SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR News. Talking with Alex Boese, author of "Elephants on Acid: And Other Bizarre Science Experiments;" and also Alison Motluk, a freelance science writer and a New Scientist Toronto correspondent. The title is "Elephants on Acid."

Mr. BOESE: Mm-hmm.

FLATOW: You haven't mentioned that as one of your favorites.

Mr. BOESE: No. That was one conducted back in 1962, where some researchers in Oklahoma City got the idea of, you know, trying to find out what happens if you give LSD to an elephant. I guess it just so happened that they had an elephant available at the Oklahoma City Zoo and they had some LSD so, you know, why not?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BOESE: The one big problem is that nobody had given LSD to an elephant so they had absolutely no idea how much LSD was appropriate to give to such a large animal. So they just kind of decided to wing it and they thought, oh, well, you know, elephant is huge so let's give it a really huge, huge dose. And that they actually gave it so much that I think it still holds the record for the largest amount of LSD given to a living creature.

FLATOW: Wow.

Mr. BOESE: It was about 3,000 times what a human dose would be and…

FLATOW: I wonder if the CIA was interested in those from the LSD experiments (unintelligible) people decades ago, you know.

Mr. BOESE: Yeah. The CIA was certainly very involved in funding LSD research at the time, but there is no evidence that they…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BOESE: …played any part in this elephant experiment.

FLATOW: So the elephant died?

Mr. BOESE: Yes. It was so much LSD that basically the elephant kind of trumpeted wildly and then just keeled over dead, which is a tragic end to the experiment. That was not what the experimenters were predicting what happen, but it was just a fatal overdose.

FLATOW: Alison Motluk, what does your experiment teach you? What are you left with after this?

Ms. MOTLUK: Yeah, I mean one of the things that surprised me was I had kind of been anxious about feeling incomplete or, you know, disabled in some way. And the truth is that I didn't feel that way at all. I felt completely myself. I, you know, I chatted with people. I didn't really miss seeing them. That was the most surprising thing I think that happened is that I just felt - I felt completely myself even though I had been dependent on vision my whole life and expected to go back to vision in a couple of days.

FLATOW: Did you decide in your mind which was the more valuable sense?

Ms. MOTLUK: You know, I did think that if I - when I get old, if I have to choose between being blind or deaf, I'd rather be blind. We have deafness in my family and that's a very debilitating - you can't communicate. And I did feel that without vision, I could still communicate with people, you know, in just as rich way, and I - so I did think a little bit about that. I don't know how I feel when that day actually comes or if I'll be given the time for that. But I did think about how, you know, it was - I felt good, you know?

FLATOW: Yeah.

Ms. MOTLUK: That surprised me.

FLATOW: So it was an enabling experience, you profited from it?

Ms. MOTLUK: I suppose. I mean…

FLATOW: Would you tell other people to give it a shot?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MOTLUK: Well, I think I wouldn't discourage anyone.

FLATOW: Sounds pretty simple.

Ms. MOTLUK: I wouldn't discourage anyone.

FLATOW: So you can just blind you - put on a blindfold - for how many days was it?

Ms. MOTLUK: I wouldn't do it on your own. No.

FLATOW: No.

Ms. MOTLUK: Because the truth is here I was being totally taken care of, people bringing me food and then asking me if I was okay and bringing me coffee and, you know, there I had my neat little hospital room.

FLATOW: Well, there you have - there's the attraction of it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: All that attention.

Ms. MOTLUK: My friends called it the blind spa.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: All right. We're going to take a short break and come back and talk lots more with Alex Boese, author of "Elephants on Acid: And Other Bizarre Science Experiments." Alison Motluk, a freelance science writer. And bring in another guinea pig who was lying down on her back for weeks at a time, and a bizarre experiment for NASA. Stay with us. We'll be right back after this short break.

I'm Ira Flatow. This is TALK OF THE NATION: SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

FLATOW: You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION: SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow.

We're talking this hour about the science experiments where you are the guinea pig, and also some - talking about weird science experiments with my guests. Alex Boese, who wrote a book, a collection of strange science experiments when he was a history of science student seven years ago when he was collecting them and now, put them out in a new book called "Elephants on Acid: And Other Bizarre Science Experiments."

Also, Alison Motluk who is a freelance science writer and a New Scientist Toronto correspondent who found herself with a blindfold for five days. And now we're going to add something new to the mix. Remember that "Twilight Zone" episode, where an Air Force pilot was confined to a small room for a long period of time to see how well he would hold up during a long space voyage?

Well, in 2006, NASA had Erin Peterson lying in bed for 84 days on a negative six degree incline - that means her head was below her feet to assimilate what it's like for astronauts in space. The space agency was studying the effects of zero gravity on the body systems and Ms. Peterson joins us now from Cleveland to talk about that experiment. Welcome, Ms. Peterson.

Ms. ERIN PETERSON (Participant in the 2006 NASA Bedrest Study; Secretary at Camping and Recreation Services, Cleveland Site Center): Hi. How are you doing?

FLATOW: Did I say that right - you were lying down for 12 weeks?

Ms. PETERSON: Yes.

FLATOW: Were you on your back all this time?

Ms. PETERSON: No, I could lay on my side and on my stomach, but I couldn't sit up.

FLATOW: You couldn't sit up - didn't the blood rush to your head?

Ms. PETERSON: Yes. But you get acclimated to it very quickly.

FLATOW: Huh.

Ms. PETERSON: Less than a week.

FLATOW: And what kind of effects started to happen to your body during that time?

Ms. PETERSON: You get a lot of headaches, indigestion, your muscles start to atrophy. You just are generally uncomfortable…

FLATOW: Right.

Ms. PETERSON: …for most of the time you're doing it.

FLATOW: Did they ever wheel you around to other places for a change of venue?

Ms. PETERSON: During the week, we had daily suspension and they'd wheel me to the other end of the hospital campus, the Cleveland Clinic Campus. And I would be suspended about four feet off the ground in a like a harness and cradle system.

FLATOW: Still upside down?

Ms. PETERSON: Still horizontal, yes.

FLATOW: Yeah.

Ms. PETERSON: And I think after about the 60th day, it was starting to get nice out and they wheeled me outside. I got to go on little field trips like that.

FLATOW: They must have paid you well for staying (unintelligible) all day.

Ms. PETERSON: It was a pretty decent amount of money.

FLATOW: And you did - did you do it for the money or did you just…

Ms. PETERSON: No, no, no, no, no.

FLATOW: Yeah.

Ms. PETERSON: I was kind of looking for a change of venue and just an interesting story to tell.

FLATOW: Well, you certainly have one. You have one now.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: Have you actually written up your experience anywhere, to read about?

Ms. PETERSON: During the study, I kept a public blog online and, you know, these people who wanted to see how I was doing from day-to-day could check up on that.

FLATOW: I would imagine…

Ms. PETERSON: There's a lot of pictures and stuff.

FLATOW: Well, we'll have to check it out.

I would imagine that your - don't you lose muscle tone and have problems with your muscles after so many weeks?

Ms. PETERSON: Right. I actually kind of had to learn how to walk again. I went through about a month and a half, two months of rehab after getting out of bed.

FLATOW: Wow. And how long did it take before you could stand up?

Ms. PETERSON: I was able to stand up right away. Remaining standing up - it was for long periods of time, it took like three or four days before I can really get around on my own.

FLATOW: Alex Boese, are you familiar with these kinds of experiments? You've researched all kinds of them.

Mr. BOESE: Yeah. I mean, I know that NASA and the Soviet space agencies have both done quite a few studies that have involved keeping people on bed for up to a year. I think the Soviets did it an entire year to, you know, simulate weightlessness and for their - the astronauts. One of the things that keeps striking when I hear people say that it's, you know, the amazing willingness of people to do this for the sake of science, just the kind of heroic efforts that they will put themselves through in these experiments.

FLATOW: Erin, would you do this again?

Ms. PETERSON: Absolutely. I had a blast.

FLATOW: You had a blast?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. PETERSON: Yeah, I got to meet all kinds of really neat people and, you know, like, I got to meet astronauts and…

FLATOW: So you had a lot of attention doing this? I mean, you weren't like isolated and cut off in your room there?

Ms. PETERSON: No. I had volunteers coming in just to spend time. I had - I did a lot of press through the blog and just generally kept myself occupied. I wasn't - I had lots of friends come in.

FLATOW: A lot of Sudoku or knitting or anything like that?

Ms. PETERSON: I actually taught most of the floor nurses how to knit, and then some of the other people involved with the study started coming on weekends to learn too.

FLATOW: Would they let you come back?

Ms. PETERSON: Yeah, I think after a year, I'm eligible to do it again.

FLATOW: Wow. You could set the record.

Ms. PETERSON: Well, it's a thought.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: Well, thank you very much for sharing with us. And have a happy New Year.

Ms. PETERSON: All right. You too.

FLATOW: Erin Peterson who was lying in a bed for 84 days on a negative six degree incline, all for the sake of science and NASA research.

Also with me is Alison Motluk. Alison, something to try for you now?

Ms. MOTLUK: I don't think so. I think I've had my fill.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: But she said she had a blast.

Ms. MOTLUK: Well, yeah, I had a blast, but I'm not sure I'd do it again.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: Let's talk about - Alex, anything that you've studied that comes close to these kind of experiments?

Mr. BOESE: I mean there's all kinds of experiments where people, under, you know, put themselves through these amazing experiences. There was a - during World War II, a famous series of starvation experiments led by Ancel Keyes in which volunteers agreed to basically starve themselves down the skin and bones so that people could learn not only the effects of starvation but how they could counter those effects because the Allied Forces were expecting to encounter a lot of starving people after World Wart II, and they just needed to know, you know, how can we treat them. Nobody knew. And unless somebody volunteers to starve themselves, they had no way of knowing. And then there was also a famous experiment called Operation Whitecoat, which took place during the World War II in which volunteers, mostly Seventh-day Adventists, agreed to actually infect themselves with disease such as yellow fever and hepatitis A and then immediately be treated with antidotes in order to try to, you know, learn how to treat such diseases.

FLATOW: Let's go to the phones, Pierce(ph) in Sonoma, California. Hi, Pierce.

PIERCE (Caller): Yes. Hi, Ira.

FLATOW: Hi, there.

PIERCE: My wife and I, about a dozen years ago, were involved in a - well, I don't know how bizarre it was but it was fun. It was a condom research study for a major condom manufacturer. And our job as guinea pigs was to evaluate several different types of condoms made with different materials, different style, shapes, features and whatnot. And the job was to be intimate at least four times a week for a three-month period. And after each session, we then had to sit down and log and record and evaluate and chart each session and evaluate the particular condom used.

FLATOW: So you got paid to have sex?

PIERCE: We did.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PIERCE: And as I recall, we are paid pretty well. Of course, we didn't do it for the money. We just saw an ad and thought it would be kind of a fun thing to do. And of course, from that, I learned how to keep real accurate statistics.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: Are you still doing that even though you're not on the study?

PIERCE: No, no, no, no, but my wife…

(Soundbite of laughter)

PIERCE: …and I still laugh at that three-month period because the time it took after each session to log and record and chart everything took longer than the actual session itself.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: Did you have to tell your friends you had work to do when you had to go home and do something?

(Soundbite of laughter)

PIERCE: No, no, no. We just included it as part of our weekly routine, so…

FLATOW: All right. Well, glad to hear it, Pierce. Have a happy New Year.

PIERCE: Okay. Bye-bye now.

FLATOW: 1-800-989-8255. One of the more interesting studies in your book, Alex, is the one called obedience. You ranked this as number two in your hit parade. And this was a study where people would - thought, you know, had no problem with shocking, basically shocking other people to death.

Mr. BOESE: Right.

FLATOW: Giving them the equivalent of 450 volts.

Mr. BOESE: Yeah. They would kill other people at the command of an experimenter. The experimenter - he wouldn't apply any kind of force. He would simply say the experiment requires that you continue and that would be enough for people just to keep pushing that shock button and in their mind killing another person which really again underlines how amazingly obedient people - how much people are willing to obey whatever crazy thing an experimenter comes up, you know, dreams up in their mind.

FLATOW: So no one - and you said they weren't, of course, really killing people. They just thought…

Mr. BOESE: Right.

FLATOW: …they were giving them a big shock but there was screaming on the other end, right? There was an actor screaming.

Mr. BOESE: Yeah, there were screaming and banging on the walls. And - but then the most frightening thing was when it got up to around 450 volts and the screaming just stops and there is silence and, you know, the implication is that this person is dead, and yet the people just keep pushing the button when the experimenter says the experiment must continue. I think - I believe it was about 60 percent of people, just random people chosen from the area around New Haven will just keep pushing that button. It's - I mean, it's kind of shocking, you know, (unintelligible)…

FLATOW: Yeah.

Mr. BOESE: …to think of the implications of that research.

FLATOW: Just because they were told this is something they had to do, it's part of - in the name of science.

Mr. BOESE: It's done in the name of science and therefore you don't question what your - the doctor or the experimenter is telling you. It's - they're assuming the responsibility and that - the subjects feel that because of that, they don't have the responsibility at all. It's just, you know, what somebody is telling me to do. I'm just following orders.

FLATOW: Well, Alison, you have any problem with that?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MOTLUK: Well, you know, I think I looked into it a little bit before I stared and I did do what I was told. It's true. I got into that MRI scanner and I did have to put up with three MRI sessions. And I did some transcranial magnetic stimulation, which wasn't quite as pleasant as I expected. But I didn't feel like I was being made to do anything I didn't want to do, and I was reminded at every point that if ever I wanted to withdraw, I had that right.

FLATOW: Mm-hmm. But you would think - did you have to sign your life away, that if anything bad happened, they were not responsible for it?

Ms. MOTLUK: I did. I did - not that anything bad…

FLATOW: Right.

Ms. MOTLUK: …but they weren't responsible for any, you know, any thing that -any accident that might happen or - but I was also very impressed with the consent process because someone actually came in independently into my room after I was already blindfolded and they quizzed me. They said, were you told that you can withdraw anytime you want and did you understand everything. And I felt that they went to great lengths actually to make sure that I had given consent and I understood the consent and…

FLATOW: Right.

Ms. MOTLUK: That actually impressed me a lot.

FLATOW: We're talking about weird science experiments this hour on TALK OF THE NATION: SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR News. Talking with Alison Motluk. When you took the blindfold off, how - did you recover your sight immediately or did it take some time?

Ms. MOTLUK: That was the most amazing part of the whole experience. I - we took a while just to take it off, just the process of taking the blindfold off - all the lights in the room were extinguished. The blind was drawn and I still have the blindfold on and the experimenter put a towel over my head and then he said, you know, you can take the blindfold off. And when I did that, I - it was sort of prefab blindfold and I slipped it off. And it was - the inside of the towel in a completely dark room was glowing to me.

FLATOW: Wow.

Ms. MOTLUK: It was as though it works like ambers. And then after a few minutes, I could, you know, start to distinguish the texture of the towel. We took that off of my head and I could sort of see the room and some of the things in the room. And I made the mistake of looking down at my legs which made me very dizzy. And they were radioactive, just so bright. It was shocking, so I had to look up again.

But then over the course of maybe 15 minutes, I started to be able to see things, you know, on the wall and the table and all the things that I had actually been trying to mentally keep track of all that time. But it took about 30 or 40 minutes before my head movement. You know, my vision and my head movement agreed on how things were going. I would turn my head, but the vision wouldn't come quickly enough. It seemed out of synch. It was like watching a sort of a, you know, a series of images clicking by instead of that smooth thing we normally see, that smooth image we normally see.

And one of the things I have been worried about is that my vision wouldn't return. And I kept saying are you sure that it'll work in someone as old as me? And they kept saying, no, we're sure, we're sure. And it took maybe two days before I felt completely myself again in the sense that I wasn't stumbly. I felt that I was stumbling a little bit over the next 48 hours. But the vision maybe took 30, 35 minutes before I could see pretty much normally again.

FLATOW: Do you have another experiment you'd like to - or you're anticipating?

Ms. MOTLUK: You know, I'm not planning on it although it is an interesting way to learn about science. I mean - my job is to write about science. And I do - it is interesting to watch it unfold from the inside. So I guess someday I might do something again - not blindfolding, something else.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: And not lying on that bed for 84 days?

Ms. MOTLUK: I don't think I'd like that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MOTLUK: And that's a very long experiment too.

FLATOW: Alex, is there one that you would like to try? I mean, you've read about all of them.

Mr. BOESE: There was one that involved the Brock(ph) pleasure machine which is another great name for a device where the experimenters wanted to see how willing strangers would be to basically push a button that would activate this Brock pleasure machine and, you know, give a stranger, pleasurable sensations. And that one always sounded to me like it would be fun to participate in.

FLATOW: Is that like the famous mouse one where they would press it so many times, they would exhaust themselves to death?

Mr. BOESE: Right, right. Where they wired - put wires into the septal region of the mouse's brain and allowed it to pleasure itself, and it just chose to keep pushing that button instead of getting water or food or anything else. It just kept pushing it so.

FLATOW: We wonder why we haven't seen at 2 o'clock in the morning a product like that now, you know, when there was this…

Mr. BOESE: I've always wondered that, too, yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: Why? Because you may never pay.

Mr. BOESE: Right.

FLATOW: A product that makes you exhaust yourself and die is not going to be popular for very long, but…

Mr. BOESE: Yeah.

FLATOW: …I want to thank both of you for taking time out of your holiday week to be with us. And good luck to you and we'll keep looking for those new and wacky science experiments. Alex Boese is author of "Elephants on Acid: And Other Bizarre Science Experiments." Alison Motluk is a freelance science writer and the New Scientist Toronto correspondent. As I say again, thanks for taking time to be with us.

Ms. MOTLUK: Thank you.

Mr. BOESE: Thanks for having me.

FLATOW: You're welcome. Have a good weekend.

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