Being a good scientist takes intelligence and creativity and years of study. To be a great scientist, you need to be just a little bit crazy.
Test subjects aren't always around, after all, and even if they are, they might not be willing to put their lives on the line based on your crazy-ass idea. That's why a whole lot of scientific advancement has happened due to these men's gigantic balls:
If you were ever involved in a serious car accident, you probably survived thanks to Lawrence Patrick. The man invented, among other things, the air bag and automobile safety tests. Basically, before Patrick came along, you could strap a motor to a goat and take that shit out on the freeway, because no one was sure how much damage crashing your goat-mobile would do.
We're thinking a top-mounted jet intake.
Realizing that at the time (the 1940s) there was virtually no information about what the human body could withstand, Patrick dedicated his life to human impact survival research. This little-known branch of science seems pretty straightforward -- that's why we have crash test dummies, right?
Yes, we do nowadays, because Patrick built the first dummies ...
... based on data he gathered by measuring impacts on himself.
And what'd you do today? Throw out the expired milk?
So Patrick had his knee repeatedly smashed against a metal bar, underwent 400 rides on a rocket sled and, since this already sounds more like a Looney Tunes cartoon than science, he had a 50-pound pendulum hit him in the chest.
The results were broken ribs and fingers and countless bruises, as well as priceless data on how the body reacts to high-velocity impacts. This information was used to set the standard for almost all safety measures in cars and saved countless lives.
We're still fans of the goat-mobile.
In fact, before Patrick conducted his innovative research, car manufacturers had declared that automobiles couldn't be made safe for humans, and that any car crash would result in death since the body was simply too frail. Patrick's numerous experiments proved otherwise. With pain.
There are few legacies of the World War I as terrifying as the use of chemical weapons. For instance, mustard gas was not only deadly, but painfully so, and the effects raised serious concern among anyone who wasn't, you know, bat-shit insane. Hell, this was the one weapon that later on even Hitler decided was too inhumane.
So, um. There's a point for Hitler, we guess.
Scared by its effects, Torald Sollmann, one of the most distinguished pharmacologists in the world, decided to dedicate himself to finding an antidote to mustard gas. As the author of more than 500 original research papers and essentially a scientific pioneer, he seemed like the right man for the job ... until a few pages into his research proposal, where he wrote that the urgency of the problem justified experiments on human subjects.
Which is not usually a phrase that ends in good things.
In case you are not familiar with the effects of mustard gas on humans, let's say that it's about as bad as salt on a snail or water on the Wicked Witch of the West. Even minor contact can cause blindness and serious skin inflammation, including gangrene. This meant volunteers for testing would be hard to come by, so of course Sollmann turned to his own body.
The method of the experiments was relatively simple: Sollman would cover portions of skin with various ointments and mixtures, then expose them to mustard gas and note how badly he managed to hurt himself.
Numerous exposures to the extremely poisonous gas revealed that Vaseline and coconut charcoal could be used to protect the skin from the worst effects of the gas. Unfortunately, this discovery was pretty much useless, since covering your entire body with Vaseline is one of the most impractical ways to prepare for battle.
It's not a bad way to prep for a high-speed orgy, though.
In the end Sollmann's studies didn't bring a surprising breakthrough that could stop mustard gas, but they did something even better: They helped people understand how horrible it was and contributed to the public outrage that eventually led to the signing of the Geneva Conventions, which forbade countries from using toxic chemicals in warfare.
While hypothermia and its deadly effects are well-documented, there were very few scientific studies on how freezing actually affects the body until recently. We knew that nerve endings stop working and muscles contract, but there were almost no data on the details, such as the time frame for this process or what can be done to help the body resist it.
Knowing what this article is about, you can guess that someone -- in this case, Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht -- decided to take things into his own hands. His frozen, twisted, bizarrely self-punishing hands.
He looks so normal, too.
In this case, that means that Giesbrecht went to the nearest frozen lake and jumped in. He continued his studies by lowering his body temperature below 95 degrees, and since science is all about repeated measurements, did it about 33 times. We know 95 degrees doesn't sound too bad, until you realize that that's basically Stage 2 hypothermia and at Stage 3 hypothermia, you die. To top it all off, Giesbrecht drove a snowmobile into an icy pond, and for the hell of it did it all night. We ... think that was part of his experiment.
Liquor may have been involved.
Besides seriously punishing his body, Giesbrecht made several important discoveries about the way we react to the cold and how to survive should you get drunk and fall into icewater one day. Giesbrecht now runs a cold water boot camp where volunteers can learn all they need to know about freezing water, firsthand, from a frozen lake. If you want to sign up, you can click the hell out of that link right there. We'll wait.