In 1965, dolphin researcher John C. Lilly and associates ran a 10-week study to see whether a dolphin could be taught some basic concepts underlying human language, like colors and numbers, via card games. It makes sense -- dolphins are really smart, so we should find out as much about them as we can. What better way to do that than to basically make a dolphin and a human of the opposite sex live together in a water house?
The idea was that the test subject, an adult male dolphin named Peter, would be isolated from his peers; the human chosen to live with him and teach him should be similarly isolated. A pretty undergraduate named Margaret Howe was chosen, and she and Peter would live in a house in which all the furniture was submerged or wet, so that Peter could come and go as he pleased. It was basically Big Brother or The Real World, and maybe could have been the plot of a Disney movie, had there been no bestiality involved.
"OK, whaddaya say we just keep the camera above water for a few minutes?"
For you see, Peter got the hots for Maggie.
At the beginning, Peter was a perfect gentleman about it, expressing his love with gifts of frozen fish. And at this point Maggie was nowhere near psychologically broken enough to take his expressions of love seriously. But Peter wasn't about to take no for an answer. He began to bite and bruise Margaret in an attempt to get her to comply with his sexual will. This disturbed the researchers just enough for them to start taking Peter on conjugal visits with members of his own species. It didn't work because, like the male lead of every romantic comedy ever, Peter the rape-dolphin proved his love by obsessing over his single unwilling target.
So, in order to get Peter to be a cooperative test subject for the study, Maggie consented to rubbing his penis with her foot and hand, in exchange for his participation in the various experiments.
"Nope, it's not working. You're gonna have to blow him. For science."
After the study concluded, Maggie wrote a bizarrely pornographic account of her time with Peter in which she talked about both how terrified she was of dolphin rape and how the masturbation thing was special but not kinky, since she also did it when other people watched. Because public sex acts and Stockholm syndrome are apparently fine if your partner is a dolphin.
Lilly, meanwhile, considered the study to be a success, since Peter had picked up some basic linguistic concepts. He never repeated the experiment, however, and instead found an innovative new angle: communing with dolphins via shared acid trips. It didn't do much for his scientific reputation.
But that hat did wonders for his reputation with the ladies.
So earlier we had scientists who wanted to test turkeys' ability to get turned on purely by looking at a mate's head, and found that turkeys are incredibly stupid. Chimpanzees, of course, are considerably smarter, and as such, they tend to like asses. But how much? Clearly another experiment was in order.*
*No, they did not make a monkey have sex with a severed ass. We're telling you that right now so you won't be disappointed later.
"*Sigh* Fine, hand me the ass, but I'm just making it a quickie. I have feces to throw."
For researchers Frans de Waal and Jennifer Pokorny of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, the first step was to photograph some chimp asses. They had to make sure the genitals were showing as well (you know, for the experiment). Then they sifted through the photos they took to make sure they had the clearest, best chimp ass shots, at which point they grabbed some friends of those chimps and forced them to look at the ass photos while screaming something like "RECOGNIZE THIS? WELL DO YOU?!?"
They totally did -- six different chimps were tested this way and they were (for the most part) able to say, "Yep, that's Steve's ass." The chimps couldn't talk, obviously -- they had a system worked out where the chimps had to match a photo of the ass to the face.
de Waal and Pokomy via Newscientist.com
"Oh, man, I know six chimps who could tell you who that is without even prompting them!"
This is apparently important, because the concept of "whole body integration" was thought to be something only humans were capable of (compare this to dogs who will snap at their own tail or -- and we can't repeat this enough -- turkeys who will hump a severed head on a stick). It seems like they could have proven the same point using photographs of hands, but we are not trained scientists.
In 1963, the social psychologist Stanley Milgram published a revolutionary study that helped fill in a small but vital piece of the Nazism puzzle when he showed how ordinary people would agree to do bizarre and unsettling things if they respected the authority of the person who issued the order. But if anybody had been paying attention, they would have known that there was already a study from the 1920s that proved a very similar point. The only difference was that the guy in the white lab coat who was issuing orders wasn't just pretending to be insane. He actually was.
The year was 1924, and the researcher in charge was a post-graduate student named Carney Landis. Being a lunatic, he was only interested in compliance to authority insofar as it involved convincing his test subjects to do disturbing shit so he could record their facial expressions.
"OK, here's your sled. You might want to take off that shirt."
Landis drew grid patterns on his subjects' faces and forced them to do a bunch of things they would find disgusting, like looking at pornography and touching frogs. For the final act, he gave them live white rats. Then he forced them to decapitate the rats while he photographed their faces. And the amazing thing? Two-thirds of his subjects willingly went along with the experiment, despite being clearly freaked out. For those who refused, Landis decapitated the rat for them.
From a facial-expressions point of view, Landis' findings were all but useless. All that Landis ended up discovering was that there's no single expression people will pull when they're disgusted or distressed. He did, however, capture a series of hilarious photographs:
Landis, C. (1924) Journal of Comparative Psychology.
Holy shit, that first guy looks like the end boss from a horror video game.
Wait, is that a kid? Yep, in photos 7 to 9. He was 13 years old and had been referred to Landis' laboratory for treatment after doctors suspected that his heart condition had a psychological component. Landis presumably wanted to see if, using the power of science, he could cause a random 13-year-old to grow up to be a serial killer.
For more ridiculous experiments, check out 5 Psychological Experiments That Prove Humanity is Doomed and 6 Most Badass Self-Inflicted Medical Experiments.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out The 5 Most Baffling Genres of Romance Novel