The 6 Most Baffling Science Experiments Ever Funded
We tend to think of scientists as mature, somber, finely tuned thought machines to be regarded with awe and respect. But scientists are only human, and some humans are just plain crazy. Which is why, on occasion, those serious old men in their fine white coats up and throw sense straight out the window, and we wind up with experiments such as ...
Coked-Up Rats and Jazz
Researchers at Albany Medical College placed a group of rats in an experimental sound room and proceeded to play one of Miles Davis' more famous songs, "Four" -- presumably because, like most people in college, they were incredibly high and it seemed like a funny thing to do at the time. The song played continuously on a loop for 90 minutes, after which the scientists switched from jazz to classical, treating the rodents to Beethoven's "Fur Elise."
"We tried playing Drake's 'Successful,' but too many rats committed suicide."
When the researchers turned the music off, they discovered that the rats much preferred silence over any music, but if forced to choose, would go with "Fur" over "Four." And that probably would have been the end of it -- congratulations to all, we've scientifically proven that rats aren't very good music critics -- but then, in keeping with our "all scientists are just bored stoners in white coats" theory, the researchers brought in some cocaine.
For the rats.
The rats were injected with cocaine for seven consecutive days, after which they suddenly couldn't get enough Miles Davis. So there you go. Rats, pretentious Brooklyn kids, and that guy driving a Porsche to Whole Foods: They all agree that cocaine and jazz are just the best.
Chickens Don't Like Ugly People
Dr. Stefano Ghirlanda at the Zoology Institution of Stockholm University set out to disprove the mate-quality hypothesis, which states that physical attraction to others is inherited due to genes, rather than learned.
Mmm, that sounds nice and sciency, doesn't it? We're sure that's how Ghirlanda describes his work to swooning coeds, but here's the slightly less impressive reality: Ghirlanda accomplished this studious feat by gathering horny chickens and showing them photographs of people to see which ones they pecked.
Nothing says "do me" like piercing your partner's skin.
Ghirlanda took 35 pictures of females and 35 pictures of males and mashed them together to create digitally altered average male and female faces. After cocks pecked the girl (as is their wont) and hens went after the guy, researchers then created seven different faces by morphing the average female and male ratios and showed them to the chickens again.
Elsewhere, a group of college students were asked to rate those same faces on a scale of 0 to 10, and get this: The preferences of the college students matched the chickens' a whopping 98 percent of the time!
"You can make a deal breakers list all you want, your turn-ons are still the same as an animal that can live with no head."
So there you go: Definitive proof that there is absolutely no difference between a college student and a horny chicken. Thanks for putting that age-old quandary to bed, Science!
In what was probably the first phase of animal breeding experimentation that will eventually end with some sort of giant monster running amok in Tokyo, researchers from the Japanese universities of Mie and Nagoya spent two years developing, among other things, this Hellraiser goldfish.
"The box. You opened it, we came."
Scientists carefully plucked out a certain string of mutant hatchery goldfish and bred them together to create the above goldfish with completely transparent skin. The fish are perfectly healthy and can live up to 20 years, or until you solve the golden puzzle box and send them back to their fiendish netherworld.
But we're not stopping there! Why, Science hasn't even BEGUN to piss in the eye of God! The Japanese have also bred a clear frog ...
"Hey, this means you won't have to kill us and cut open our corpses in biology class anymore! Right? Guys?"
... which was actually an accident. They'd initially set out to create glowing frogs by attaching fluorescent protein to certain stretches of their DNA. But when the adult glowing frogs mated, they produced transparent offspring. The scientists were astounded to realize that they had essentially just produced a new species by genetically altering the previous generation -- which we're pretty sure was the plot of Prometheus, come to think of it.
Arbitrary Monkey Erections
Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Primate Research Center stuck four male marmoset monkeys in a cage. Two of the marmosets were sexually naive, and two had plenty of experience (or so they kept telling the other monkeys at the monkey-bar). We know that reads like a rom-com premise wherein two experienced monkeys mentor their virgin pals during one crazy summer -- almost certainly starring Rob Schneider -- but the researchers had their reasons.
They wanted to see whether monkeys could be conditioned to masturbate to smells.
"It's funny that you think we need 'conditioning' to masturbate to anything."
Hey, we didn't say they were good reasons.
Scientists first exposed the male monkeys to lemon-saturated wooden discs for 15 minutes a day and then brought in a female monkey so they could get it on. After nine days of watching animals bone amid the citrus, researchers stopped bringing females to the cages. But it made no difference. The experiment was a success. The marmosets still got erections every time they smelled lemon.
On the plus side, the price of ED meds just plummeted.
So then there were four really confused monkeys that masturbated to Pledge for a week. Good job, Science?
What Happens When You Get Leeches Drunk?
Scientists at the University of Bergen in Norway believed that they could improve the rate that leeches suck blood by dipping them in beer beforehand. That was seriously their hypothesis. But don't start questioning their motives just yet! These were not men who idly wondered about the relation between liquor and the willingness to suck things -- why, that would be silly and frivolous! They had also brought garlic and sour cream.
Researchers then proceeded to dip some of the leeches in Guinness (at least Science has good taste), smear some with garlic, and give the rest sour cream. Then each researcher placed a different leech on his or her own arm, because they were drunk and in Norway. What else were they going to do?
"Find me the arm of a guy who just ate a Doritos taco, I'm goddamn starving."
The drunken leeches did not see improved suckage, however. In fact, they couldn't even maintain their grip, but simply swayed their bodies back and forth and fell onto their backs while loudly proclaiming, "I'll tell YOU when I've had enough!" Bizarrely, it was the sour cream leeches that showed increased sucking abilities (ladies) -- but only after they'd been removed from the arm. The garlic leeches just keeled over and died.
And so ends the experiment that studied how Super Bowl snacks affect job performance in parasites.
Your tax dollars at work.
The Velocity of Penguin Crap
German and Hungarian researchers named Victor Benno Meyer-Rochow and Jozsef Gal honestly believed that the best thing they could do for the advancement of science was to studiously observe what came out of a penguin's butthole.
Instead of looking for lost civilizations or efficient new fuels, Benno and Gal snatched their expensive degrees from that fussy old dean at graduation and hightailed it right the hell out of academia. They went straight to Antarctica, where they set up camp, positively giddy with anticipation, and went about studying chinstrap and Adelie penguins to better understand how the flightless birds defecated without stinking up their nest.
Their findings, published in a biology journal under the fooling-nobody title of "Calculations on Avian Defecation," employed an impressive number of algorithms, equations, and graphs to illustrate the many complicated nuances of penguin squats:
Note the log-log scale, which means this is serious shit.
Benno and Gal, a killer comedy-duo name if we've ever heard one, were unquestionably thorough. They calculated the distance that excrement traveled before it hit the ground; they documented the height and shape of countless penguin asses; they even used the Hagen-Poiseuille equation for dynamic pressure to determine the force necessary to shoot poop as far as possible (above). And if that all sounds a little technical and difficult to approach, well, don't worry. It all boils down to this:
"If crap leaves a penguin's butthole at 28 mph, and train B leaves Chicago at 9:30 a.m. ..."
Let's have a hand for Science, everybody.
For more reasons not to trust scientists, check out 9 Real Life Mad Scientists and The 6 Cruelest Science Experiments Ever (Were Done on Kids).