5 Real Science Experiments Straight Out Of A Horror Movie
Science is here to help make sense of the world around us, but it doesn't care in the least if it scars our very souls in the process. Progress can take all sorts of forms. It only makes sense that some of them are the living, screaming embodiment of everything you secretly fear. Let's take a look at some ways those helpful folks in lab coats have made David Cronenberg eject his shawarma with force and fury.
A Medical Training Robot That Breathes, Cries, Bleeds, And Pees
In the early stages of their training, doctors mostly practice on mannequins, because no sick or wounded patient wants to hear "This is my first try!" While dummies are mostly fine, they can't replicate the emotional or physical responses of human patients. Even actors have their limitations -- a doctor can only get so invasive before they move beyond "required method acting" into "light war crimes." Enter the French company Gaumard and their hyper-realistic synthetic child HAL.
It ... it never goes well when you start off naming your invention after an evil robot, does it?
HAL was "built to suffer," and he expresses every bit of that suffering in excruciating detail. He's full of sensors that help him show a variety of emotions and responses. He bleeds, he cries for his mom, he urinates, and of course, he goes into anaphylactic shock. Yes, all of the major emotions, from bleeding to urination. HAL is truly representative of the full human experience.
HAL can have his pulse, blood sugar, blood oxygen, and carbon dioxide levels measured, his pupils can be dilated, and when he's left alone, he can presumably reposition himself in subtle yet deeply unsettling ways.
Medical trainees who previously complained about practice situations not being realistic enough now struggle to handle the eerie realism that HAL offers. This urinating homunculus has even brought participants to tears when the stress level was cranked up enough. Which is convenient, because HAL is clearly powered by the sound of human weeping.
Gaumard has also designed a "scarily realistic" pregnant robot that gives birth, and a little preemie HAL that simulates a baby born at 30 weeks.
We never thought that the breathing of a newborn could send chills down our spine, but hey, you learn something new every day. Even if you would give anything -- anything in this world -- to unlearn it.
There's A (Horrible) New Way Of Imaging Animals For Research
Preparing animal specimens so biologists can look at their innards is a pretty gnarly process. After the defleshing (via a bath in cow stomach enzymes), standard protocol is to dye the bones red and the cartilage blue to make each stand out, then take a photograph before the whole shebang turns to mush. But there's a new way for researchers to gawk at the plumbing of critter cadavers, and it replaces instinctual disgust with primal dread.
The main drawback of the old method was that it was next to impossible to pose the animals after treatment, because they were left with the consistency of "mushy, spoiled lettuce." So someone had the bright idea of plopping them inside gelatin, like something you'd find on the dessert table at the world's least successful buffet. Once the gelatin congeals around the corpse, the specimens (like the shrew in the image above) glow visibly (and blasphemously) under a blue light.
What's the point of all this? Well, it's not to develop new practical effects for the sequel to Harbinger Down -- it's to reveal the tiny structural details that get scientists all hot and bothered. As one museum curator put it, "That may not sound like too big a deal, but when you're trying to figure out how one group of fishes is related to another, those little gaps end up being a lot of the characters."
Purdue Built A Terrifying Metal Baby To Study Dust Inhalation
Babies can't walk, because they're dumb. And because they're so utterly worthless, they pay no mind to all the dust and dirt they both pick up and inhale as they search for shiny objects to choke on. Because it's generally frowned upon to put babies in hazardous situations for experimental purposes -- no matter how flawless Cracked's Baby Trebuchet patent application might be -- Purdue University built a crawling robot baby covered in tinfoil to investigate this problem.
Researchers collected a variety of dust-covered carpets from actual homes, and the debris the robot inhaled was analyzed. Turns out breathing in "floor debris" wasn't all bad, as studies suggested that it helps babies develop an immunity to asthma and various allergies. The movements of the robot baby itself, before it was taken outside and burned in a cleansing fire, were also carefully analyzed ... for potential weaknesses, should a person find one speeding toward them in the dead of night.
A Terrifying Robotic Insect That Enters Your Body To Deliver Drugs
Most medication can be delivered orally or via needle, but what if you need to reach a specific, hard-to-access part of the body? "The solution is obvious," scientists declared. "Just eat this robot we invented."
That's a product of the City University of Hong Kong, and yes, it is absolutely intended to crawl around your squishy bits. The inside of the human body is full of a wide variety of hostile surfaces, but this thing has hundreds of tiny legs that let it navigate through mucus, blood, and whatever else you've got going on inside of you. And it can carry a load 100 times heavier than its tiny self, so it can effectively deliver medication to a specific location. It even looks kind of cute in action, until you remember that it's designed to ramble around your stomach wall.
It's controlled through magnetic manipulation, and is currently being tested on animals. But the goal is to develop a biodegradable version and advance to human trials, so look forward to the day when your doctor prescribes the ingestion of a medical-grade centipede.
The Japanese Invented A Disembodied Mouth That Moans Like The Dead
Japanese scientists, setting back decades of work to combat stereotypes about their country, went and invented this here singing dick sock:
"Why?" we can barely hear you asking from what you foolishly assume to be a safe distance. It is not, as one would assume, because the scientists want a fleshlight that can scream for help. They want to mimic human speech to help the hearing-impaired. And look, it talks just like us! By moaning and wailing like one whose soul is being sucked from their body.
Oh, and it can even improve by listening to sounds and attempting to mimic what it hears, because obviously, this is the sort of device that we should imbue with learning capabilities. How else will it learn to hate us effectively?
E. Reid Ross has a couple books, Nature is the Worst: 500 reasons you'll never want to go outside again and Canadabis: The Canadian Weed Reader, both available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Check out all of Eamon Lahiri's work here. For enquiries about work or his favorite flavor of ice-cream, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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