Scientists get up to all sorts of nonsense if we let them, which is why the rogue inventor Emmett Brown was rightly locked up. Just take a look at the following ventures, which range from useless to unethical to downright evil.
1. The Erection Lecture
Pre-Viagra, Giles Brindley created a drug to induce erections, and he introduced it to the world at a live seminar. After first showing the audience surprise images of his penis, he dropped his pants to show them the drug's results. He then walked up to people, asking them to "confirm the degree of tumescence." Their screams of horror surprised him.
2. Stuttering Orphans
Believing stuttering was purely psychological, Wendell Johnson tried to get stuttering children to stop. He failed at this, but he succeeded at the second half of his study -- bullying orphans who didn't stutter, to induce stuttering. They stuttered for the rest of their lives, never knowing they'd been in an experiment.
3. Bat Fellatio
Not only did Chinese scientists spend hours in 2009 observing bat sex, but they specifically noted oral sex and whether oral sex prolonged the overall length of the sex act. Before this, the only animals known for oral sex were humans and bonobos.
4. Seeing Upside Down
Because of how the eye works, an inverted image lands on the retina, and yet we perceive the world the right way up. Curious about the brain's adaptability, George Stratton created glasses that projected an upside-down image into his eye. He lived like this for eight days and claimed that his brain interpreted even this new image as right side up by the end.
5. Testicle Weights
Sometimes, stimulating one part of the body causes pain in another. Two scientists, Edward Carmichael and Herbert Woollard, decided to study this by lying down, placing weights on their balls, and recording how painful this was. The answer: Very painful.
6. Bridge Sex
7. Nude LSD Treatment
Today, researchers are looking into the positive effects of psychotropic substances. Dr. Elliot Barker was ahead of his time, giving LSD to those diagnosed as criminal psychopaths ... and making them trip for 11 days at a time, naked, feeding through a straw inserted through their cell's wall. The patients ended up worse than they started.
8. Masturbation Quiz
MIT had volunteers masturbate with one hand and then answer quiz questions with the other, with questions appearing when a thermometer detected they were most aroused. The questions mostly concerned their openness to taboo sex acts, which apparently rose with arousal.
9. Hydrogen Enema
In 1886, to test the secureness of intestinal stitching, Nicholas Senn inserted a balloon into his own anus then inflated it with 15 liters of hydrogen. This is especially concerning when you learn that this experiment's prior subjects were dogs, and they exploded.
10. Eating Prison Shit
In the 1910s, South Carolina tasked Joseph Goldberger with discovering why prisoners kept getting sick. Goldberger figured the best way was to eat the prisoners' shit -- and their pee, snot, and scabs. His wife joined in; they called these meals their "filth parties."
11. The Rosenhan Experiment
In 1969, a Stanford psychologist and eight subjects faked psychiatric symptoms to get committed. The goal was to debunk the criteria for admitting people as insane. Once committed, the subjects struggled to get out, some taking weeks to prove they were sane after all.
12. Bedbug Food
Every Saturday for 11 years, Regine Gries placed bedbugs on her skin to test how much they liked biting her. This added up to over 200,000 bites. The original plan was to use chickens or pigs as test subjects, but the bugs didn't like those.
13. Hungry and Horny
14. Yawning Turtles
Yawning is contagious among humans. British scientists spent six months yawning in front of a turtle to teach it to respond in kind. Then they reintroduced it to other turtles to see if they'd yawn when it did. They did not.
15. The Vipeholm Experiments
Sweden wanted to test if sugar really does rot teeth, but no one would willingly remain in such an experiment once their teeth started fully rotting. So researchers went to a home for the intellectually disabled and fed them a special candy engineered to stick to teeth. They kept the study going for two years till every subject's teeth were irreparably ruined.
16. The Dolphin Job
Researcher John C. Lilly tried to teach a dolphin to understand human language, but in a setback, the dolphin Peter seemed a little too interested in research assistant Margaret Howe ... sexually interested. Lilly convinced Howe to masturbate Peter with her hand and foot, and Howe, fearing dolphin rape if she didn't act first, complied. The study was a success, said Lilly.
17. Withholding Meds
Long after medication was created for schizophrenia, a UCLA study sought to see exactly what the results would be if these meds were taken away from patients. The experiment lasted 18 months and resulted in at least one patient leaping out a window to his death.
18. Crotch Eyeballing
In 1967, psychologist Paul Bindrim came up with a new psych treatment: One patient would sit pantsless, legs in the air, and the other patients would focus on the exposed genitals. When the press eventually turned on him, Bindrim switched to something called "aqua-energetics."
19. Gassing Self
When the US first produced chemical weapons for World War I, Dr. Joseph Barcroft was worried -- worried the weapons might not be effective enough. So he sealed himself in a chamber with a dog and pumped the new hydrocyanic acid gas in. The dog died, but he himself experienced only "momentary giddiness," so he said the gas needed more work.
20. Bee Stings All Over
21. The Stanford Prison Experiment
You've likely heard of the Stanford Prison Experiment, in which subjects playing the roles of prison guards turned cruel. But the most important thing to know about this study is that it was incredibly unscientific and proved nothing it aimed to. Researcher Philip Zimbardo recruited subjects as actors and told them exactly how to act.
22. High-Pitched Monkeys
Japanese primatologists were studying how gibbons speak, so they stuck the animals in a chamber filled with helium. The gibbons started making high-pitched noises ... because of course they did; that's how stuff sounds like in helium.
Eager to discover what hanging feels like, Romanian scientist Nicolae Minovici created a machine to choke himself so he could record the results. He discovered memory loss, flashing lights, and what he called "excitation" -- he had discovered autoerotic asphyxiation.
To help patients who didn't properly psychologically develop the first time, London's Kingsley Hall came up with the idea of making them regress into babies and try growing up a second time. This involved bottle-feeding patients and carrying them like babies. One insisted on painting pictures with her poop ... until doctors decided to give her paint and dispense with the baby treatment, and she turned into a successful artist.
25. Monkey Erections
In Wisconsin, scientists introduced female monkeys into a male enclosure, along with the scent of lemons. After days of monkey sex, they introduced lemons without any female monkeys. They then observed erections in the monkeys -- and, one assumes, in themselves.
26. Smelly T-Shirts
Eager to prove sweat contains pheromones, a Swiss scientist had women sniff men's used T-shirts while he watched. He did detect arousal. But that doesn't prove pheromones exist -- we can also be conditioned to react to smells, like monkeys with lemons.
27. Nuclear Tanks
28. Jello Fluorescence
Scientists came up with a new way of imaging animal cadavers, which involves plopping them in gelatin. Fun for all involved. It looks horrifying.
29. Electroshock Sleep Therapy
This Australian therapy, which shocked patients drugged too deeply to wake up, left patients convulsing and vomiting while still unconscious. Over 80 patients died, and some who survived went on to kill themselves, haunted by electric nightmares.
30. Rat Cocaine
A lot of experiments must test animals before humans, but with higher brain stuff, this often yields little of value. Like the time doctors played Miles Davis and Beethoven for rats to see which they preferred (Beethoven, slightly, but they preferred silence over either). Then the scientists repeated the experiment after giving the rats cocaine.
31. The Yale Twins
Dr. Peter Neubauer worked with an adoption agency, separating Jewish twins, to observe how their differing environments changed how they grew up. He chose environments he hoped would induce mental illness for some babies, and most of these twins still don't know they were part of an experiment, as Yale is keeping the results secret till 2065.
32. Drunk Leeches
Norwegian scientists hypothesized that leeches would suck blood more quickly if first primed with beer. To test this, they fed some leeches Guinness and others sour cream then had them feed on the arms of the scientists themselves. The drunk leeches did not extract blood quicker and were, in fact, unable to even stay on the arms on account of being plastered.
33. The Quebec Orphans
Realizing they could get more federal money by treating children for mental illness, Quebec reclassified thousands of children as insane. Many were abused, electrocuted, or raped.
34. See-Through Animals
35. The Holmesburg Skin Experiments
Albert M. Kligman came up with some successful acne treatments. The only problem was, he made these by experimenting on prisoners for decades and also tested such stuff on them as Agent Orange. The prison provided him with "acres of skin" to experiment on, he boasted.
36. Penguin Poop
Hungarians Victor Benno Meyer-Rochow and Jozsef Gal and traveled to Antarctica and devoted themselves to studying penguin poop. It took hundreds of observations and equations to come up with a conclusion that boils down to: The poop goes out a bit and then falls.
37. Radioactive Testicles
Worried that space radiation may affect men's gonads, scientists in the '60s first tested radiation on the testicles of prisoners. The prisoners weren't exactly clear on what was being done to them and later successfully sued.
38. Exploding Lakes
World War II left the US with 9 tons of sodium metal they didn't need. Pure sodium is extremely reactive and explodes in water. So, the army chucked barrels of the sodium into Lake Lenore, then shot the barrels with machineguns to expose the metal and trigger explosions.
39. The Breasts of Twins
The suspiciously named Hooman Soltanian visited the Twins Day Festival in Ohio and asked hundreds of twins to show him their breasts so he could photograph and analyze them -- for science. "I was actually surprised at how many people agreed to do it," said Dr. Soltanian.
40. Spinal Taps
To first figure out how to perform spinal taps, Arthur Howard Wentworth, in the 1890s, tried out his early form of the procedure on dozens of children who did not need it, without obtaining consent from anyone. They thrashed with pain, so he injected them with brandy.
41. Newton's Eye
42. Sex Toy Sex
One theory says that the penis evolved its shape to scoop out rivals' semen. The best way some scientists could think to test this was to buy a bunch of vagina sex toys, fill them with corn batter, then force dildos in and out of them and see how much corn batter came out.
43. Chicken Attraction
Swedish scientists had college students rate photos based on people's sexual attractiveness, then invited chickens to peck the photos. The chickens pecked the sexier photos, claimed the scientists, proving that sexiness transcends species.
44. Lethal Blood
At the start of the 2000s, Northfield Laboratories produced an artificial blood substitute, which would have been great if it worked. But so many patients they tested it on died that they had to dispense with the project and went out of business.
45. Dog Pee
Do smaller dogs lift their legs higher when they pee? Such was the question asked by Cornell researchers in 2018. They concluded that, yes, small dogs pee at a higher angle.
46. Guatemalan Syphilis
The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment is famously unethical for lying to syphilitic patients, falsely claiming to be treating them. You know what's also bad, though? Actually infecting patients with syphilis on purpose. This happened when Dr. John Cutler injected prostitutes with syphilis then got soldiers to sleep with them.
47. Sword Swallowing
Sword swallowing is obviously very dangerous and risks damaging the throat. So NHS scientists recruited some sword swallowers and had them swallow swords. This study, in the end, found that sword swallowing is very dangerous and risks damaging the throat.
48. Dead Duck Necrophilia
49. Dick Worms
Claude Barlow wanted to bring parasites called schistosomes to America to study them, but he didn't have an appropriate host. So in 1944, he injected the parasites into himself. This resulted in worms in his penis, with thousands of eggs appearing in his urine, feces, and open wounds. He was sick for ten months, and the research never went forward.
50. Forced Sex Changes
In the '70s and '80s, South African soldiers who admitted being gay were subject to all kinds of quack conversion therapies. Some soldiers were turned over to doctors who performed sex reassignment surgery on them against their will. Though, once word got out, some actual trans people enlisted and claimed to be gay just for the free surgery.
51. Turkey Head Sex
Surprised that male turkeys seem chiefly attracted by their mates' faces (rather than their hindquarters), scientists built models of female turkeys then removed various body parts to see if males would keep trying to mate with them. After males even tried mating with just the model heads, the scientists next offered the males the severed heads of actual female turkeys. The males attempted sex with these as well.
52. Attack Therapy
This treatment for California addicts was exactly what it sounds like: Doctors would yell and humiliate patients to scare the addiction out of them. Around 10 percent of patients got better! The remainder got worse.
53. The Love Test
Psychologist Arthur Aron thought he knew how to make people fall in love, giving strangers a series of questions to ask each other and then making them look into each other's eyes. Nonsense, of course. Though, two of these research subjects did get married just six months later.
54. Women and Monkeys
Queen's University scientist Meredith Chivers wired subjects' genitals to detect their arousal, and then showed them all kinds of porn ... and also footage of animals having sex. The videos of monkey sex left the men unmoved. But women became aroused, despite claiming otherwise.
55. The Japanese Mouth