Tag: danger

5 Most Dangerous Scientific Experiments in History

Science is a force for good in our world, improving lives of people all across Earth in immeasurable ways. But it is also a very powerful tool that can become dangerous in some situations.

Especially when it gets entangled in politics. At other times, science’s inherent ambition to push boundaries of what is known can also lead to some heart-stopping moments.

The following list is in no way exhaustive but gives us a place to start when thinking about the serious responsibility that comes with the march of science.




1. Project MKUltra

The infamous project MKUltra was CIA’s attempt at mastering mind control. The program started in the 1950s and lasted seemingly until 1966.

Under MKUltra, often-unwilling subjects were given drugs, especially hallucinogenics like LSD.

The people tested were also put through sleep and sensory deprivation, hypnosis, sexual abuse, and other kinds of psychological torture, while some tests proved lethal.

The supposed goal of the project was some combination of chemical weapons research and effort to create mind-controlling drugs to combat the Soviets.

2. Weaponizing the Plague

The last time plague roamed around, it killed around half of Europe’s population, reducing the amount of people in the world by nearly a 100 million during the 13th and 14th century.

In the late 1980s, the Soviet Union’s biological warfare research program figured out how to use the plague as a weapon, to be launched at enemies in missile warheads.

What could go wrong? Besides the plague, defectors revealed that the Soviet bio-weapons program also had hundreds of tons of anthrax and tons of smallpox.

3. The Large Hadron Supercollider

A giant magnet used in the Large Hadron Collider, weighing 1920 tonnes. 28 February, 2007 at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland, built to study particle physics, is the world’s largest machine and single most sophisticated scientific instrument.

Because of this and the cutting-edge research its involved in, the LHC has prompted more than its share of fears from the general public. It has been blamed for causing earthquakes and pulling asteroids towards Earth.

4. The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment

Doctor drawing blood from a patient as part of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. 1932.

A government-funded “study” from 1932-1972 denied treatment for syphilis to 399 African American patients in rural Alabama, even as penicillin was found to be effective against the disease in 1947.

The patients were actually not told they had syphilis, with doctors blaming their “bad blood” instead and given placebos.

The goal of the experiment, carried out by the U.S. Public Health Service, was to study the natural progress of syphilis if left untreated. 28 of the people in the study died directly from syphilis while 100 died from related complications.

5. Kola Superdeep Borehole

A Soviet experiment, started in 1970, sought to drill as deeply as possible into the crust of the planet. By 1994, they bore a 12-km-deep hole into the Kola Peninsula in Russia’s far northwest.

The record dig provided much scientific data, like the finding of ancient microscopic plankton fossils from 24 species.

While nothing negative happened, there were concerns at the time that drilling so deep towards the center of Earth might produce unexpected seismic effects. Like cracking the planet open.

The hole’s site is currently closed.

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Can You Really Be Scared to Death?

A friend jumps out at you when you’re turning a corner. Your heart starts pounding, and you gasp. “You scared me to death!” you say.

Of course, the fact that you can utter this common phrase means that you are not deceased. But saying this is so common, in fact, that we have to ask the question: Is it possible to be scared to death?

The answer: yes, humans can be scared to death. In fact, any strong emotional reaction can trigger fatal amounts of a chemical, such as adrenaline, in the body.

It happens very rarely, but it can happen to anyone. The risk of death from fear or another strong emotion is greater for individuals with preexisting heart conditions, but people who are perfectly healthy in all other respects can also fall victim.

Being scared to death boils down to our autonomic response to a strong emotion, such as fear.

For fear-induced deaths, the demise starts with our fight-or-flight response, which is the body’s physical response to a perceived threat.

This response is characterized by an increased heart rate, anxiety, perspiration, and increased blood glucose levels.




How does our fight-or-flight instinct lead to death, though? To understand that, we have to understand what the nervous system is doing when it’s stimulated, primarily in releasing hormones.

These hormones, which can be adrenaline or another chemical messenger, ready the body for action. The thing is, adrenaline and similar chemicals in large doses are toxic to organs such as the heart, the liver, the kidneys, and the lungs.

Scientists claim that what causes sudden death out of fear in particular is the chemical’s damage to the heart, since this is the only organ that, upon being affected, could cause sudden death.

Adrenaline opens calcium to the heart. With a lot of calcium going to the heart, the organ has trouble slowing down, which is something that can cause ventricular fibrillation, a specific type of abnormal heart rhythm.

Irregular heartbeats prevent the organ from successfully pumping blood to the body and lead to sudden death unless treated immediately.

High levels of adrenaline aren’t caused only by fear. Other strong emotions can also incite a rush of adrenaline. For example, sporting events and sexual intercourse have been known to lead to adrenaline-induced deaths.

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Severed Gecko Tails Have A Mind Of Their Own

Even after they’re no longer connected to a lizard brain, gecko tails can flip, jump and lunge in response to their environment — and may even be able to evade predators.

Researchers have known for centuries that some animals can voluntarily shed parts of their bodies to keep from being eaten, but few studies have looked at the behavior of disposable body parts once they’ve fallen off.

Now, using high-speed video and a technique called electromyography, scientists have discovered that severed gecko tails exhibit complex behavior and even seem to react to environmental cues.

The scientists say that figuring out what controls the jumping gecko tail may help us understand why the paralyzed muscles of spinal cord injured patients sometimes exhibit spontaneous muscle contractions, which they hope could someday lead to treatments that restore some control over such movements.

After attaching electrodes to the tails of four adult leopard geckos, the researchers gently pinched the lizards to encourage them to shed their tails.




As soon as a gecko felt threatened, its tail began to twitch and eventually detached from the rest of its body in an amazing, but nearly bloodless, feat.

Rather than using up all their energy in a single short burst, the gecko tails seemed to modulate their muscle movement to conserve energy and maximize the unpredictability of their behavior.

The tails also changed direction and speed depending on what they bumped into, which suggests that the tails can independently sense and respond to their environment.

Although the researchers understand the benefits of a detachable tail with a mind of its own, they don’t yet know what’s controlling the tail’s complex movement.

According to Russell, figuring out what controls severed gecko tails might help us understand and treat some aspects of human spinal cord injury.

With a spinal cord injury, what tends to happen is skeletal muscles tend to be paralyzed behind that event,” he said.

For instance, if you injure your mid back, your lower limbs are put out of commission.

Scientists know that networks of neurons called central pattern generators, or CPGs, can produce rhythmic movements that aren’t controlled by the brain, but they don’t know exactly how these neural networks function.

To study CPGs, scientists usually have to surgically damage an animal’s spinal cord in a procedure called a “spinal preparation“; geckos provide a unique model system because they naturally sever their own spinal cords.

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China’s Space Station Will Most Likely Plunge To Earth In Next 24 Hours

It sure looks like the abandoned Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will put on its re-entry light show tonight.

The European Space Agency (ESA), which has been tracking the prototype habitat through its final days and hours, now predicts (as of April 1) it will re-enter the atmosphere sometime tonight (April 1) through early Monday morning (April 2) in UTC time, which is 4 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time.

The Aerospace Corporation, which has also been tracking the falling station, more or less concurs, writing that the uncontrolled re-entry should happen around April 2 at 02:00 UTC (10 p.m. EDT), give or take 7 hours.

It remains true that no one knows where the 9.4-ton (8.5 metric tons) station will come down, other than somewhere between 43 degrees latitude north and 43 degrees latitude south.




It also remains true that it is not a danger to you or anyone else, because the Earth is very big and still mostly pretty empty, and the station is very small in the scheme of things.

And the odds of getting hit by a piece of the space lab that manages to survive the fiery re-entry into our atmosphere are incredibly low.

Worth noting: China has still not officially confirmed that it’s not in control of the falling station, but China did lose contact with the uncrewed object on March 21, 2016, and likely has not re-established contact since.

In any event, there’s a non-zero chance that you’ll witness something extraordinary if you look up into the sky this weekend.

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