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Year : 2009  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 59

Elephants on Acid and other Bizarre Experiments

Chief, Radiation Oncology, Dr. Balabhai Nanavati Hospital, S.V. Rd, Vile Parle (West), Mumbai - 400 056, India

Date of Web Publication17-Mar-2009

Correspondence Address:
Nagraj G Huilgol
Chief, Radiation Oncology, Dr. Balabhai Nanavati Hospital, S.V. Rd, Vile Parle (West), Mumbai - 400 056
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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How to cite this article:
Huilgol NG. Elephants on Acid and other Bizarre Experiments. J Can Res Ther 2009;5:59

How to cite this URL:
Huilgol NG. Elephants on Acid and other Bizarre Experiments. J Can Res Ther [serial online] 2009 [cited 2021 Mar 4];5:59. Available from: https://www.cancerjournal.net/text.asp?2009/5/1/59/48775

Author: Alex Boese

First Published in 2007

Publisher - Harvest

An imprint of Harcourt Inc. Orlando, Florida

The history of science is replete with a wide spectrum of personalities who have devoted their lives to the quest for the truth. Most were driven by curiosity, some by the lure of fame and awards. There have been those who, while in power have been blinded by it, and have ordered inhuman experiments merely to satiate their curiosity. Long before the Nazis conducted their infamous studies on imprisoned Jews, there was a king who had two of his soldiers killed as part of an experiment to find out gastric emptying time. But this book on bizarre experiments wisely eschews such experiments, a conscious decision of the author. His criteria for inclusion: 'Did an experiment make me chuckle, shake my head in disbelief, grimace with disgust, roll my eyes, or utter a shocked exclamation?' And, to his credit, the author has done a wonderful job, adhering strictly to the standards he set for himself.

Big science springs from the attempts to answer the big question; it is about finding a wider application for the results of even a minor experiment. For example Robert Zajonc who raced cockroaches ( Blatta orientalis ) in a small stadium of 20 20 20 inches observed that cockroaches ran faster when there were more cockroaches around. His conclusion was not, however, restricted to the obvious. He extrapolated this observation to human behavior and called it 'social facilitation.' He concluded that 'the presence of others is a source of nonspecific arousal. It can energize all responses likely to be emitted in the given situation.' The phenomenon of social facilitation has been validated in many species, including human beings.

'Elephants on acid' was a bizarre experiment with a tragic end. Louis Joylon and M. Pierce planned this experiment with the earnest hope of expanding the limits of psychiatric knowledge. LSD, in the 60s, was considered an interesting molecule, with the potential to treat alcoholism and schizophrenia. The CIA was secretly conducting research to find out if the drug had any potential for use in brainwashing victims. Aldous Huxley wrote 'New Doors to Perception' after consuming LSD.

In the experiment, Tusco the elephant was administered LSD in a dose that was large enough to mimic human use! The big animal died soon after it was given the drug, briefly writhing in pain and convulsions-a tragic end to a bizarre experiment. Tusco's death did not yield any new information on neurocognition but the elephant did gain immorality in the pop culture of America! I quite liked the lyric of ' The unfortunate elephant ,' in which Tusco finds a passing mention: 'The spider spins the more perfect web / The elephant, he drops over dead / The writer writes the more perfect line / in common we all lose track of time!'

There are other truly bizarre experiments: some, like 'counting postcoital pubic hair on the towel,' 'penis imagined as a sperm shoveling scoop,' and 'multiorgasmic male,' give some idea of the bizarre questions that scientists are capable of asking.

The book is an excellent compilation of bizarre experiments grouped under different headings like 'Frankenstein's Lab', 'Sensorama,' and 'Making of Mr. Hyde.' It is definitely worth reading. It is entertaining and opens the door to minds of all those who pursue science, searching for the truth. Admittedly, some are mad and, rarely, vile.


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