3 Badass People Who Did Crazy Things For Science
Scientists take different risks all the time. Some alienate their families and friends by working late hours, while others risk their very lives by exposing themselves to deadly chemicals and lethal pathogens. Some risks are reasonable, especially if an important discovery is at stake, but there are those that make you question a scientist’s intelligence and even sanity.
In 2012, Dr. James Logan, a disease expert at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, did an unthinkable experiment that would make many of us cringe in horror:
He infected himself with hookworms. Logan then swallowed a pill camera to record the behavior of the disgusting parasites inside his gut. Hookworms are found on feces, and humans and animals normally acquire them by stepping on contaminated soil. But for the sake of the experiment, Logan had his team inject the hookworms directly into his skin.
Logan’s seemingly lunatic action was not random. He willingly infected himself with intestinal parasites so that he could understand the link between food allergies and hookworms, and also to learn how these parasites are “able to get through . . .
tough [human] skin.” Previous research has suggested that hookworms can alleviate and perhaps even cure the symptoms of food allergies. Coincidentally, Logan has a food allergy that makes him sick after eating bread.
As the hookworms reached maturity, they started to damage and cause inflammation on Logan’s intestines. The doctor experienced stomach pain, but he was also able to eat bread sticks and pizza without experiencing any symptoms. Logan’s bizarre experiment eventually ended and he took albendazole, an anti-worming drug, to get rid of the intestinal parasites.
In 2015, Michael Smith of Cornell University, won the Ig Nobel Prize for physiology after he subjected himself to an awfully painful
“why-would-you-do-that-to-yourself” experiment. He had honeybees sting 25 different locations on his body, including his penis and testicles. The reason why Smith subjected himself to such unnecessary suffering is that he wanted to know which body part experiences the most pain caused by a bee sting. His crazy experiment lasted for weeks.
The result: Smith got stung 200 times and he discovered that the three most painful places to get stung by a bee are the penis, nostril, and the upper lip. Of the three body parts, Smith claimed that the nostril is “the worst place for a bee to attack,” which is quite surprising since the penis seems to be the most likely candidate for that distinction.
Smith conducted his insane research in 2012, but it was only in 2015 that he received the Ig Nobel Prize for physiology. This silly award, “which honor[s] humorous scientific achievement[s],” is a parody of the Nobel Prize. Though it’s a spoof, Ig Nobel Prize awards are given by actual Nobel laureates. For winning the Ig Nobel Prize for physiology, Michael Smith received a Zimbabwean 10 trillion dollar bill. Unfortunately, this jaw-dropping amount is only equivalent to a couple US dollars.
Bedbugs are a growing problem, especially in major cities across the globe. But thanks to the work of a dedicated, eccentric female scientist, our centuries-long battle with these stubborn pests might finally come to an end.
Regine Gries is a biologist at Simon Fraser University who developed a pheromone-based “chemical lure capable of enticing bedbugs away from our mattresses—and our flesh—and into traps.” But in order to test and perfect her chemical lure, Gries had to make a big sacrifice: Every Saturday, she would roll up her sleeves and have thousands of bedbugs bite her arms.
Initially, Gries and her students fed the bedbugs chicken blood from a nearby slaughterhouse. But the chickens were medicated, and their contaminated blood caused many of the bedbugs to die.
After this failed experiment, Gries tried guinea pigs. However, there was a problem. Bedbugs couldn’t suck properly through the rodents’ fur. They had to be sedated and shaved before every single feeding. Eventually, Gries gave up on using animals and decided to do the experiment on herself.
Gries likened the feeling of being bitten by thousands of bedbugs to that of mosquito bites. Interestingly, on another project, Gries had a mosquito colony feast on her body. To date, this eccentric biologist has been bitten by bedbugs at least 200,000 times. Read More