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Stupid science: 4 dumb experiments done by scientists

Scientist in the Lab

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An elephant on acid? A rat who can’t understand Japanese backwards? A scientist is meant to be inquisitive and investigative. But there are some experiments that toe the border between common sense and sheer dumbness.

Head banging is bad for you
The next time you go to a heavy metal concert, Australian scientists warn, don’t head bang.

Two University of New South Wales scientists, Declan Patton and Andrew McIntosh, were interested in the risks associated with head banging. They found that when the range of motion is greater than 75 degrees, there is a greater risk of mild head injury as well as neck injury.

After interviewing multiple head bangers, Patton and McIntosh recommended that head bangers should “head bang to slower tempo songs … only head bang to every second beat, or use personal protective equipment.”

Animals on acid
When a human gets high on lysergic acid diethylamide -- that's the drug LSD, or as it is more commonly known, acid -- they often undergo a “marked mental disturbance,” including paranoia and aggressiveness. An overdose of the drug can kill you.

But, what about larger animals, like elephants?

In the 1960s, Dr. Warren Thomas and a few of his colleagues tried to recreate the phenomenon of an elephant going on musth, a period of aggression in male elephants. In an effort to fully understand the brain pattern of an elephant during this period, Thomas injected an elephant named Tusko with 1.5 million units of LSD.

After becoming aggressive, he began “to sway, his hindquarters buckled.” Nearly two hours later, Tusko died.

Afterwards, Thomas concluded that “it appears that the elephant is highly sensitive to the effects of LSD.” This may offer insight into the cause of death should a lethal overdose be taken by a human, he added. Really.

Scientists train Japanese-speaking rats (sort of)
If you watch a video backwards, can you understand what people are saying?

Neither do rats, one study shows.

In the early 2000s, Juan Toro and his colleagues demonstrated that rats and other species can discriminate sentences in two languages – Dutch and Japanese – when played forward, but not backwards. After conducting the experiment, the scientists concluded that when languages are played backwards, features that could help the rats differentiate between Dutch and Japanese were distorted to the point that that “none of the … species could effectively discriminate between sentences when played this way.”

Wearing socks over your shoes reduces your chances of slipping on ice
The next time you’re walking on a slippery sidewalk, try wearing your socks over your shoes.

A study was conducted by New Zealand scientists who wanted to know if wearing socks over shoes improved traction on icy sidewalks.

After conducting an experiment with 29 people, of whom two-thirds had previously fallen on ice, scientists found that wearing socks over their shoes was associated with “a statistically significant improvement in traction.”

The only adverse effects reported were “short periods of indignity for some members of the intervention group.”