For almost as long as people have been trying new things to see what happens, they’ve been trying those things on animals. Animal experimentation is regarded usually as the darker, though mostly necessary part of science. And sometimes it is simply regarded as insane. You can easily understand the purpose behind many animal experiments. There is a clear goal to be achieved there. Then again, other experiments you hear about only make us wonder one thing…Why?
1. Mind Control
Not surprised even a little that this was attempted. And actually, as you are about to find out, this research did come with a lot of benefits down the line but that doesn’t really detract from the insanity of it all. Mind control is usually the standard ploy of the comic book supervillain. No matter how useful your research might be, if you’re asked what you do for a living and you answer “animal mind control”, people are going to assume your workplace is some kind of skull-shaped island.
I’m not really sure what shape Yale is because that’s where the research took place. The (mad?) scientist in question was Jose Manuel Rodriguez Delgado who taught and researched physiology at Yale University. His most noteworthy work was seeing if you could control animals by electrically stimulating certain parts of their brains.
And guess what, you totally can. For thirty years Delgado explored this idea, constructing more and more advanced devices in order to send electrical pulses to specific areas of the brain. He eventually came up with something called a stimoceiver which is basically a pacemaker for the brain. His ultimate goal was to see if this could be used in order to treat mental illnesses like schizophrenia. He experimented on a variety of animals, but his “flashiest” experiment involved using the stimoceiver to stop a charging bull just a few feet from him.
In his day, Delgado received a ton of criticisms for his work which was described as unethical so he was eventually forced to stop. Now, however, we have genuine medical applications based on his work. This includes a deep-brain stimulation technique which is FDA-approved and used to treat depression and Parkinson’s disease.
2. Reverse Tarzan
That’s not the actual name of the experiment, but I had to call it something. We know that if a human is left out in the wild on their own and they somehow survive, when they encounter civilization, they are pretty much going to be savage, almost feral…a wild animal, basically. Well, in the 1930s, two scientists wanted to see if the opposite was true. What if you took a wild animal as a baby and raised it as a human? What would happen?
The scientists in question were Winthrop and Luella Kellogg and they “adopted” little Gua the chimp when she was just 7 ½ months old. Here’s the weird(er) part: the couple already had a baby (not something you have to specify often, but a human one), little 10-month old Donald. Donald and Gua were brought up as brother and sister.
What this test showed is that Gua and Donald were very similar. To us, that might not be so surprising. Nowadays we know that, up until a certain age, babies of different species (mostly referring to mammals here) have more in common with each other than with the adults of their own kind. They all pretty much just eat, poop and make weird noises.
What was surprising was the fact that at the age of 1 year, Gua was actually surpassing her human brother, not just physically, but mentally. Donald really wasn’t able to overcome her until language came into play. When he learned to form words, Donald had a definite advantage because, obviously, Gua couldn’t talk.
Even so, the Kelloggs decided to pull the plug on the experiment just nine months in because something interesting was beginning to happen: Gua wasn’t acting more like a human, but Donald was acting more like a chimp. He was copying her more than she was copying any human behavior. So the two of them were eventually separated and Donald was spared a very, very bizarre childhood.
3. Facial Expression
So this experiment is a little different from the rest as humans are really the test subject. Animals (rats, specifically) are just very unfortunate tools. It should also be specified that it took place in the 1920s because there’s no way something like this would fly today.
Carney Landis was a psychology student at the University of Minnesota and he was studying facial expressions. He wanted to know if there was a default human expression for a certain situation; like if we all contract the same muscles when we’re scared or surprised. So he grabbed a few other students, drew some lines on their faces to better track the muscle movements and then made them feel different emotions and took pictures of their faces.
Most of the stuff he made them do was pretty tame: smell bad stuff, touch gross stuff and look at porn. No worse than your average college dorm today, really. However, for the finale, he wanted a reaction of shock and he wanted a really big one so the only thing he could come up with was a live decapitation of a rat. And what’s worse is that he wanted the people to do the head chopping.
Unsurprisingly, his test subjects weren’t thrilled with the idea, but here’s the shocking part (for us, not them): two thirds of them still did it. For those who refused, he took the rat and did the dirty work himself. You can click the link to see some images of his experiment (SFW, just people’s faces).
Nowadays, we aren’t really concerned with Landis’ facial expression results. What we are concerned is with his stunning, although ignored (even by him) revelations into human obedience. Remember, two thirds of the test subjects did something bad that went against their nature just because someone of authority told them to. The same idea would be pointed out decades later in the famous Milgram Experiment.
The name is a bit misleading. Visually, if you’re expecting some kind of deformed monster, you’ll be disappointed. The goats in question look just like normal goats. However, it wouldn’t be completely incorrect to say that they are also part-spider.
That spider part we are interested in is the ability to produce spider silk. It might look extremely flimsy when you’re cleaning it up with a brush, but that’s just because it’s incredibly thin. In reality, spider silk is extremely resistant. Relative to its size, it’s stronger than Kevlar so, yeah, it’s no surprise that we’re interested in ways to mass produce it. That is also why these so-called spider-goats have been genetically modified with the silk-producing gene so that they can actually make the silk protein in their milk.
Truthfully, this one isn’t so bad. Animal husbandry has always been a part of farming. We have always been breeding the animals we wanted in order to gain desirable traits and eliminate undesirable ones. This simply takes things to the next level by using the technology available to us. And it’s also necessary since I’m pretty sure that there is no natural sexual attraction between goats and spiders.
One understandable question would be why not just get the silk from the spiders? Well, the problem is that spiders don’t really make good farm animals. Goats, on the other hand, are friendlier, cuddlier and, more importantly, have the added bonus of not being cannibals, unlike many species of spider.
5. Spiders on Drugs
Humans do some pretty weird things after taking drugs so how about animals? Humanity has a long and diverse history of getting animals wasted in one way or another, sometimes in the interest of science but mostly for funsies. But this particular experiment was actually conducted by NASA. They became curious to find out how different drugs would affect the weaving ability of spiders. So, to test it out, they got some spiders and gave them a bunch of drugs.
So why did they do this? After the experiment they concluded that the more toxic the chemical was, the more deformed the web made. So they were looking at this as a viable method of testing future drugs and determine their toxicity.
You can click here and look at all the webs created under the influence. You’ll notice that the spiders get lazy real fast or just otherwise distracted or incapacitated. And they are also unable to maintain a symmetric pattern. The web on peyote is ok, but everything else is poor workmanship.
Featured image courtesy of Art Bromage via Flickr.