Tag Archives | experiments

A Biopunk Manifesto

From last year's Outlaw Biology? Conference at UCLA, hacker Meredith Patterson on a manifesto for the biopunk movement:
The prevalence of citizen science has fallen. Who are the twentieth-century equivalents of Benjamin Franklin, Edward Jenner, Marie Curie or Thomas Edison? Perhaps Steve Wozniak, Bill Hewlett, Dave Packard [etc.] -- but the scope of their work is far narrower than that of the natural philosophers who preceded them. Citizen science has suffered from a troubling decline in diversity, and it is this diversity that biohackers seek to reclaim. We reject the popular perception that science is only done in million-dollar university, government, or corporate labs; we assert that the right of freedom of inquiry, to do research and pursue understanding under one's own direction, is as fundamental a right as that of free speech or freedom of religion. A Biopunk Manifesto by Meredith Patterson from SMA on Vimeo.
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Descendants Sue CIA Over Cold War Scientist’s Mysterious Death Following LSD Experiments

Bioweapons expert Frank Olson unwittingly served as a guinea pig in clandestine CIA mind-control experiments involving LSD. But was the purpose all along to assassinate him? Via the Huffington Post:

The sons of a Cold War scientist who plunged to his death in 1953 several days after unwittingly taking LSD in a CIA mind-control experiment sued the government Wednesday. They claimed the CIA murdered their father, Frank Olson, by pushing him from a 13th-story window of a hotel – not, as the CIA says, that he jumped to his death.

Olson was a bioweapons expert at Fort Detrick, the Army’s biological weapons research center in Maryland. The lawsuit claims the CIA killed Olson when he developed misgivings after witnessing extreme interrogations in which they allege the CIA committed murder using biological agents Olson had developed.

Olson consumed a drink laced with LSD by CIA agents on Nov. 19, 1953, the suit says.

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Victims Of The Army’s Secret St. Louis Chemical Experiments Speak Out

Missouri’s KSDK has more on the previously discussed revelation that the U.S. army secretly sprayed chemicals on families in St. Louis housing projects during the 1950s and 60s. Former residents reveal bizarre recollections which were previously ignored:

Missouri’s two U.S. Senators, Democrat Claire McCaskill, and Republican Roy Blunt, are demanding more information about the secret human testing. But so far, the Army remains silent. Survivors remember and for the first time are sharing their stories in hopes someone will listen and perhaps be held accountable.

Dorothy Johnson and her doctors never knew what caused blisters to boil up and cover her body when she was 18-years-old. The life-long emotional scars never healed and she wonders if there is a connection to the secret testing. Through tears, Johnson said, “They isolated me and I stayed there about a month to recuperate. I lost my fingernails, my toe nails, the lesions on my body.

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What it’s Like to Fly Through a Nuclear Bomb

Picture: US DOE (PD)

BoingBoing shares this story from the BBC about Joe Pasquini, a RAF pilot ordered to fly through a nuclear mushroom cloud. Pasquini has suffered numerous bouts of cancer and other health problems, as have his children, with no benefits from the British government.

Here’s a partial description of what Pasquini saw:

“It detonated at 8,000 feet. We had our eyes closed, but even with our eyes closed we could see the light through our eye lids. It took 49 seconds for the light to stop.

“As soon as that happened, we immediately turned back. Fortunately being in the navigating position, I had a little window and I watched the whole thing develop and spread and then start climbing.

“I think I saw the face of God for the first time. It was just incredible, it blew our minds away. These were things that had never been seen before, certainly not by English people.”

There’s plenty more to Pasquini’s tragic tale.Read the rest

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Professional Psychics Fail Scientific Experiment

Was this a fair experiment? Perhaps the laboratory setting suppresses psychic abilities. The BBC reports:

The test by researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London, tried to establish whether mediums could use psychic abilities to identify something about five unseen volunteers. The results, carried out under test conditions, did not show evidence of any unexplained powers of insight.

The experiment asked two professional mediums to write something about five individuals who were concealed behind a screen. These five volunteers were then asked to try to identify themselves from these psychic readings – with a success rate of only one in five. This was a result that was “entirely consistent with the operation of chance alone”, said Professor French.

But one of the mediums, Patricia Putt, rejected the suggestion that this showed any absence of psychic powers – saying that she needed to work face-to-face with people or to hear their voice, so that a connection could be established.

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Why Some People See Sound

The senses are more intermingled than we realize — what we hear influences what we think we see, Live Science writes:

Some people may actually see sounds, say researchers who found this odd ability is possible when the parts of the brain devoted to vision are small.

Scientists took a closer look at the sound-induced flash illusion. When a single flash is followed by two bleeps, people sometimes also see two illusory consecutive flashes. They found the smaller a person’s visual cortex was — the part of the brain linked with vision — the more likely he or she experienced the illusion. On average, the volunteers saw the illusion 62 percent of the time.

“The visual brain’s representation of what hits the eye is very efficient but not perfect — there is some uncertainty to visual representations, especially when things happen quickly, like the rapid succession of flashes in the illusion,” de Haas said.

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Footage Released Showing British Military’s 1952 Biological Warfare Experiments On Monkeys

The horrific testing, conducted in secret and dubbed Operation Cauldron, took place offshore on a ship near the Isle of Lewis. Over the course of several months, dozens of terrified monkeys and thousands of guinea pigs were subjected to "germ bombs" containing bubonic plague and other deadly diseases, with many of the animals dying after a few days. The project was part of the U.K. military's effort to develop biological weapons that could be used on real people in a potental war against the Soviets. Needless to say, the Ministry of Defence was reluctant to release the incredibly disturbing 47-minute film documenting the experiments:
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Army’s Cold War Experiments On St. Louis Residents Revealed

Our military secretly sprayed experimental, possibly radioactive chemicals in minority and low-income communities in St. Louis during the 1960s to see what would happen, KSDK in St. Louis reports:

Lisa Martino-Taylor is a sociologist whose life’s work has been to uncover details of the Army’s ultra-secret military experiments carried out in St. Louis and other cities during the 1950s and 60s.

[KSDK] verified that the spraying of zinc cadmium sulfide did take place in St. Louis on thousands of unsuspecting citizens. What is unclear is whether the Army added a radioactive material to the compound as Martino-Taylor’s research implies.

Army archive pictures show how the tests were done in Corpus Christi, Texas in the 1960s. In Texas, planes were used to drop the chemical. But in St. Louis, the Army placed chemical sprayers on buildings and station wagons. Documents confirmed that city officials were kept in the dark about the tests.

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Scientists Use Neural Prosthesis to Recover Monkeys’ Ability to Make Decisions

Picture: Unknown (PD)

Yes, but can they make the monkey vote Republican?

Via ScienceDaily:

Researchers have taken a key step towards recovering specific brain functions in sufferers of brain disease and injuries by successfully restoring the decision-making processes in monkeys.

By placing a neural device onto the front part of the monkeys’ brains, the researchers, from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre, University of Kentucky and University of Southern California, were able to recover, and even improve, the monkeys’ ability to make decisions when their normal cognitive functioning was disrupted.

The study, which has been published today (Sept. 14) in IOP Publishing’s Journal of Neural Engineering, involved the use of a neural prosthesis, which consisted of an array of electrodes measuring the signals from neurons in the brain to calculate how the monkeys’ ability to perform a memory task could be restored.

In the delayed match-to-sample task an image was flashed onto a screen and, after a delay, the monkeys were prompted to select the same image on the screen from a sampling which included 1-7 other images.

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Research Suggests That Having Money Makes People Act Less Human

Via New York Magazine, money is all around us, yet, until recently, there has been little study of its psychological effect on humans. The results are now coming in, and they’re not good:

Earlier this year, [psychologist Paul] Piff, who is 30, published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that made him semi-famous. Titled “Higher Social Class Predicts Increased Unethical Behavior,” it showed through quizzes, online games, questionnaires, in-lab manipulations, and field studies that living high on the socioeconomic ladder can make people less ethical, more selfish, more insular, and less compassionate than other people. It can make them more likely, as Piff demonstrated in one of his experiments, to take candy from a bowl of sweets designated for children.

Piff is one of a new generation of scientists—psychologists, economists, marketing professors, and neurobiologists—who are exploiting this moment of unprecedented income inequality to explore behaviors like those.

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