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Elephants on Acid: And Other Bizarre Experiments (Harvest Original) 1st Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0156031356
ISBN-10: 0156031353
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Author Boese (Hippo Eats Dwarf, The Museum of Hoaxes) returns with another look at scientific oddities, this time focusing on unlikely but actual experiments. Included are notorious examples such as the Stanford Prison Experiment and Stanley Milgram's infamous shock treatment obedience experiment, but it's the lesser-known studies that will generate the most interest. Disembodied heads, animal resurrection ("Zombie Kitten," "Franken-Monkey") and the direct stimulation of a subject's emotions (via electric brain prod) are some of the more grim activities Boese describes (though, thankfully, he steers clear of examples from Nazi Germany). Lighter subjects include attempts to prove the myth that the bar patrons become more attractive at closing time and the effects of staying awake for 11 days straight. These and other tales will obviously appeal to armchair scientists, but the short, witty, ceaselessly amusing entries should delight anyone with a healthy sense of morbid curiosity.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.



"Do you faithfully follow the commands of every e-mail chain letter? Do you worry about losing your kidneys in a freak robbery/mutilation? Concerned about the tapeworm diet? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, please check out . . . Hippo Eats Dwarf . . . Learn it. Live it. Don’t ever forward another e-mail chain letter again."—Sacramento Bee


"As entertaining as it is well researched."—Entertainment Today


Product Details

  • Series: Harvest Original
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1 edition (November 5, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156031353
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156031356
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,391 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in Glenside, Pennsylvania. Grew up in London and Washington DC. Graduated from Amherst College, and gained a Master's Degree in the History of Science from the University of California, San Diego.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Historian Alex Boese was enamored with bizarre experiments in college. During his graduate studies, Boese spent his free time tracking down the more obscure mad scientist experiments that were mentioned in his texts. He amassed a library of notes on bizarre experiments, went on to found the Museum of Hoaxes and publish two books on hoaxes, and now returns with a title about all those bizarre experiments which once intrigued and delighted him. Boese includes only research which was undertaken with genuine scientific curiosity and methodology--that which was published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Elephants on Acid contains overview and author commentary on experiments from the 1800's through the 2000's, in ten different categories - surgery, senses, memory, sleep, animal behavior, mating behavior, babies, bathroom research, human nature, and death. For each experiment, the author sets up the broader social and scientific context, describes the experimental design and results, and includes any follow-on work. Bibliographic details for each scientific publication are included. (But good luck tracking down European journals circa 1803!)

The opening chapter on Dr. Frankenstein-like research is a bit unsettling (Can a head live without its body? Can asphyxiated dogs be brought back to life?). Not surprisingly, few of the Frankenstein experiments took place in modern times. The remaining chapters are enchanting glimpses at scientific fact and fiction over the ages. Boese demonstrates that waitresses who touch customers statistically receive higher tips ("Touching Strangers"), repeats the real Pepsi Challenge ("Coke vs.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a little unusual, because most book that deal with the bizarre in science are either about pseudo science or about factoids. This book is about interesting findings from interesting experiments.

Despite the title, the book doesn't actually deal in a great deal of bizarre experiments once you think about it. How else would you test some of the things they were looking for, with the least number of variables that can derail you. Sure there are other solutions, but these are quite good and logical choices, but they retain their bizarreness because, most of us wouldn't know how they found some of these things out.

The structure of the book divides science into pursuits of ten areas, life, death, senses etc. The areas overlap but the structure is done for effect and it works. That said though, here is the first major flaw of the book, it starts out quite disgusting and macabre. Though once you've gotten through that it doesn't degrade from the general thing, though cruelty to animals and humans occasionally does pop up, however it isn't the dominant theme.

The second flaw, is with the author: the early macabre experiments are a requisite for this type of book, but the jokes ... some of them are just terribly bad, and trivialize the subject matter and reduces his standing as being qualified to write about the area of science. For example: terminally ill and thus dying patients are given LSD (LSD/Acid isn't actual that common a subject in the book, but nevermind) and overall they feel more positive about their life and dying; they become more interactive and less depressed. Also, calming (harp) music is played and it has positive effects. Great experiment, great result, great avenue to do more research even without LSD. How does Boese conclude the story?
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Format: Paperback
Elephants on acid is an interesting (and at times witty) stroll through some of the more peculiar and remarkable physiological and psychological experiments done in the last 100 years or so. It starts rather slowly and the outcomes for some of the animals used in the experiments is not too flash . But the author is merely reporting what has already been done and not conducting new and potentially ethically doubtful experiments (so there's no need to gets one's knickers in a twist!). The most fascinating section is towards the end where it is people rather than animals who are under the microscope, so to speak. There are some disturbing results which do not paint humans in too bright a light. But anyone who knows about our origins in the wilds of the African savannah will not be too surprised. It is an entertaining and educational book. And there are a few take-aways about human nature in the last few experiments (e.g. on "cognitive dissonance" and "diffusion of responsibility") that are very instructive and make the book worthy of its price.
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Format: Paperback
This book is fantastic. You can get a good sense of whether or not you will enjoy this book by taking a look at the top 20 most bizarre experiments page on the museum of hoaxes website.[...]

The book is a strangely compelling compendium of the unusual things that scientists have dedicated their life to exploring. The author really brings the strange cast of characters to life and helps you understand not only the facts of these strange cases, but also the context of what the scientists were hoping to accomplish by determining if they could create human/ape hybrids, or keep a dog head alive by attaching it to a living dog's circulatory system.

A word of warning: some of the experiments are not for the faint of heart.
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