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Elephants on Acid: And Other Bizarre Experiments (Harvest Original) [Paperback]

Alex Boese
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 5, 2007 0156031353 978-0156031356 1
When Tusko the Elephant woke in his pen at the Lincoln Park Zoo on the morning of August 3, 1962, little did he know that he was about to become the test subject in an experiment to determine what happens to an elephant given a massive dose of LSD. In Elephants on Acid, Alex Boese reveals to readers the results of not only this scientific trial but of scores of other outrageous, amusing, and provocative experiments found in the files of modern science.

Why can’t people tickle themselves? Would the average dog summon help in an emergency? Will babies instinctually pick a well-balanced diet? Is it possible to restore life to the dead? Read Elephants on Acid and find out!

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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: 8 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #144,904 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
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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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic tales of science gone awry October 17, 2007
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting and thought provoking collection. June 10, 2012
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
very entertaining fun book to read
Published 59 minutes ago by Sualiman Almubarak
5.0 out of 5 stars Ecstatic
Arrived quickly and in perfect condition.

An excellent read as well. If you are curious at all, buy this book.
Published 7 days ago by Bender
5.0 out of 5 stars review
I ordered it for my cousin for Christmas.
He is applying for medical school this spring and I thought it would be a funny present. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Balint Silhavy
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book overall
Interesting read, good book overall, could go without the authors "jokes" after each experiment and just stick to the facts.
Published 7 months ago by V.Zhang
4.0 out of 5 stars Great insight
The book provides a good overview of some of the less published tests. In addition it also provides some insight on what the tests led to and what the contributon to science was. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Bluaura
5.0 out of 5 stars Super fun
I already read this book and wanted to give it as a gift. It's easy to read and the science behind each short story is well explained but not boring.
Published 16 months ago by erika
5.0 out of 5 stars Christmas Gift
I bought this book as a gift for my son and he loved it. I suggest buying more like it.
Published 16 months ago by Kasandra Taylor
5.0 out of 5 stars If you are into weird this is the book for you
If you like weird things then you will love this book. I love the weird stories and being able to read about all the strange things people did in the past.
Published 17 months ago by LJ
5.0 out of 5 stars A really horrifically funny review!
Elephants on Acid will have you crying and laughing simultaneously. This book is one wild ride -- an incredible read about what brought us here to current day experiments -- a look... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Sally Richards
1.0 out of 5 stars Mis-subtitled and terrible writing
Most of the experiments presented in this book are sloppy, not bizarre. And many of them are outright cruel, yet Boese's descriptions take an "oh those nutty scientists" tone. Read more
Published 18 months ago by bmbower
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