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The Most Insane Government Experiments Ever

The Most Insane Government Experiments Ever

By Tim Butcher

Everybody knows that the government knows exactly what they’re doing and would never spend public funds carrying out weird or pointless experiments, right? Maybe? Most of the time, at least?! But every now and then, they decide to do something so wacky, you start to wonder whether it wasn’t just some kind of inter-departmental dare. Behold: our list of the most insane government experiments of all time.

LSD

Well, if we’re going to talk insane, you might as well start with hallucinogens. The US army’s tests on drugs during the Cold War to see if they could be used as weapons went on for decades. From the fifties onwards, army volunteers lined up to take substances including LSD, PCP and marijuana—for entirely professional reasons, of course. The idea was to figure out whether the chemicals could be used on enemy soldiers to make them too whacked-out to fight. And, although the experiments were eventually scrapped, they did actually yield a new type of hallucinatory artillery round which was said to leave subjects in a ‘sleep-like’ condition for days. Well, it’s certainly a less violent form of warfare!

Seeing in the Dark

The gold standard for military experiments, of course, has to be the "super soldier". And while the military has never quite reached Captain America grade levels of success, they’ve still had some pretty interesting results. Case in point: during World War II, they pretty much managed to give normal sailors infrared vision. In a bid to make it possible for seamen to see the signal lights on enemy ships, a number of volunteers were given a special Vitamin-A supplement. And, believe it or not, it actually worked! After several months, many of them reported being able to see things that are only visible in the infrared range. Unfortunately though, the experiment was scrapped when an actual infrared scope was developed. Well, that’s no fun!

Psychic Warfare

In the 1970s, the government reportedly spent millions funding projects designed to find out whether telepathy could be used as a weapon of war. How? Well, one of the main tests involved seeing whether soldiers could predict certain tarot cards. Pretty embarrassing, right? To be fair, the Russians were doing pretty much exactly the same thing. And, hey, let’s just be thankful it didn’t actually work—it’d be like every soldier was Akira! Now that’s a scary thought.

Freefalling

How do you figure out what happens when a person falls to earth from the edge of space? Easy—send them up in a balloon and have them jump out. In 1960—in what surely wins the award for ‘The Most Awesome Government Experiment of all Time," Captain Joseph Kittinger floated 102,000 ft above the earth’s surface (that’s about 60, 000 ft higher than your average airliner) before hopping out and freefalling for four and a half minutes. At its peak, his speed reached around 614 miles per hour, which isn’t far short of the speed of sound. Man, if only they filmed the jump! Oh, wait: they did.

Tireless Soldiers

Imagine all the stuff you could get done if you never had to sleep! You could watch an entire season of Doctor Who and it wouldn’t even impact on your day! Well, that’s almost certainly what occurred to the Department of Defense, who are, as we speak, experimenting with ways to make it possible to stay up forever (or at least for a really long time). One of the craziest has to be a nasal spray called Orexin-A. Named after a hormone that makes you feel alert and refreshed, it gives you the impression of having got eight hours of solid shuteye even when you haven’t. So, all we want to know is... when can we get some for midterms?!

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Tags: science, secrets, spying, government, experiments

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