Elephant on acid, dog head grafts and a seesaw to revive the dead

Madness or genius? Magazine compiles list of most bizarre tests ever conducted in name of scientific inquiry

To ascertain the effects of LSD on elephants, a zoo animal was given a dose 3,000 times larger than a human would take. The animal died within minutes. Photograph: Schalk van Zuydam/AP

One Friday in August 1962 Warren Thomas, director of Lincoln Park Zoo in Oklahoma City, raised his rifle and took aim at Tusko the elephant. With a squeeze of the trigger he scored a direct hit on the animal's rump, firing a cartridge full of the hallucinogenic drug LSD into the animal's bloodstream.
The dose was 3,000 times what a human might take for recreational purposes, and the results were extraordinary. Tusko charged around and trumpeted loudly for a few minutes before keeling over dead.
Thomas and his colleagues maintained the mishap was the result of a scientific experiment to investigate whether LSD brought on an unusual condition in which elephants become aggressive and secrete a sticky fluid from their glands. In a report of the incident submitted to the US journal Science four months later, the team concluded: "It appears that the elephant is highly sensitive to the effects of LSD."
The case of Tusko the elephant is among 10 of the most bizarre experiments carried out in the quest for knowledge and reported in New Scientist magazine today. If there is a fine line between madness and genius, many of those involved firmly crossed it.
One experiment in the 1960s saw 10 soldiers board an aircraft for what they believed was a routine training mission from Fort Hunter Liggett airbase in California. After climbing to around 5,000 feet the plane suddenly lurched to one side and began to fall. Over the intercom, the pilot announced: "We have an emergency. An engine has stalled and the landing gear is not functioning. I'm going to attempt to ditch in the ocean."
While the soldiers faced almost certain death, a steward handed out insurance forms and asked the men to complete them, explaining it was necessary for the army to be covered if they died.