The most disturbing science finds of the last 100 years
Science can lead to truly beautiful discoveries but sometimes there are disturbing science finds that most people can’t handle. Our perception of what is possible through science keeps changing with each passing year. Not only are we disproving ideas that we previously confirmed, but we are also developing old ideas further and discovering new ones as we move forward. It’s an exciting time to be involved in the scientific world.
There is also the side of science that isn’t always comfortable. More often than not, we discover things about the world and about us that are greatly disturbing. So read on if you have a strong constitution and are willing to learn a few disturbing science finds in the last 100 years or so.
Pig, human, or pig-human?
Experiments aimed at eventually growing human organs inside of pigs broke ground in 2017. Scientists were able to implant human cells into adult pigs, keeping the cells alive for several weeks and then extracting them successfully. These are only the first few steps into this research, which is expected to yield much more in the coming years.
Scientists are now trying to do the reverse in order to grow human organs from pig embryos. This would produce human organs for transplants faster than harvesting them from people. There is still a long way to go with the research since the embryos ended up being less than one percent human.
Bird flu could wipe out humanity
H5N1 influenza is an incredibly deadly virus that kills more than half of those who are infected. H5N1 is, more specifically, avian influenza also known more commonly as the “bird flu.” It’s reported that not many people are actually infected with the flu since it mostly affects and is carried by birds. It typically isn’t transmitted from person to person like other viruses.
H5N1 influenza first surfaced in 1996, killing off millions of innocent birds. Vaccines have been developed since then and the virus is mostly under control. There are still fears that the virus can be abused if it falls into hostile hands.
Embedding tracking chips in people
What if people could be tracked by their employers or the government? An early version of the RFID transponder chip was used in an experiment in 1998 by a British scientist named Kevin Warwick. The chip was meant to be implanted right under the skin and used to track people, along with information about them, such as their medical records.
Although some people have tried to implement the mandatory use of these chips, States have struck down legislation that would allow for this in the US. The potential incorporation of this technology into everyday life understandably sets people on edge.
Of mice and human brains
There have been quite a few experiments that involved adding, inserting, or blending of human and animal DNA. In 2005, human stem cells were inserted into the brain of mice fetuses as part of an attempt to get the new cells to mesh with the old ones.
Scientists were able to successfully get some of the human cells to survive and adapt within the mice’s brains, paving the way for potential future developments. Stem cell research has been around for a while. Researchers have hoped to look into curing human mental disorders or repairing parts of the brain that have been damaged with age.
Lambs grown in artificial wombs
Scientists have created a type of artificial womb filled with liquids and capable of sustaining lamb fetuses late in their development. Lamb fetuses go through a similar development process to human fetuses, which is why they were picked. Due to the significantly shorter development periods, lambs are ideal for the experiments.
The purpose of this project is to potentially help premature babies survive outside of the womb. Scientists are hoping that this fetal bag will be useable on humans in just a few years. There aren’t any plans to use this project outside of saving premature fetuses.
Cyber beetle surveillance
Scientists and researchers often draw inspiration for their inventions from a variety of animals and insects found in nature. Scientists working at the University of California found a way to attach hardware to beetles so that they could control their flight patterns. There has been moderate success, with hopes of expanding on the research already done.
DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) funded the research in hopes of developing a new form of surveillance. The army is looking to improve search-and-rescue missions’ success with this particular project. Some people fear that this could lead to non-military surveillance of US citizens.
Robots perform surgery
Did you think that performing surgery on a single grape was crazy talk? For several years, scientists have been perfecting robots who are capable of performing surgery on people. Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (SMART) was used in several experimental surgeries on pigs back in 2016.
The robot wasn’t responsible for the full surgery since surgeons heavily supervised and participated in the operations. The terrifying part will come when they start actually testing the robots on live people. But even if robots are implemented into routine or specialized surgeries, humans will remain a part of the process (at least for the foreseeable future).
Building off the previous entry on robot surgeons is the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for robots. Scientists have long been researching how to create an intelligence capable of human thought. Plenty of sci-fi films, such as The Matrix, explore the idea of machines capable of this type of intelligence.
People have been terrified of the idea that robots could “take over the world” for decades, but it will be a while before we see real, intelligent robots. Until then, science will see AI performing in smaller capacities elsewhere. With robotic surgery comes the potential to implement AI in a more practical way.
Caterpillar zombie virus
Writers and artists have been fantasizing and freaking out about potential zombie outbreaks for years now. Movies and books have painted zombies as flesh-eating beings without much rationality left, running wildly in search of human meat. Although a virus of that magnitude doesn’t seem like it’ll happen anytime soon in humans, something similar has manifested in caterpillars in the U.K., minus the cannibalism.
Caterpillars infected with the virus gorge themselves until they’re overwhelmingly fat. If they get big enough, they’ll explode and spray liquid in every direction. If other caterpillars are sprayed with the liquid caterpillar remains, they contract the virus as well.
Life on Mars?
The remains of water were evidently found on Mars by NASA back in 2015. Scientists have been looking for evidence of life on other planets for decades, so this presented some hope for those discoveries. Water is one of the main “ingredients” necessary in order to help living beings survive.
Although scientists still aren’t exactly sure about a solid timeline for water appearing on Mars, they have now increased their search for sustainable environments on other planets. Only time will tell if NASA is able to find more signs that could lead to discoveries of sustainability for life on other planets.
The monstrous brain tumor twin
There’s a special bond between twins that other siblings can’t quite understand. The way they dress and act often mirror each other because of this bond. Yamini Karanam didn’t have a twin of any sort, or at least, she didn’t think she had one.
It wasn’t until she started getting crushing migraines and losing bodily functions that she finally sought out professional help. A daring brain surgeon offered to remove what seemed like a tumor from Karanam’s brain. After removal, with funds raised by her friends, it was found that the tumor was a teratoma, a mass of hair, bone, and teeth. Thankfully, she recovered shortly after.
Meteor almost hits Earth
There are plenty of doomsday stories in the fiction world where Earth is destroyed. What a lot of people don’t know is that there have been thousands of meteors that have passed close by Earth. One of the more terrifying close calls, involving a large meteor, happened back in September 2017.
Although the meteor was millions of miles away from hitting Earth, it was still close enough to cause some panic among those who knew. The meteor, nicknamed “Florence,” was around three miles wide. It ultimately sailed passed Earth without a single incident, but who knows what the future holds for our planet.
Organs grown in labs
In 2013, Japanese scientists made a huge and groundbreaking discovery. They were able to use stem cells and human cells to “grow” livers. Even though they were able to pull this off, the livers weren’t complete. Some of the livers’ integral parts were missing, which means that it may take years to fully realize this procedure.
The reason the Japanese were the ones to look into this type of research was due to the low amount of liver donors in the medical system. With the potential to grow organs comes the opportunity to increase the number of successful transplants.
Seven other planets and a star
The possibility of life outside of The Milky Way has been pulling at scientists’ collective interest for a long time. There haven’t been many discoveries of solar systems capable of harboring life. TRAPPIST-1 breaks the mold as a potential, life-bearing solar system about 39 light-years past ours.
One of the most interesting aspects of TRAPPIST-1 is the fact that the sun in the system is less than one-tenth the size of ours. Even so, it has somehow managed to capture seven planets, all orbiting it. It will be a while before we can check for life there and it will most likely be remote.
Decapitated dog experiments
1940 saw the release of a Russian propaganda film showing experiments being performed on decapitated dogs. Is that disturbing enough for you yet? The Soviet scientists took things further and attached a mechanism called an autojektor to the dogs’ heads. The machine was integrated with a heart and lung system capable of reanimating the heads for several hours.
Whether or not the film was staged, there is evidence that the experiments were real. The video shows the dog heads licking their noses and twitching their ears while they were resting on the operating table. This experiment is one of the more horrifying that people have done. Poor good boys.
“Who are you?”
Imagine not recognizing the face of your brother, spouse, or child all of a sudden. There are people are affected by this phenomenon. Prosopagnosia is a cognitive disorder where people are not able to recognize the faces of others, even people they already know. People can become afflicted with this disorder at birth or through significant brain trauma.
The disorder only affects facial recognition and doesn’t prevent recognition of voice or clothing. It’s an incredibly rare disorder, although there are reports that almost three percent of the US population is affected by it. One of the most disturbing facts about prosopagnosia is that there isn’t any cure for it at the moment.
A matter of dark matter
A more recent scientific find, dark matter is still a relatively new concept to researchers. It’s not even proven that dark matter actually exists but scientists still remain really confident. The most terrifying part about dark matter is how little we actually know about how it works and how it affects us.
Research currently supports the idea that up to 85% of the universe’s matter is made up of dark matter. Throughout the universe, there are phenomena that don’t always follow the understood rules of nature. The next few years will reveal more as scientists pour more resources into this research.
1971 Stanford prison experiment
There are few experiments as widely remembered and talked about as the 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment. The shocking experiment took place at Stanford University in California with 24 participating students. Dr. Phillip Zombardo, a professor at the university, was in charge of the team leading the experiment.
During the experiment, which was supposed to test interactions between prisoners and prison guards, psychological abuse quickly manifested between the volunteers. Although they didn’t have any actual power, the “prison guards” acted out in many disgusting ways. The experiment was only supposed to last 14 days but it barely reached six before it was called off due to safety concerns.
Mites live in your eyelashes
Most people have a fear of things living in or on their bodies. The eyelash mite, or Demodex, spends its life on human eyelashes and other hair on the body for survival. They’re not usually harmful to the host, benefiting themselves but not making the host ill or agitated.
The host typically won’t even realize they have eyelash mites on them. They’re so small and harmless that you can go your whole life without even worrying about them. But there are types of Demodexes that do cause harm. Those are parasites and can cause skin damage on the face, some of which can be quite severe.
The rat king
Although it sounds like it is a single being, a rat king is made up of multiple rats. The phenomenon is super rare but when it does happen, rats become attached to each other by the tail in a massive clump. Anything sticky can cause the rats to fuse together, including hair and blood.
There are plenty of folk stories about the rat king, many of them tying it to bad luck and death. For some, rat kings were a bad omen that something sinister drew near. Since rats are known to carry the plague and other diseases, it made sense for the superstitious to fear them.
Unit 731 experiments
War tends to bring out a really horrifying part of human beings. During World War II, hundreds of thousands of prisoners (including men, women, and children) were the unwilling subjects of Japanese experiments that usually ended in death. The majority of what happened during those experiments was terrifying.
Test subjects were sliced open, often without anesthesia, and prodded while they were still alive. Multiple body parts were removed from bodies while the subjects were conscious and then they were used for tests. One of the more horrifying experiments (although they are all twisted) included the testing of weapons on the living.
Creating human skin with 3D bioprinting
What if we were able to create human beings completely from scratch? We’re not anywhere near accomplishing that seemingly impossible feat yet but we are definitely making baby steps in that direction. 3D bioprinting has been the predominantly-researched method to test drugs and medicine.
The process for creating human-like skin is complex but has produced satisfying results in just a few years of testing. One of the main benefits of 3D bioprinting is the decrease in the need for human tests. Ultimately, researchers are looking to create replacement organs for those needing donors. This would cut down on the complications that arise from donor-provided organs.
If you’re afraid of any type of bees, you’re definitely not going to like Japanese hornets. Japanese giant hornets’ physical appearance is mainly yellow and black, with large black wings on their backs. They’re larger than many insects, at over 1.6 inches long on average.
Japanese hornets’ venom is so incredibly powerful that a single sting should be treated as soon as possible in the nearest hospital. There is a wide range of negative effects from the sting but the most significant is how it affects the kidneys. These insects can even cause kidney failure in people of all ages. Japanese giant hornets are attracted to rural areas, looking for trees to live in.
Babies with modified genes
The longer human beings are on the Earth, the closer we get to a science-fiction-inspired world. The first babies born with purposefully modified genes arrived in 2018. The twin girls’ genes were modified in order to lessen their risk of getting HIV.
Altering the genetic makeup of humans, even by a little, isn’t generally accepted as a moral practice. If the intent is to prevent specific diseases or favor certain traits, most people still won’t be too thrilled about it. It’s yet to be seen if scientists will be allowed to put gene modification into practice on a wider scale in the coming years.
New human organ
In a move that surprises no one, scientists have made another discovery about the human body. Apparently, humans have an organ called the mesentery that wasn’t discovered until 2017. The mesentery is actually quite a vital organ for humans.
The mesentery is the bridge between the intestine and the abdomen and has several important functions, such as aiding the heart. It also has a positive effect on the immune system, which humans obviously need. The most shocking part about this discovery is how long it took to be found. It goes to show how little we really know about our own bodies.
One of the most devastating things that can affect humans is disease. Disease attacks from within and doesn’t always manifest outside the body; there are times when all the signs and effects are internal. In 1980, Soviet scientists (those Soviets never backed down from a freaky experiment) discovered how to weaponize the plague, of all diseases.
Before the bio-weapon was able to be used, the project was seemingly canceled. There weren’t any developments after then, at least, not any that saw the light of day. There are rumors of continued work on these weapons, but no one really knows for sure.
One billion Earths
NASA made a discovery using the Kepler Space Telescope that has huge implications. They found that there are at least one billion planets that are similar to Earth. The potential of life-harboring planets outside of Earth excites some people but it also scares others.
There could be thousands or even millions of civilizations of intelligent creatures out there, living their lives. Maybe they know we’re here or it could be that they haven’t found a way to reach out either. It may be a long time until we come into contact with other life or we may never meet them due to the difficulty of maneuvering space.
Transferring memories between snails
Transferring memories between multiple sea snails is another seemingly fictional entry on this science list. But it isn’t fictional because it actually did happen in 2018. Scientists were able to transfer basic memories between two sea snails by extracting RNA (Ribonucleic Acid) from one snail and injecting it into the other.
Proof of transferred memories was found when the snail with the new RNA reacted to shocks as if it had experienced them before, which the other sea snail had performed on it. Even though progress in this area is slow, scientists will continue to research the power of the mind and memories.
Spider venom and strokes
This one is for all the spider lovers who just closed the article as soon as they saw the heading. Australia is known for being more than just upside down, it’s known for all the deadly creatures that live there. One of the more terrifying creatures is the Australian funnel-web spider, which is able to kill people in under 15 minutes if it lands a bite.
Despite the deadliness that the venom presents to people, scientists found that the venom can be used to cure stroke symptoms. One of the components of the venom, named peptide, is able to function as a type of shielding for the human brain, helping to prevent damage from strokes.
Full face transplants
There is something deeply haunting about the idea of wearing another person’s face. With scientific developments in the last decade, doctors have been able to carry out full face transplants with success. The process of completing a face transplant is really only done on people who desperately need it.
The new face is taken from a cadaver and painstakingly attached to the living person’s body. The first successful face transplant was done in Spain back in 2011. There are still worries about face transplants being used for horrifying or immoral reasons.