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Elephants on Acid: and Other Bizarre Experiments Paperback – 15 May 2009


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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Pan Books (15 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330506641
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330506649
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Excellent accounts of some of the most important and interesting experiments in biology and psychology' -- Simon Singh, author of Fermat's Last Theorem

`Boese's kooky look at history's most outlandish, provocative and downright ridiculous scientific endeavours (zombie kittens anyone?) will keep you smiling.' -- Sunday Herald

Review

`Boese's kooky look at history's most outlandish, provocative and downright ridiculous scientific endeavours (zombie kittens anyone?) will keep you smiling.'

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By J. Turnock on 11 Oct. 2008
Format: Paperback
Elephants On Acid is made up of surprisingly entertaining, interesting content in a witty, humorous tone. I say surprisingly because I was not expecting a book that has apparently sold very well to have experiments that are well-picked and really well researched, in my opinion, as two of them were ones I studied in my AS-level psychology class, and the book went into more detail than my teachers did. Which might be a sign of bad teaching rather than a very well researched book but let's assume that's not the case.

There are ten chapters with each chapter's experiments being grouped together under a theme - For instance death, the senses, sleep, sex. Some experiments last only a page or two but others go on for a few more than that, and there are clever headings separating them from one another. There are the more well-known experiments (Such as Zimbardo's prison experiment), the experiments whose after-effects seem pretty well-known (Does Mozart make babies smarter?), the totally obscure (cockroach racing, anyone?) and the things everyone wonders about (Coke or pepsi?).

Personally, I feel that the first chapter is ill-placed as it's heavy on the animal decapitation and I think that might put some people off, for all the content is very interesting in its own disturbing way. So I say, preserve! I won't lie, there is some more decapitating etc to come post the first chapter. However, it's much more spread out and easier to take post chapter one as it's liberally overweighed by experiments ripe with whimsy, oddness and genuinely interesting (non-violent!) insights into human and animal behaviour.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Bob Ventos on 10 Mar. 2009
Format: Paperback
Grouped in sections dealing with the Big Subjects (life, sensation, memory, sex, sleep, evil, children) this book contains many of the more famous psychological experiments (Zimbardo's prison, Milgram's obedience experiment, John Watson and Little Albert's rat, and Wegner's White Bear) as well as others less well-known but chosen for their outrageousness or smirk-factor (electrocuting corpses, counting pubic hairs after sex, giving LSD to the terminally ill). It debunks a few myths (babies don't instinctively choose a balanced diet, cockroaches wouldn't survive a nuclear holocaust) - and also contains some real eye-openers (the branding of Coke actually affects it's taste!). And although it's written in a jolly-humorous way, with a little joke at the end of each section (some as cringeworthy as the experiment they conclude), the book's a forceful reminder of the need for today's Ethics Committees in Science. What's frequently been done to animals is horrific, and what was sometimes done to humans is nearly as bad.

This is the sort of book that, if you're reading it in someone else's presence, is likely to make you want to read bits out loud to them. There are references too - unusual in a popular book like this - perhaps because the author thought that no-one would believe some of these stories otherwise!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John Speakman on 1 Jan. 2009
Format: Paperback
This book is a really great read. I got it at christmas and read it over a couple of days when travelling - for which it was a perfect companion. It provides summaries of a whole range of experiments conducted between about 1800 and the late end of the 1990s. Each experiment is covered in about 2-3 pages and they are grouped together in ten separate themes. These cover all sorts of topics from how long a head can be kept alive after decapitation, to whether the females in a bar become more attractive as closing time approaches, and how many men interrupted in the street accept an offer of sex from an attractive woman compared to how many women accept the same offer from an attractive man (guess what the answer to that is?). Some of the experiments are disturbing, but many of them are amusing. The balance is just about right to keep you reading through the disturbing stuff with the promise of amusement to come. The tone of the author in describing the material is just right. Most of the experiments described are psychological rather than biological investigations.

Lots of these bizarre experiments particularly from the 1930s until the 1970s are performed on very small samples (occasionally the researchers own children!) and in some cases include procedures that are ethically outrageous. You will more than occasionally be dismayed that doing this stuff was actually legal. As such I think this book would be a fantastic undergraduate additional reading text for science ethics courses as it really emphasises why we currently have and need ethical review boards to oversee science proposals before experiments can be performed. Don't let that put you off though. This is as far from a boring undergraduate textbook as you are likely to get.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A. Marczak TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 6 Feb. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a scientist writing about science, it's important to make the subject matter interesting and engaging. Ben Goldacre is an example of how to get it right, though there are plenty of examples of how to get it wrong.

In this compendium, we read about different "genres" of experimentation, some of which took place a generation or two ago, some in the last ten years, to try and understand more about the human mind, animal behaviour and social pyschology. It's a real mix of stories, all of which come with a reference to the original work, if you REALLY want to know more.

As other reviewers say, some of the jokes are lame, others slightly misplaced, and some of the stories are downright twisted.But you do get a general warning at the beginning that some of the experiments are not for the faint hearted.

That said, I was interested in almost every experiment covered, I found some of the findings interesting enough to talk about, but they were also concise enough to read a couple at a time, then put the book down and sigh about what scientists do in the name of science.
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