From catastrophic space explosions to drinking cups of disease-infested vomit, we count 9 science experiments that ended in disaster.
9 – NASA Challenger Explosion
- Thirty years ago, the world witnessed a scientific space expedition go horribly wrong.
- A mere 73 seconds into take-off, NASA’s space shuttle ‘Challenger’ suddenly broke up and helplessly hurtled over the Atlantic Ocean. Several of the crew were apparently still alive after the immediate explosion, but not one of the seven crew members survived the brutal force of impact when the cabin plunged to the ocean floor. A design flaw in the shuttle’s O-Ring was reported as the culprit for the fatal malfunction.
- The tragedy brought America’s space program to a halt for many years while NASA implemented stricter safety guidelines to make future flights safer.
8 – Marie Curie
- The Polish woman who revolutionised physics with her radioactive science experiments met an ironic fate when she died of extreme radiation poisoning.
- In 1898, Curie discovered and named two powerful elements – Polonium and Radium. At the time, not even Cure understood how lethal these elements were to humans. Curie would casually carry around radioactive tubes in her pockets, not knowing they were slowly killing her. To this day, the furniture that Curie and her husband Pierre had in their home is still too radioactive to even touch.
- Curie’s science journals are locked away in lead-lined cabinets, which you can only touch if you’re wearing safety-clothes.
7 – Alexander Bogdanov
- This Russian physician had some pretty wild ideas, including the blood transfusion experiment that lead to his own death.
- Bogdanov’s experimental projects spanned many fields – science, economy, philosophy and even soviet sci-fi literature. In his novel, ‘Red Star’, he wrote about a techno-communist society living on Mars where blood transfusions were the key to eternal youth. Bogdanov was so sure of this bloody immortality theory that he personally received over 11 transfusions in his life, ultimately causing his death when in 1928 he received blood contaminated with malaria and tuberculosis.
- His outrageous experimental thinking wasn’t all in vain – his theories provided some crucial foundations for modern cybernetics and systems theory.
6 – Louis Slotin
- At age 35, this Canadian physicist died from a colossal fission reaction while attempting to assist in the construction of the world’s first atomic bomb.
- Slotin was part of a team responsible for concocting extremely volatile levels of nuclear masses under controlled conditions. During one of his experiments, Slotin’s screwdriver slipped and started a lethal chemical reaction. His quick reflexes knocked one of the spheres away, but the biological damage was already done. Each of the scientists watching the experiment was instantly poisoned by the invisible radiation. Slotin died in hospital nine days later.
- The same sphere that killed Slotin was later implemented in the final product – America’s first atomic bomb.