With the title of his new book, Electrified Sheep, Alex Boese gives an affable nod to science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick’s popular 1968 novel. But rather than dreaming of woolly robots, reading this book just might give you nightmares.
Filling its pages are tales of surgeons removing their own appendixes, nuclear physicists preoccupied with blowing up the moon, and a man who couldn’t stomach food any longer—so he ate glass. And steel ball bearings. And gold. And when he was in the mood for a treat, well, cotton (soaked in orange juice of course).
Too bad it isn’t science fiction.
Boese is a collector of the absurd. He’s curator to the Museum of Hoaxes, a website which reveals the truth behind popular urban myths. It was this collection, he writes, that led to his discovery of strange scientific experiments.
Looking at this site, you’ll find seven stories relating to one of the scientists from Electrified Sheep. And Post readers should recognize this scientist too. To give you a hint, Boese reveals he never actually held a kite in a lightning storm, and he was the first person documented to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation…on a turkey.
This book is not Boese’s first dip into weird science. Five years earlier he wrote Elephants on Acid along the same premise: “Just how far would they [scientists] be willing to go … to get the answers they want?”
Like Elephants, each story is threaded to the next by a scientific theme: electricity, nuclear power, primatology, psychology, and finally, “do-it-yourselfers” (scientists that experiment on their own bodies). But this time around, Boese promises to go into more detail.
The inclusion of the psychoneurotic goats in Operation Crossroads—the name for the U.S. Navy’s nuclear weapon testing at Bikini Atoll—gives Boese an opportunity to delve deeper. Fact-driven and unsentimental, he briefly mentions the Bikini residents. “They were given a vague promise that they’d be able to return once the US government was finished. (They’re still waiting.)”
His focus then turns to goats. Oddly enough, he found information in an article published in The Saturday Evening Post in January of 1950, written by Richard Gerstell. A small paragraph in the article, “How You Can Survive an A-Bomb Blast,” provided the reason behind the presence of the goats in the Bikini tests.
While many of the experiments mentioned in Electrified Sheep are common knowledge, Boese’s fascination with obscure details makes the book frightfully interesting. It’s packed with enough material to challenge any would-be science-fiction writer, and proves truth in a lab coat is stranger than fiction.
Electrified Sheep is available from Amazon at a list price of $27.50.