We’ve all seen these white-coated, glittery-eyed characters in the movies, manipulating test tubes and creating monsters (NOTE: Subscribers have a coupon that gets them this beautiful hardcover for less than $5!) Some of them have died (and some of THOSE people are still working anyway), but lots of these extreme risk-takers are still around today.

For instance, a private company called Mars One has just announced that it will send a four-person crew to Mars by 2023. To keep their costs down, it will be a one-way trip.

In the June 9th edition of the Wall Street Journal, Alex Boese writes: "Mars offers a barren, inhospitable environment. The temperatures are freezing, and the atmosphere is toxic. The crew of such a mission should expect their experience, and therefore the rest of their lives, to be at least somewhat unpleasant. Given this, who in their right mind would volunteer to go?

"Probably quite a few people."

Before the space age, in 1946, when the Navy conducted its atomic bomb tests at the Bikini Atoll, more than 90 people volunteered to man the ships stationed in the target area. Researchers were eager to do this, since human test subjects would be "more satisfactory than animals," but the military feared the bad publicity, so they turned them down.

In 1933, entomologist Allan Walker Blair induced a female black-widow spider to bite his hand, and allowed its fangs to stay in him for 10 seconds, so that he could get a full dose of venom. He did this despite the fact that another researcher had already done the same experiment 12 years earlier. Blair then spent several days "writhing in nightmarish pain at the local hospital," where a physician said he had never seen "more abject pain manifested in any other medical or surgical condition."

Japanese pediatrician Shimesu Koino ate 2,000 intestinal roundworm eggs "in order to study the life cycle of the organism firsthand." He ended up coughing up the worms from his lungs.

Mathematician Pope R. Hill flipped a coin 100,000 times to prove that heads and tails would come up an approximately equal number of times. It took him a year to do this, but he persevered anyway.

In a more serious experiment, Herbert Woollard and Edward Carmichael attached weights to their testicles "in order to examine how the subsequent pain spread throughout their bodies."

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