All of the weirdest scientific experiments


Watching strangers have sex is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of pioneering research.

But it is how far some scientists have gone to get to the bottom of their hypotheses.

From farting into petri dishes and studying porn stars pubic hair to wiring themselves up while having sex in a lab, here are some of the weirdest experiments scientists have ever attempted.

Pictured, doctor attaching electrodes to a man. In the original experiments 145 women wore electrodes to monitor their heartrate and their brain activity. Then using these devices women’s responses to pornography, masturbation, and vibrators were measured

Watched strangers have sex  

Letting someone watch you have sex might sound like voyeurism, but it’s also the basis of some sexual scientific studies.  

The first US scientists to study sex in a laboratory in 1950s also had sex with each other, all in the name of science.

William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson, of Washington University in St Louis, were pioneers in their field. The work of the couple, who got married two decades later, had a huge influence on what is considered normal in sex. 

Due to concerns that nobody would volunteer for their early experiments, which aimed to study how the human body responds during sexual activity, the pair actually watched prostitutes.

More than 140 women wore electrodes to test their responses to porn, masturbation and vibrators by monitoring their heartrate and brain activity.

Later, the scientists moved on to the general public and observed more than 300 couples having sex. 

Eventually, the scientists moved on to studying their own sexual responses by having sex with each other while wired up in a lab.

Watched porn to study pubic hair

Other strange scientific studies have seen pubic hair and genitalia shape judged by researchers. 

The bizarre method was for a review published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in 2022.

It examined trends in the appearance of female genitalia — including hair as well as labia and clitoral hood size.

Porn may influence the way people groom their pubic hair, with many looking to the content to learn about what is ‘normal’, the researchers in California suggested. 

Man looks through porn videos online, pictured above. Researchers explained that the appearance of female genitalia has been influenced by social media and the entertainment industry, with many looking at porn to learn about the 'normal appearance of the genitals'. After studying 25 porn videos online they found hair removal habits have been influenced by porn

Man looks through porn videos online, pictured above. Researchers explained that the appearance of female genitalia has been influenced by social media and the entertainment industry, with many looking at porn to learn about the 'normal appearance of the genitals'. After studying 25 porn videos online they found hair removal habits have been influenced by porn

Man looks through porn videos online, pictured above. Researchers explained that the appearance of female genitalia has been influenced by social media and the entertainment industry, with many looking at porn to learn about the ‘normal appearance of the genitals’. After studying 25 porn videos online they found hair removal habits have been influenced by porn

Meanwhile, demand for labiaplasties — surgery to reduce the size of the flaps of skin either side of the vaginal opening — has increased by 56 per cent over the last decade, which may have been influenced by porn, they said.

To determine if porn was driving the trend, researchers watched the 25 top viewed videos on the most popular free pornography websites.

The researchers found the videos had a range of appearances when it came to labia size — making it unclear whether the videos were encouraging people to seek out plastic surgery.

However, porn ‘definitely influenced’ grooming habits, with 14 of the 25 videos showing pubic hair completely removed on male and females, the researchers said.

Used cotton wool to test vaginal lubrication in cats

Scientists hoped their experiment could lead to a breakthrough for thousands of women with spinal cord injuries who suffer from sexual difficulties.

But the first step in the road involved using cotton wool to test vaginal lubrication in cats.

After anesthetising the animals, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh tested if stimulating the nerve which controls the pelvic floor muscle could trigger vaginal lubrication and the contractions needed to orgasm.

Previous experiments on dogs, rats and cats found this method restored bladder function — which is controlled by the same nerve — after spinal cord injury.

Scientists wanted to find a breakthrough for thousands of women with spinal cord injury who suffer from sexual difficulties. But the first step in the road involved using cotton wool to test the vaginal lubrication in cats

Scientists wanted to find a breakthrough for thousands of women with spinal cord injury who suffer from sexual difficulties. But the first step in the road involved using cotton wool to test the vaginal lubrication in cats

Scientists wanted to find a breakthrough for thousands of women with spinal cord injury who suffer from sexual difficulties. But the first step in the road involved using cotton wool to test the vaginal lubrication in cats

To test the theory, a small piece of cotton wool was inserted into the cats’ vaginas for 10 minutes, both with the nerve stimulation and without.

The wetness was measured by the weight of the cotton wool.

To assess contractions, a small balloon catheter was also inserted. 

The study, in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in 2022, discovered pudendal nerve stimulation (PNS) can improve vaginal lubrication and contractions in female cats. 

Despite the strange method, the results suggest that PNS might be useful to improve sexual function among women with spinal cord injuries, who tend suffer from decreased lubrication and often struggle to reach orgasm.

Asked a colleague to fart into a petri dish 

Scientists have farted directly into a Petri dish to find out if faeces floats around afterwards. 

This unsophisticated experiment was attempted after an Australian doctor was asked by a nurse whether quietly farting during surgery would contaminate the operating theatre. 

Dr Karl Kruszelnicki told listeners to his science phone-in radio show in Brisbane: ‘I realised that I didn’t know. 

‘But I was determined to find out.’

Dr Kruszelnicki contacted his friend Luke Tennent, a microbiologist in Canberra, who then got a colleague to fart two inches away from a Petri dish. 

The experiment was carried out once while wearing clothes and another with no pants on. 

Scientists farted onto a Petri dish to find out if farts contaminate the air with bacteria. The dishes were left overnight and one dish sprouted visible lumps of two types of bacteria that are usually found only in the gut and on the skin

Scientists farted onto a Petri dish to find out if farts contaminate the air with bacteria. The dishes were left overnight and one dish sprouted visible lumps of two types of bacteria that are usually found only in the gut and on the skin

Scientists farted onto a Petri dish to find out if farts contaminate the air with bacteria. The dishes were left overnight and one dish sprouted visible lumps of two types of bacteria that are usually found only in the gut and on the skin

Dishes were left overnight.

One dish sprouted visible growths of two types of bacteria that are usually found only in the gut and on the skin, which were splattered onto the dish by the force of the fart.

But the fart that had passed through clothing had no effect, suggesting the trousers acted as a filter, reported the journal BMJ.

Dr Kruszelnicki told the Canberra Times in 2001: ‘The enteric zone in the second Petri dish was caused by the flatus itself, and the splatter ring around that was caused by the sheer velocity of the fart, which blew skin bacteria from the cheeks and blasted it onto the dish. 

‘It seems, therefore, that flatus can cause infection if the emitter is naked, but not if he or she is clothed.’

But the scientists stressed the results should not be considered alarming because the bacteria found was not harmful. 

In fact, it was similar to the ‘friendly’ bacteria found in yoghurt, but they did suggest it was probably best if you didn’t ‘fart naked near food’. 

Watched the most popular porn videos 

A second group of scientists came up with a reason to watch the most viewed porn on the internet.

But this time it was to find out how women’s sexuality is misrepresented. 

They studied the 25 ‘most watched videos’ based on internet ratings and took note of the sexual behaviours portrayed by the porn stars. 

Scientists studied the 25 most watched porn videos based on internet ratings and took note of the sexual behaviours portrayed by the porn stars. They found many did not represent what they considered to be common real life sexual scenarios

Scientists studied the 25 most watched porn videos based on internet ratings and took note of the sexual behaviours portrayed by the porn stars. They found many did not represent what they considered to be common real life sexual scenarios

Scientists studied the 25 most watched porn videos based on internet ratings and took note of the sexual behaviours portrayed by the porn stars. They found many did not represent what they considered to be common real life sexual scenarios 

The review published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in 2022, categorised the videos into sexual scenarios.

The Californian researchers found that most of the videos focused on male pleasure and did not reflect real-life sexual scenarios.

Most of the videos centred around male pleasure, with only five showing clitoral stimulation before reaching orgasm.

Similarly, only eight videos pictured a female as the recipient of oral sex, whereas all but three videos showed the male as the recipient.

But even after watching 25 porn videos, scientists still said that more research is needed to identify the best porn websites and types of videos people should be encouraged to watch to avoid unfulfilled expectations and anxiety during sex.