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Torture Project at the Science Fair

Curious About Torture? Hit Your Local Science Fair!

The big debate about what constitutes torture and the ethics behind it might just be elementary. Just ask the 13-year-old student whose entry in the Annual Science and Math Expo at the La Crosse Center in Wisconsin, set out to discover if application of the classic “Chinese water torture” would really drive someone insane.

Luke Kleiber’s project utilized an IV bag on a pole that dripped water every two seconds on his “subjects” foreheads. The subjects in question were two girls and two boys who were laid out on gurneys, unrestrained while ambulance personnel were on standby just in case, and were fully informed they wouldn't be harmed. But tell that to their brains!

Luke's result? The psychological effect of being tortured in this instance probably had more impact than the water itself. Kleiber said of his experiment: “They knew the water was coming, but they still felt the psychological effects.” And added that the project showed it was 95 percent to 100 percent effective in producing the fear response.

Perhaps all the talk about not strictly defining what constitutes torture isn't copping out on drawing a line, but in fact preserving a compelling tactic — just making people think about torture is enough?

The two girls, incidentally, did better than the two boys in the experiment. Maybe chicks are just tougher. On another note though, is this too serious of a question for child's play, or can we learn from the mouths of babes?


Join The Conversation
MandyJoBo MandyJoBo 9 years
Awww, what a smart little boy. I think it's an awesome Science experiment. I never actually solved anything with my constellation kaleidescope project, and snowshoe rabbit color-changing project.
i-am-awesomeness i-am-awesomeness 9 years
COOL! what's wrong with this experiment?? This was an awesome idea!
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
My only science fair experiment was testing which clothes were the most flame retardent. I burned 1" strips over a burner for a couple of seconds in the garage, knocked over the burner, and lit the garage on fire. Dad pulled the plug on any and all future experiments.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
This was a very interesting experiment. I am sorry that he only used 4 subjects. His conclusion that "The psychological effect of being tortured in this instance probably had more impact than the water itself." is a very compelling result for information gathering tactics. La Crosse WI truly is God's country. (That last comment is because I live there, BTW)
Fooled Fooled 9 years
They actually did something similar on Mythbusters one time. They were looking to see if Chinese Water Torture would be bad for someone. They put restraints on one of the crew members and then dripped ice water on her head, and she really did start freaking out after a while. They also had a torture expert that they interviewed after the experiment who confirmed that yes, people have really been tortured that way and he was a bit angry that they hadn't talked to him before they did the experiment.
stephley stephley 9 years
I'd really want to know what the kids were thinking when they chose this experiment. Would it be okay for them to try some sort of actual pain or fear experiment on animals? Probably should consider the ethical issues now, before kids start on next year's projects...
karisaamy karisaamy 9 years
I'm interested in what the parents of his subjects thought about this. In Middle School my science fair project was to see what colors of light you could see from the farest away.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
Well with all due respect to the students who I'm sure are brilliant. The article simply shows what constitutes fear not torture. Fear is strictly mental and emotional. Torture is mental/emotional fear coupled with physical pain.
freegracefrom freegracefrom 9 years
Did the parents agree to let their children be used as subjects for this kid's experiment? I can't imagine agreeing to let my little girl/boy be used to see if they could really be driven insane by some old method of torture.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
I made a prism for my science project.
CitizenSugar CitizenSugar 9 years
I think, though the original story was vague, was where the kid got the idea to test it himself? Don't try this at home and all...
krampalicious krampalicious 9 years
too bad they already did that on mythbusters ages ago.
raciccarone raciccarone 9 years
Well, I guess I'll have to wait to do my car battery/genitals experiment until next science fair!
KrisSugar KrisSugar 9 years
gosh. my dad was the "scientist" so all my science fair projects involved elaborate beaker setups, glass tubes, hydroponics, whatever. and they never really were all that original. it's like my dad just wanted to make them fancy with all this stuff you ordered from some lab supply.
Shopaholichunny Shopaholichunny 9 years
syako syako 9 years
They knew the trick because of MY RESEARCH! ;)
cine_lover cine_lover 9 years
I am going to have to attempt the soda trick!
Shopaholichunny Shopaholichunny 9 years
*I meant in middle school not high school. lol
Shopaholichunny Shopaholichunny 9 years
Wow Syako. I guess that explains why a lot of my peers in HS had their soda wrapped in paper towel and foil. I guess their mom's already knew the secret!
Shopaholichunny Shopaholichunny 9 years
:ROTFL: NYA! Kinda True! ;) My boyfriend whines when he gets the flu! :P
syako syako 9 years
a layer of paper towels and then aluminum foil around the coke can keeps it cold for HOURS!
cine_lover cine_lover 9 years
And what were the results? I for another fair, I purified water with a sand filtration system. That is a bit cooler I think!
nyaradzom2001 nyaradzom2001 9 years
Interesting, and chicks are tougher than men. Once a month we get horrid cramps for 3 to 7 days this happens for about 30 years, then we get pregnant and throw up every morning, get bloated, our ankles swell, we can't breath, we push a baby from an area no 4 inch head and 6-8 inch shoulders should come out of. We get breast cancer, cervical cancer, mastectomies, hysterectomies, all the while being a wife and a mother. While a man whines like a little b!tch over a freaking cold.
syako syako 9 years
and my science fair project was pretty awesome (in my mind) I tested to see what insulation would be best to keep a can of Coke cold until lunch! woop woop! :nerdboy:
syako syako 9 years
I agree with Anne. Human experimentation is almost impossible these days thanks to strict regulation by the IRB. Which I believe is a good thing, who is to know that something seriously dangerous wasn't going to happen to the test subjects.
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