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He Stuck His Head Into A Particle Accelerator. Here’s The Insane Impact It Had On His Body

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You have surely heard about a machine that is called a “particle accelerator”, but you might not know exactly how it functions. Well, what this machine does is – it propels charged articles at nearly speed of light. Thanks to this innovation from the 1930s, a lot of groundbreaking discoveries have arised in the science world of physics. But, mere science is not what we’re here for today.

In 1978, a Soviet scientist, Anatoli Bugorski stuck his head into the particle accelerator which left some surprising consequences on the scientist. But is it really possible that he didn’t die after it? What happened to him afterwards? We wrote this article to give you all the answers that might be running through your mind now.

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1. Particle Accelerator

A particle accelerator, as we previously mentioned, is a machine that shoots particles at extremely high speeds that can even reach the speed of light. The purpose of this “propelling of particles” is to understand what happens with the particles when physics operate on such a small scale.

Flickr: x70tjw

The aim of a particle accelerator is to study what happens at the smallest scales. But what can happen to you if you get hit with one of these miniature particles? Typically, we wouldn’t be able to give an answer to this question, as the experiments, luckily, are not conducted on humans. However, thanks to Anatoli Bugorski, we might actually have a better idea of what happens after you’re struck with an “accelerated particle”.

2. Mistakes In Science

Since people have been working in Science, there have been plenty of mistakes. However, some of them have had outrageous consequences that affected lives of many innocent people. One of these mistakes was the belief that lobotomy is a good solution for mental illnesses, or that leeches were able to cure just any disease.

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Because of situations like these, scientific world had to make certain ethical addendums that would protect humans, some principles and our nature. One of these revolves around human subjects testing. Before introducing any cure or remedy, things are being tested on animals that presumably feel less pain than us. Only when the results are shown on animals, the testings can proceed with eventual human usage.

3. Accidental Experiment

Since you’re not allowed to test things on humans, the story we’re about to tell you about isn’t considered as the most ethical one. Although Soviet Russia has already had its share of scientific malpractices, shoving one’s head into a particle accelerator was definitely a story that you wouldn’t hear twice.

The discovery after the accidental experiment confused so many scientists and left them with plenty of questions to wonder about. If we know that these accelerated particles can do a lot damage to more concrete things than a human, what in the world would such a machine do to a human being? Prepare yourself for the answer you probably would never expect.

4. Speed Of Light

So, let’s start by explaining what happens in the particle accelerator when you turn it on. It sends particles at speeds that are 99.994 percent close to speed of light. That comes to be around 670,576,392 miles per hour!!! In order to reach that speed, specific technology is needed.

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Different particle accelerators of different capacities enable the particles to travel as fast as possible. By almost reaching the speed of light, these particles give physicists new traces of the physics of the unknown (Higgs Boson). Now imagine putting your head in a machine that is able to propel particles at such a speed.

5. Collision of Particles

When something is traveling almost at the speed of light, as you can imagine, the object that comes into contact with the mass entity traveling that fast, isn’t really going to have a good time. Usually, whenever there is such a collision, the result is a catastrophic explosion. It doesn’t matter if the object is big or not.

In fact, when something is big and heavy it needs less speed to do a damage, but when an object is smaller and of a much lighter mass, it can do the same amount of damage if traveling at a faster speed. What probably goes through your mind now is, if the Soviet scientist knew how these particles behaved, why in the world would he voluntarily put his head in a particle accelerator?

6. OMG Particle

It sounds funny, but the particle was actually named this way – “Oh-My-God” particle – because of the reactions most of physicists had when recording this spec flying at a formidable speed. This speed is what physicists call “energy” and it was something like 100 quintillion (18 zeros) times the energy of a regular photon.

In order to travel this fast, the particle had to be so small that it practically couldn’t cause a lot of damage. If this particle was about to collide with another object, the explosion would be no bigger than of a thrown baseball. But what would happen if the Oh-My-God particle got into contact with human flesh and bone at such a speed?

7. Synchrotron U-70

However, the amount of damage in the moment of collision depends on several things. The first factor that affects the damage is the speed at which the particle is moving. The faster the speed, the greater the damage. Back in time, the machine in which the unfortunate Russian scientists stuck his head in was Synchrotron U-70.

At the time, it represented the most powerful accelerator around the globe. It was built in 1967 and it could accelerate the particles to a speed that was quite near the speed of light.

8. Malfunctioning Machine

When it all occurred, Anatoli Petrovich Bugorski, a Russian scientist, was working the shift at the Institute for High Energy Physics. While he was there, the Synchrotron U-70 appeared to have stopped working. Something happened that made the accelerator begin to malfunction and Bugorski was assigned to check out what was going on.

These machines should have a pre-built safety mechanisms in it, that would stop the proton beam within in the moment that someone enters the accelerator’s chambers. However, this the safety mechanism failed. Yes, this means exactly what you think. Bugorski was just about to put his head into the machine that was shooting protons almost at the speed of light.

9. A Light So Bright

When Bugorski stuck his head into the particle accelerator, he saw something that he couldn’t expect. He described it as “a light so bright that it was brighter than a thousand suns.” What happened to him was that a proton actually entered his face and exited on the other side.

While we already discussed how improbable it is that something like this occurs, we haven’t still mentioned the radiation that these protons exude. Protons traveling near the speed of light actually act like side effects of ample radiation. The radiation is similar to what you’d find in an x-ray, only magnitudes stronger.

10. Struck With Radiation

The consequences of a human being exposed to radiation is not favorable. The side effects of it are represented by so-called radiation sickness that occurs after being exposed to a massive amount of radiation in a short period of time.

The sickness includes nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and burns, and it very likely results in death. An exposure to a photon traveling at this speed, has such an amount of radiation that it’s equivalent to having about 18,000 chest x-rays – which is an amount almost impossible to achieve.

11. Too Much Radiation

No radiation is considered to be good for our bodies. Just a couple of cells that mutated due to radiations could spread and start off a handful of tumors. However, when there’s too much radiation there can be much worse consequences.

The unit that measures the amount of radiation given off is called gray. So for instance, when getting a x-ray, you would experience about .0.00001 gray. Which is really minimal. With a CT scan, you would have a bit more – around 0.01. After a nuclear fallout lie in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, you’d get around 2 to 50 grays. But how much would you get from a particle accelerator exposure? 3000!!!

12. Consequences Of Localized Exposure

After a small section of skin is exposed to radiation of something about 20 gray, skin would have a burning sensation, and some swelling, redness and itchiness would develop quickly. After some days, all hair in the affected region would fall off.

A third week after the exposure, the skin would start to peel. After an exposure to radiation of 50 gray power, the affected area would be much more damaged. The burning would start right away and the blisters and other painful processes would occur much quicker.

13. Acute Radiation Syndrome

When the entire body is exposed to something like 2 gray, the acute radiation syndrome occurs. There are four different phases that occur during this syndrome: prodrome, latent, illness and recovery. Duration of all phases depend on the amount of radiation (therefore, the amount of grays) you’re exposed to.

Just a little bit higher amount of radiation (3.5 gray) would induce death in the half the population. However, that doesn’t mean acute exposure surely leads to organ failure. What happens first is that cells rapidly divide in the intestines and bone marrow begins to die. This is what is called the prodromal phase.

14. Prodromal Phase

The prodromal phase would inevitably lead to symptoms that remind of flu – vomiting, diarhhea, fever, sweating, fatigue. A more severe full body exposure to 20 to 30 grays radiation would lead to an immediate low blood pressure and “explosive diarrhea”.

Eventually, these symptoms would end in death. If these are the effects of only 20 to 30 gray to the entire body, what could occur to a localized area such as someone’s head that was exposed to 3000 grays?

15. Proton Head Journey

When Bugorski put his head into the machine that was still working, a proton beam entered from the back of Bugorski’s skull and left through his nose. The result of it, clearly, was a lot of burning and he quickly lost all of his hair in the areas where the proton has passed.

However, that wasn’t all. Quickly after the exposure, his face began to swell rapidly. Although this is a normal condition whenever you’re exposed to radiation, in Bugorski’s case, his face was swollen so much that he was completely unrecognizable. He was immediately taken to a nearby hospital after everything happened.

16. A Guaranteed Death

Logically, you would think that after an exposure to such an amount of radiation, the likelihood of survival are more than minimal. And in fact, doctors forecasted that Bugorski wouldn’t live beyond a couple of days more. However, no one knew what could happen after a radiation of a proton beam which still left a little space for hope.

Along with the fear of dying Bugorski was also expeirencing bad burning consequences both on his face and the inside of his skull. In fact, the burning extended through his cerebral tissue from his occipital lobes to his frontal lobes.

17. Unbelievable Survival

Amazingly, Bugorski didn’t die. It is unknown how, but he managed to survive this horrible event. However, he was still left with consequences that deteriorated his quality of life.

His body was utterly damaged from the radiation and he was left with a partial paralysis, loss of hearing in his left ear, and an excessive feeling of fatigue. Doctors assume that the damage was due to the photon beam spreading onto his cerebral tissue. No matter the conditions this accident left him in, Bugorski finished his PhD.

18. Partially Paralyzed

On the side where the photon beam entered, Bugorski experienced a partial paralysis. What’s funny, though, is that this side of his face looks younger than the other one. What occurred was probably that his nerve and muscle fibers froze in a way that’s similar in Botox.

Credit: Mayo Clinic

However, he could have died which makes his partial paralysis a much better trade off than his own life. If your a experimental physicist looking for anti-age remedies, don’t even think about peaking your head into a particle accelerator. You might really look forever young, if you know what we mean.

19. Cells Decay

Another consequence of radiation is the eventual decay of cells that have been exposed. This actually occurs weeks after the exposure and it can lead to further side effects such as burns and boils.

The cells from which the flesh and tissue are made of begin to degenerate which leads to development of sores and ulcers inside the body. This is practically equal to acne-pustules of rotten flesh residue. Not really fun to imagine.

20. A Wrong Prognosis

Although many doctors expected Bugorski to die within days after the radiation exposure, they have been wrong. Namely, the dose of radiation he was exposed to was definitely very high, but the pathway where the particle passed was so small that the radiation he experienced turned out to be minimal.

The damage in the exposed areas was definitely massive, but luckily they were so localized that they couldn’t take away his life. Today, Bugorski is still well and alive. He’s in his 70s and enjoys his marriage while being completely cancer free despite the prognosis of many doctors.

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