What happens when you stick your head in a particle accelerator


42 Responses to “What happens when you stick your head in a particle accelerator”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Note that your comparison of the fatal exposure threshold to the exposure Bugorski received isn’t quite appropriate. The very high dose to the exposed tissue within the beam will have severely damaged all the directly irradiated cells, but left most of the remainder of the body exposed at pretty low levels. The fatal 5 Gray threshold is for a whole body exposure, where all the cells within the body receive this dose, resulting in much greater overall damage.

  2. irksome says:

    “Here at Protvino Institute for High Energy Physics, proton beam accelerate you.”

    Sorry, sorry. Mybad.

  3. TurbineTech says:

    I had something similar happen to me once, except it involved a lot cocaine and an ice pick…

  4. nanuq says:

    “The side of his face that was burned by the beam’s exit has not visibly aged in the years since the accident.”

    Particle accelerator beauty treatments may be bigger than Botox.


    According to the article, it´s a fine (and cool) alternative to botox.

    “Let your wrinkles disappear with just a hit of our brand new Particle Accelerated Bean for Low Obesity (P.A.B.L.O.)”

    • Anonymous says:

      “Let your wrinkles disappear with just a hit of our brand new Particle Accelerated Bean for Low Obesity (P.A.B.L.O.)”

      A bean? and botox is used to treat obesity..?

      /so much fail

  6. facetedjewel says:

    How does one’s head ‘accidently stray’ into the path of a proton beam?

    • Anonymous says:

      it didn’t say in the article, but i am pretty sure i read that he was doing maintenance on the inside of the accelerator, with it opened up, and somehow it was fired while he was working on it.
      there’s no other way to be in the path of the beam unless its opened up i think..

    • Anonymous says:

      lots and lots of vodka.

  7. MrsBug says:

    Cory, come back to campus! We’re now getting the Facility for Rare Isotope Beam (FRIB)! http://frib.msu.edu/

  8. urbanhick says:


  9. Anonymous says:

    Plenty of people who get shot with a bullet through one brain hemisphere survive. If anything, this seems less traumatic, since the wound is highly localized.

  10. Brainspore says:

    It’s only a matter of time before some particle physicists get really drunk and start daring each other to stick their junk in the Large Hadron Collider.


    The MSU cyclotron does not have a perfect safety record. A friend worked there in the ’80s. 2 people were killed in an explosion when they shorted out a live high voltage power bus. A tool instantly turned into metal plasma from the short and the explosion was fatal. But that’s an ordinary kind of accident that’s been killing people with electricity for over 100 years.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Reminds me of this video:


    Where physicists are asked what would happen if one were to put one’s hand in the LHC’s stream.

  13. Anonymous says:

    - lost the hearing in his left ear
    - experienced a constant unpleasant noise in that ear
    - left half of his face paralyzed
    - significantly more fatigued with mental work
    - occasional absence seizures and later tonic-clonic seizures

    I realize he didn’t die but still this is more than “few negative health drawbacks”

  14. AirPillo says:

    The scariest part of that whole story to me is that the beam gained 1000 gray worth of radiation before leaving his skull.

    The act of colliding with all those body tissues raised the radiation of the beam by 50%. Not surprising, maybe… high energy collisions release energy… but unsettling that it was collisions with a living human releasing that radiation.

  15. soongtype says:

    The side of his face that was burned by the beam’s exit has not visibly aged in the years since the accident.

    No photos? Seriously?

  16. Prufrock451 says:

    You think that’s bad? My friends and I started a business back in the 80s that depended on unlicensed particle accelerators. You should see what happens when you cross the streams on those things.

  17. Anonymous says:

    This should be called “what happens when you stick your head in a particle accelerator and you are the luckiest sonvabitch in the world”. Most people are not going to survive 200 times a fatal dose and blast through the head.
    Also, from previous articles I read, I understood that part of the reason his face looks unaged was that it was paralyzed similar to what you would get from the botox effect.

  18. Inventorjack says:

    Thanks. I’m literally crying from laughing so hard at your comment :)

  19. valdis says:

    Actually, *not* the only guy to pull this stunt. A professor of mine (Peter McNulty) did it as well (intentionally, no less):

    Role of Cerenkov radiation in the eye-flashes observed by Apollo astronauts.

    “Visual phenomena in the form of colorless flashes of light were observed by astronauts in deep space when their eyes were closed and adapted to darkness. We describe in this paper laboratory experiments and calculations which indicate that many of these flashes are the result of visible light generated within the astronauts’ eyeball in the form of Cerenkov radiation when a relativistic HZE particle traverses it. The sensitivity to Cerenkov radiation measured for three subjects exposed to pulses of pions and muons and the visual phenomena observed were found to be consistent with the reports of flashes observed at rates as high as 2 per minute on Apollo missions 11 through 17.”

    Where do you get pulses of pions and muons other than a particle accelerator?

    (And yes, the beam was turned *way* down for the 3 subjects – Bugorski is probably the only guy who did it while a beam was at full power).

  20. Anonymous says:

    Actually, not the first. I worked years ago at what was then Lawrence Radiation Lab in Berkeley and was told that when the Bevatron was built, the physicists aligned the beam by standing inside it as it pulsed and moving their heads around until the experienced visible Cherenkov radiation in their eye. They worked their way around the circuit, tuning the magnets.

    It didn’t work out well for most of them in the long run.

  21. Bugorski says:

    I accidentally the whole proton beam…

  22. Anonymous says:

    excuse me for being ignorant – isnt the beam constant?
    if it isnt, ignore the following.

    if it is in fact constant, how come he has a simple hole and not say a wedge shaped tissue loss (assuming he pulled his head back slightly different from putting it in). or at least a groove?

    when darth chopped off luke´s hand with a constant beam (to give an example everyone can understand) – lukes hand got cut off. it did not get a clean hole through the wrist.
    know what i mean?

    • Anonymous says:

      “when darth chopped off luke´s hand with a constant beam (to give an example everyone can understand) ”

      I don’t get it, who’s Darth?

    • Anonymous says:

      Basically, because it’s not a light sabre.

      The density of the beam is kind of low, for one thing, and for another thing it’s not based on fantasy :)

      The damage is concentrated in a single line through his head because that’s where he stopped moving in the beam for too long, and got too many protons in one place.

  23. pauldrye says:

    Despite the beam going through his brain, his intellectual capacity remained the same as before.

    I’m not sure that this is noteworthy, considering that his prior intellectual capacity was demonstrated by sticking his head into a running particle accelerator.

  24. Anonymous says:

    He’s certainly not the only one. It’s done on purpose at Crocker Nuclear Laboratory for the treatment of eye cancer.


  25. rickyjames says:

    This reminds me of a pretty good book I read as a young science-oriented teen. Department politics and a love triangle result in a fake balsa wood beam cap on a university research reactor aimed conveniently at the vic’s office chair in the next room. Things don’t go as planned…experimental physics is always messier than the theoretical kind!!!

    The Neutron Beam Murder

    Physics Today Review, January 1966

  26. Anonymous says:

    Did he died?

  27. ogvor says:

    I thought this was so interesting, I wrote about it a few weeks ago.


    Kinda feels cool to have been ahead of the Boing Boing curve for once. And I completely agree with soongtype, how can there not be any pictures of the his ‘two-face’ syndrome?!

  28. Anonymous says:

    Guys, guys. Particles are accelerated and collided in vacuum. If you stick your head into vacuum, you die, kindof.* If there is no vacuum in the accelerator, particles will collide with the molecules of air, not accelerate.

    So this is a hoax.

    * In the absence of outer pressure, your own heart’s pressure will tear your veins and make you bleed out of every possible hole.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I agree that we need some pictures – when mentioned alongside the paralysis, it sounds like the anti-aging may be the result of Botox-like effects.

  30. Enormo says:

    He lost the hearing in his left ear and experienced a constant unpleasant noise in that ear from then on.

    Worst super power ever.

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