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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?

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