10 Craziest Volunteer Projects

Do you want a one way trip to Mars? Are you willing to be bitten by a mosquito with Malaria? Then you may decide to volunteer yourself for some of these crazy projects.

1The Harvard Professor Who is Seeking an "Adventurous Woman" to Give Birth to a Neanderthal Man

They're usually thought of as a brutish, primitive species. So what woman would want to give birth to a Neanderthal baby? Yet this incredible scenario is the plan of one of the world's leading geneticists, who is seeking a volunteer to help bring man's long-extinct close relative back to life.

Professor George Church of Harvard Medical School believes that he can reconstruct Neanderthal DNA and resurrect the species, which became extinct 33,000 years ago. His scheme is reminiscent of Jurassic Park, but while the dinosaurs in the film were created in a laboratory, Professor Church's ambitious plan requires a human volunteer.

Scientists say that his plan is theoretically possible, although in Britain, like most countries, human reproductive cloning is a criminal offense.

2NASA Needs Volunteers to Stay in Bed for 15 Weeks Straight

NASA is offering you the chance to help assist in the future of manned spaceflight, and all you have to do is confine yourself to a hospital bed for three months or so. The space agency has an ongoing bed rest study and they need test subjects.

Who wouldn't want to lie in bed for a 15 weeks and get paid for doing it? But there are plenty of catches, according to researchers Ronita Cromwell and John Neigut with the Flight Analogs Project, which is based out of the Johnson Space Center.

This long-term bed rest study calls for participants who are non-smokers in healthy physical condition and who match the makeup of astronauts to help NASA document how the human body reacts to 70 days in a bed rest position.

They specifically say that they don't want couch potatoes. That's a shame, because I was already preparing my CV.

3The Man on Death Row Who Volunteered to Have His Heartbeat Recorded as He was Shot Through the Chest by a Firing Squad

On October 31, 1938, John Deering took a last drag on his cigarette, sat down in a chair, and allowed a prison guard to place a black hood over his head and pin a target to his chest. Next, the guard attached electronic sensors to Deering's wrists.

Deering had volunteered to participate in an experiment, the first of its kind, to have his heartbeat recorded as he was shot through the chest by a firing squad. The prison physician, Dr. Stephen Besley, figured that since Deering was being executed anyway, science might as well benefit from the event. Perhaps some valuable information about the effect of fear on the heart could be learned.

The electrocardiogram immediately disclosed that, despite Deering's calm exterior, his heart was beating like a jackhammer at 120 beats per minute. The sheriff gave the order to fire, and Deering's heartbeat raced up to 180 beats per minute. Then four bullets ripped into his chest, knocking him back in his chair.

The test indicated that his heart stopped about 15 seconds after being hit, although other bodily functions, such as breathing, continued for a longer period of time.

Perhaps even more bizarre than the experiment that the 40-year-old convicted volunteered for were his last words: “I'm going out there and prove that those guys who said life begins at 40 are cockeyed liars.”

4The Fat Study that Requires Volunteers to Eat Four Cupcakes Per Day

Would you like to be involved in a study that only requires you to eat cupcakes? Students at the Swedish Uppsala University certainly did when asked by PhD students conducting an experiment on fat. The only catch was that they have to eat four cupcakes a day for six weeks.

The 40 volunteers were participating in a study on how fat affects the human body. They would be prepared by Fredrik Rosqvist, a PhD student specializing in fatty acids and metabolism who is the lead researcher/baker for this study. "The idea is that different kinds of fat have different effects on the human body," Rosqvist told Sveriges Radio.

Those participating were all between the ages of 20 and 35 and had a normal, healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) between 20 and 27. The volunteers were expected to live and eat as they normally would and simply add the four cupcakes to their daily diets.

5Mars Society is Looking for Volunteers for a Yearlong Mock Mars Mission in the Canadian Arctic

Tens of thousands of people are prepared to leave their families, jobs, and lives behind for a one-way trip to Mars.

A group that's looking for the first Red Planet colonists received applications from more than 200,000 prospective astronauts who are vying for a spot on a one-way trip to Mars.

The non-profit Mars One Foundation hopes to send teams of four spaceflyers on one-way Mars colony missions starting in 2023. Its initial 19-week application window closed on Aug. 31, with a final tally of 202,586 volunteers.

The only requirement to apply was to be over the age of 18. Those selected to move on to the next round will be notified by the end of 2013. Over the next two years, a selection committee will narrow down that pool to up to 40 candidates, who will then begin seven years of astronaut training. A public vote will determine which four will be the first to go to Mars, never to return.

6The Volunteers Who Endure Mosquito Bites to Help Find a Malaria Vaccine

Jesse Bolton is a pretty buff guy. He's in the Navy, and a few mosquitoes don't scare him much. But he has seen what the bite of a malaria-carrying insect can do. Even so, as part of a scientific experiment Bolton allowed himself to be bitten by a pretty buff mosquito.

"These mosquitoes were huge," said Bolton, 27, a medical technician at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. Ten days after the bite, he was sweaty, tired, and registering a 102-degree fever, signs that a malaria parasite was doing a number on his bloodstream.

Bolton was one of a dozen volunteers being monitored by doctors and nurses from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. Each time blood was drawn, the volunteers got a crisp $100 bill; once any of them exhibited symptoms, they were quickly treated with malaria medication. They will be monitored for the next six months to be sure that the disease doesn't recur.

For the past 17 years, Walter Reed's "human challenge model," in which volunteers get bitten by malaria-carrying mosquitoes, has been a critical tool in the global war against malaria. Some trials have tested medicines to treat patients, while others test vaccines to prevent people from getting the disease. Bolton's was aimed simply at showing that researchers could infect people with Plasmodium vivax, one of the five strains of the malaria parasite.

Malaria, which causes a cycle of severe chills and fever, is a stubborn killer that is responsible for the deaths of nearly one million people each year, most of them babies in sub-Saharan Africa.

7The Group of Men Who Volunteered to Eat Poisoned Food to Protect American Consumers from Dangerous Chemical Additives

In 1903, Harvey Wiley, a chemist with the Department of Agriculture, was convinced that the preservatives and dyes added to foods were dangerous. But he needed proof. So Wiley designed a research experiment that would expose healthy adults to high levels of the very chemicals and dyes that he was seeking to eliminate from the American diet.

He selected a group of 12 young men who volunteered to eat a balanced diet containing a test chemical. In Wiley's view, the best animal to test toxicity in humans was a human. The brave men would order, and then chemicals would be added to their food.

Wiley would observe the men and make notes describing the effects of each meal on his volunteers. One reads, "No. 5 was nauseated and sick during the night of February 1 and vomited all of his dinner. He did not eat breakfast on February 2."

Wiley's experiment attracted the attention of the press, who dubbed his team of young volunteers the “Poison Squad."

Although some volunteers experienced lasting harm to their health due to the experiments, the notoriety of the Poison Squad furthered Wiley's cause and was instrumental in helping pass the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906.

8The Man Who is "Volunteering" for Execution After Admitting that He Killed His Grandparents

A Renton man who is accused of killing his grandparents in an unprovoked, vicious attack is volunteering for execution because jail conditions are unbearable, his defense attorneys contend in court papers.

Accused in the slayings of Robert and Norma Taylor, Michael Chad Boysen has been jailed since a suicide attempt at an Oregon motel days after the killings. Since his arrest, Boysen has attempted suicide or harmed himself at least 12 times, and has spent much of his time in jail strapped to a bed or hard backboard.

Boysen has been charged with aggravated first-degree murder, a crime which carries either a sentence of life in prison without parole or death. King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg has yet to decide whether to seek a death sentence in the case, and Boysen's attorneys now say that their client has forbidden them from trying to dissuade the prosecutor.

9The Volunteers Who Got Drunk to Help Train Police

A group of volunteers in Hampden Township, Cumberland County purposely drank as much alcohol as they can handle, and it was all to help police test their skills in detecting drunk drivers.

PennDOT invited four women and two men of all ages and body types. Each chose to drink either beer, wine, or liquor. Every hour, the volunteers blew into a breathalyzer to measure their blood alcohol content. After the volunteers had been drinking for about five hours, officers tested them on the Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST).

Pennsylvania is one of the few states that is still allowed to use live subjects for sobriety field test training.

10The University Study that Recruited Volunteers Who were Willing to Chew on Pringles Potato Crisps

Crispness is associated with crunchiness, but your ears make a difference. That's the take-away-and-chew-on-it message of an Oxford University study called “The Role of Auditory Cues in Modulating the Perceived Crispness and Staleness of Potato Chips.”

The authors, experimental psychologists Massimiliano Zampini and Charles Spence, recruited volunteers who were willing to chew, in a highly regulated way, on Pringles potato crisps. However, the volunteers were unaware of the true nature of their encounter -- that they would be hearing adulterated crunch sounds. Participants were paid £5 for taking part in the study.

Each volunteer sat in a soundproofed experimental booth, wearing headphones, facing a microphone, and operating a pair of foot pedals.

The headphones delivered Pringles crunch sounds that, though born in the chewer's mouth, had been captured by the microphone and electronically altered. At times, the crunch sounds were delivered to the headphones with exacting, lifelike fidelity. At other times, the sounds were magnified. Sometimes, only the high frequencies of the crunch were intensified.

Each crisp's crispness was judged from a single, headphone-enhanced bite delivered with the front teeth. Zampini and Spence adopted this approach for two reasons. It maximized the uniformity of the participant's contact with each crisp, and previous research showed that the sound of the first bite is what counts most for judging crispness.

What were the results? As the report puts it: “The potato chips were perceived as being both crisper and fresher when either the overall sound level was increased, or when just the high frequency sounds (in the range of 2 kilohertz-20 kilohertz) were selectively amplified.”

I will say that getting paid £5 for eating potato chips is something that I would definitely volunteer to do.