The Man Who Stuck his Head in a Particle Accelerator

The Man Who Stuck his Head in a Particle Accelerator

In 1978 a Russian scientist named Anatoli Bugorski was carrying out routine maintenance in a Soviet particle accelerator called the Synchrotron U-70. Somehow the safety checks failed and a 76 GeV beam of particles moving close to the speed of light hit him in the head. A thin hole bored its way through from just under his left eye to out of the back of his head. According to Bugorski there was no pain, but he reported seeing “a light brighter than a thousand suns.” I've always loved that quote, but I have a feeling it might be a Russian expression which has been translated literally.

The amount of radiation Bugorski sustained was three orders of magnitude higher than what was considered a lethal dose, but due to the short exposure time and the locality of the injury he managed to survive, much to the surprise of the doctors treating him. His face swelled up massively, but eventually calmed down.

 The path of the beam

The path of the beam

Considering the topological genus of his brain had been increased, the incident didn’t appear to have affected Bugorski’s intellectual capacity. He went on to complete his PHD after the accident although he has said that he gets mentally worn out faster than before. Other side effects include lose of hearing in his left ear and slight paralysis on the left hand side of his face (which have caused the left side to wrinkle significantly less over the following decades).

Although no one has done a study of his brain and how it has managed to repair itself, he’s still alive and has invited scientists from the West to come and investigate him, but so far no one has taken him up on the offer. Personally I feel like this sounds like the origin story of a super hero. Seriously, getting hit by a beam of radiation is almost a cliché in the Marvel and DC universes.

 Bugorski showing fewer wrinkles on the left side of his face

Bugorski showing fewer wrinkles on the left side of his face

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