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The story of Bugorski, the scientist who put his head in a particle accelerator

The story of Bugorski, the scientist who put his head in a particle accelerator

The Russian scientist Anatoli Petrovich Bugorski stuck his head inside the largest Soviet particle accelerator, the U-70 synchrotron, and was struck by the “glare of a thousand suns”. A story that perhaps not everyone knows.

July 13, 1978 was just another completely normal day for Anatoli Petrovich Bugorski, a Russian particle physicist who worked at the Institute of High Energy Physics with the largest Soviet particle accelerator, the U-70 synchrotron. When a breakdown hit the machinery, Bugorski did the most natural thing: he opened the tailgate and rested his head on the accelerator to see what was happening. He felt protected by the security systemwhich prevented the U-70 synchrotron from turning on with the lid open.

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But the security system failed, as a proton beam hit his head at almost the speed of light, without Bugorski being aware of it. Therefore, July 13, 1978 was not a day like many others.

At first, he felt no pain, although he said he saw a light “brighter than a thousand suns”. The absorption of 500 radiations of radiation would result in death. For comparison, the scientist had been hit by a radius of between 200,000 and 300,000 rads. A human being had never been struck by anything remotely like it.

The ray in question entered the back of the skull and exited the nose. The left side of his face swelled abnormally, the skin around the wounds peeled off, and some of his hair fell out. Although he was convinced that his last days of life were fast approaching, Bugorski could not have made a more incorrect consideration: on the contrary, the physicist had found the fountain of youth.

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Long life elixir

Brain tissue continued to burn over the next several years, his face was paralyzed on the left side for two years and, in addition, he lost hearing in one ear. However, while the right side of his head showed signs of aging, his left side remained nearly intact. Although he had also suffered several attacks, the scientist’s intellectual ability was never affected.

In the decade following the accident, Bugorski did not tell what had happened to him due to the notorious secrecy of the Soviet Union. His luck was to survive well beyond the end of the USSR.

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The man who put his head inside a particle accelerator he lived to tell his story – and he is still alive today.