“Have you been injured at work in an accident that wasn’t your fault?” The terrible adverts, for companies like ‘lawyers4u’, characterise work injuries as falling off laders or slipping on a wet floor. Well for one man, his work related accident was a great deal more spectacular. Anatoli Petrovich Bugorski accidentally put his head in a particle accelerator.
He remains to this day the only person to have done so and, perhaps most shockingly, survived and is still around today. But, how does one go about accidentally putting your head in a particle accelerator? Well, on July 13, 1978, Bugorski was working on the U-70 synchrotron at the Institute for High Energy Physics in Protvino. A small piece of equipment was malfunctioning and in the process of fixing it he leaned in too far and came into contact with the proton beam. When later asked to describe what it was like, he said he saw a flash of light that was “brighter than a thousand suns”. But, amazingly felt no pain.
Very quickly after the incident occurred the left side of his face swelled beyond all recognition. The beam entered his skull at the back of his head, with the exit wound close to his nose. After a few days the skin at the entry and exit points peeled away showing the path the beam took through the skin, skull and brain. His prognosis was extremely poor and was taken to a clinic in Moscow where they expected to observe him die over a period of two to three weeks.
The proton beam was about 200,000 rads. Previous data indicated that 1000 rads would be enough to kill a human (even the famously radioactively robust cockroach will die after 20,000). However, the specific effects of a proton beam travelling at the speed of light were not known.
After the initial incident the path of the beam began to burn through his brain. This continued for 2 years until the left-hand side of his face was completely paralysed. Apparently, this has had an almost botox like effect on his face. The left side of his face has been described as not having aged and being “frozen in time”, whilst the right side of his face has aged normally. Other than this, Anatoli has had surprisingly few neurological symptoms. Over the initial 12 years after the incident he had occasional petit mal seizures. More recently he has had an increased number grand mal seizures.
Anatoli continued his life after it became apparent he was not at risk of immediate death. He completed his PhD and worked as a researcher for many years (Google Scholar lists some of his research). Not long ago he decided to make himself available to Western researchers, but he did not have the money to relocate from Protvino. He thinks he would make a brilliant research subject: “This is, in effect, an unintended test of proton warfare,” he claims. More to the point, he believes, “I am being tested. The human capacity for survival is being tested.”
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