We cover a lot of strange moments on this show, and few things were ever stranger than what happened today in 1848, when a New Englander named Phineas Gage had an iron bar go through his skull and brain… and he lived.

Gage was working for the railroad, clearing rocks in Vermont to make way for tracks.

First he would drill a hole in a boulder, then fill the hole with gunpowder and tamp it all down with an iron rod.

Except that something, possibly a spark caused by the iron rod, caused the gunpowder to explode early.

The explosion propelled the 3 1/2 foot long, 13 pound iron rod into and through Gage’s face.

Amazingly, he was alive, conscious and able to communicate.

It’s said that when the first doctor arrived, Gage joked, “Here’s business enough for you.”

Gage survived the doctors removing that big iron bar, and he survived (barely) a brain infection that left him in a coma for a time.

But while he was a survivor, he was, according to the people around him, not quite the same as he’d been before the accident.

Gage had been a calm and steady man, but after the injury, he had a temper and liked to swear.

He also adored all kinds of animals, which he hadn’t done up to that point.

And he insisted on carrying the iron rod that had almost ended his life wherever he went.

Gage continued to work as a laborer at times, and for a time he was a living exhibit at P.T. Barnum’s museum in New York.

Eventually the injury caught up with him; seizures cut his life short at just age 36.

His skull and the infamous iron rod ended up on display at the Warren Anatomical Museum in Boston, Massachusetts.

But Phineas Gage’s story became the basis for a whole new field of science.

Because his personality had changed so noticeably after his injury, researchers began to take a deeper look at how the brain works, eventually figuring out that different parts of the brain helped determine specific parts of our personality.

And because Gage eventually regained some of the faculties he lost after the injury, scientists have been looking at how a brain can more or less rewire itself after an injury, making new neural pathways to bypass damaged tissue and do the jobs our brains need to do.

You might say that through his very difficult experience, Phineas Gage gave us a new understanding of our brains, and opened plenty of minds.

Starting tomorrow in Nevada, it’s the Silver State Classic Challenge.

The road race from Las Vegas to Ely is, by some accounts, the fastest in the world.

They actually shut down a stretch of Highway 318 for the racers.

The Improbable Tale of Phineas Gage (Harvard Brain Tour)

The fastest road race in the world takes place in one of the most desolate parts of the U.S.

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Photo from the collection of Jack and Beverly Wilgus via Wikicommons