Friday, January 31, 2014

Us And Them

Us and Them
And after all we're only ordinary men
Me, and you
God only knows it's not what we would choose to do
Forward he cried from the rear
and the front rank died
And the General sat, as the lines on the map
moved from side to side
Black and Blue
And who knows which is which and who is who
Up and Down
And in the end it's only round and round and round
Haven't you heard it's a battle of words
the poster bearer cried
Listen son, said the man with the gun
There's room for you inside
Down and Out
It can't be helped but there's a lot of it about
With, without
And who'll deny that's what the fighting's all about
Get out of the way, it's a busy day
And I've got things on my mind
For want of the price of tea and a slice
The old man died

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Pat Whitaker

Pat Whitaker
Here's a link to a recent interview with Pat Whitaker, a fellow author and a student of all things weird and bizarre.

Here is Pat's author site.

And here is the link to Cooper's Press where Pat's books can be perused at your leisure.

Pat writes a little differently than I. His intent is to write stories that can be read in one or two sittings -- novellas, actually. He is quite talented and highly recommended by yours truly.

The Seven Virtues

When Pope Gregory defined the seven deadly sins that we should avoid, he also included a counter-balancing set of values that we should espouse and adopt. These are:

Faith is belief in the right things (including the virtues!).
Hope is taking a positive future view, that good will prevail.
Charity is concern for, and active helping of, others.
Fortitude is never giving up.
Justice is being fair and equitable with others.
Prudence is care of and moderation with money.
Temperance is moderation of needed things and abstinence from things which are not needed.

The first three of these are known as the Spiritual Virtues, whilst the last four are called the Chief or Natural Virtues. The Natural Virtues had already been defined by Greek philosophers, whilst the Spiritual Virtues are a slight variation on St. Paul's trio of Love, Hope and Faith (due to variation in translation from the original: Charity and Love arguably have a high level of overlap).

There are also a number of other sets of virtues, including:

The Seven Contrary Virtues which are specific opposites to the Seven Deadly Sins: Humility against pride, Kindness against envy, Abstinence against gluttony, Chastity against lust, Patience against anger, Liberality against greed, and Diligence against sloth.

The Theological Virtues: Love, Hope and Faith, as defined by St. Paul (who placed love as the greatest of them all).

The four Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Temperance, Courage and Justice.

The Seven Heavenly Virtues: Faith, Hope, Charity, Fortitude, Justice, Temperance, Prudence.

The Seven Corporal Works of Mercy are a medieval list of things you can do to help others: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, give shelter to strangers, clothe the naked, visit the sick, minister to prisoners, and bury the dead.

The Seven Bushido Virtues: Right decisions, Valor, Benevolence, Respect, Honesty, Honor, and Loyalty.

Click to enlarge.


n. the frustration of being stuck in just one body, that inhabits only one place at a time, which is like standing in front of the departures screen at an airport, flickering over with strange place names like other people’s passwords, each representing one more thing you’ll never get to see before you die—and all because, as the arrow on the map helpfully points out, you are here.
-- The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

Good Advice

"If you're tangled up, just tango on."
-- Scent of a Woman

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Seven Deadly Sins

Sins have always been popular areas of focus in the church. An early 2nd century document, the Didache, contains a list of five. Origen produced a sevenfold list and at the end of the 4th century Cassian amended this sevenfold list. Eventually, the Seven Deadly Sins (or Vices) we know today were defined in the 6th century by Pope Gregory the Great, as a set of negative values: the values that you are supposed to adopt is that you will avoid these things and actually adopt their opposites.

Pride is an excessive belief in one's own abilities. If you don't have much faith in yourself, you really can't have a lot of (false) pride, can you?

Envy is wanting what others have, be it status, abilities, or possessions. This one is are hard to spot for me. If someone says they are envious of someone else, it's usually meant as a compliment. I think it's wrong to be envious and not admit it.

Gluttony is the desire to eat or consume more than you require. This is common in America. I mean, have you seen all the fat people here? On the other hand, I love Hershey's Drops and I cannot eat just one. I am weak.

Lust is a powerful craving for something like sex, power and money. Liberals would say this is natural, like desire. Well, it's unbridled desire that gets us in trouble, cowboy.

Anger is the loss of rational self-control and the desire to harm others. Uh-oh. Another common one I am familiar with.

Greed is the desire for material wealth or gain. I don't want to share my Hershey's Drops. It's difficult to muster up desire for material gain. Sometimes I wish I had a puppy, but if I did, he'd probably bite me.

Sloth is laziness and the avoidance of work. Another big uh-oh here. I don't set out to be lazy. It just sort of sneaks up on me.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Born On the Bayou

"Do not indiscriminately follow the mind,
for the mind is like a mad monkey."

-- Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Who Are They?

Frequently, you hear people say, what has happened to the country? If you pay attention and you can be honest with yourself, then the answer is simple. The bad guys got control. They got themselves elected to office by pretending to be something they weren't, by fixing the elective process wherever they could, and by using the standard methods of criminals. That is, by lying, cheating, and stealing.

They're in charge from Washington all the way down to your local city councils and police departments. They are communists, fascists know-it-alls praising the virtues of current politically correct issues such as equal rights, abortion rights, rights for homosexuals, land management, eminent domain, the war on poverty, rights for women, rights for animals, the war on global warming (or climate change or whatever they're calling it these days), the war on the second amendment (gun ownership), the war on free speech, and an ever-growing list of freedom-restricting rules and regulations that in the end none of us will be able to live with.

The people that push all this nonsense on us are local yokels who receive kickbacks from powerful interests, who gain information in exchange for votes; they are hicks and they are college graduates, they are your neighbors and they are landowners. They sit on school boards and own local businesses. They are church deacons and Sunday School teachers. They take up their crying towels to gain sympathy for progressive causes and yet their vote is always for sale. They love to organize and offer a big smile if you sign their petition. They all have one thing in common: an insatiable greed and the love of power.

They are snakes and so numerous as to be underfoot every time you go to the grocery store or fill up your car with gas. Do not trust these people. As numerous as they are, they should be avoided. They are not your friends and would reveal you as a free thinker if they thought they could make a dime off the knowledge.

They will not relinquish power. If they were forced to do so, they would give it up to another just like themselves. In a sane society, they would be dragged from their homes and banished to Cuba or Angola or Syria or Iran. We would have a hot dog roast over the fires of their burning houses. Pity, but that's not likely to happen. Instead, it is more likely that they will pull our press cards and charge us with incitement to riot while sending jack-booted thugs to our homes to roust our wives and children and haul us off to rehab camps and dank prison cells.

And you think it can't happen here? It already has.

This is how bad things have become in the land of the brave and the free.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Who Cares?

Republicans? Democrats?

Did You Know...

"Platoon" director Oliver Stone enlisted in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam war and requested combat duty. He killed several enemy soldiers with a grenade and participated in more than 25 helicopter combat assaults. He was awarded the Bronze Star with "V" device for his heroism in ground combat, as well as a Purple Heart with an Oak Leaf cluster.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Favorite Movie Scenes

There are many powerful movies out there with scores of meaningful and interesting portrayals of human drama. Movie fans all have their favorites. It's difficult to narrow them down, but the scene in the included video (above) is one of my personal favorites. It is not intended for the faint of heart or the politically correct, so if you fall into either of those camps, perhaps it's best to skip this particular screening. Don't say I didn't warn you.

To me, the scene shows the height of human dignity as well as the extent of incorruptible love of a man for his son. When one is confronted by an unresistant evil, there are choices to be made. In this scene, Christopher Walken gives Dennis Hopper an offer he can't refuse, yet Hopper does refuse, and, knowing full well what will happen, he insults the face of death himself. Watch how Walken moves like a snake in this scene.

The scene comes from Tarentino's True Romance. If you're going to be offended by the use of racism, blame Tarentino, not me.

Kim Simmonds

If you're a young guitar stud or studette and you've never heard of Savoy Brown, you honestly need to hit the stacks and learn some of the best licks ever recorded to wax. Savoy Brown is headed up by founding member and Welsh guitarist, Kim Simmonds.

As a teenager, Kim Simmonds learned to play guitar from listening to his brother's blues records. Considered one of the architects of British blues, he started playing professionally in 1966 in London, England.

Nineteen-year-old guitarist Kim Simmonds formed Savoy Brown in 1966. Explosive live performances eventually led to Savoy Brown signing with Decca. But it was 1969 before its classic line-up gelled around Simmonds, guitarist "Lonesome" Dave Peverett and monocle and bowler hat-wearing vocalist Chris Youlden. That year's Blue Matter and A Step Further albums conjured up at least three classics heard on The Best Of Savoy Brown: "Train To Nowhere," the live show-stopper "Louisiana Blues" (a Muddy Waters number) and "I'm Tired." Since its first US visit, Savoy Brown has criss-crossed the country, and "I'm Tired" became the group's first hit single across the ocean. The band would find a greater reception in America than in its native England throughout its career.

1970's Raw Sienna followed, featuring A Hard Way To Go and Stay While The Night Is Still Young. When Youlden then departed for a solo career, Lonesome Dave took over the lead vocals. Looking In, also in 1970, featured not only "Poor Girl" and "Money Can't Save Your Soul" but one of the era's memorable LP covers, a troglodyte-like savage staring into an eye socket of a monstrous skull. Later, Peverett, bassist Tony Stevens and drummer Roger Earl left to form the immensely successful but decidedly rock band Foghat. Simmonds soldiered on, recruiting from blues band Chicken Shack keyboardist Paul Raymond, bassist Andy Silvester and drummer Dave Bidwell, and from the Birmingham club circuit the vocalist Dave Walker.

The new lineup was a hit. On stage in America, the group was supported by Rod Stewart and the Faces. On the album Street Corner Talking (1971) and Hellbound Train (1972) launched favorites "Tell Mama", "Street Corner Talking", a cover of the Temptations' Motown standard "I Can't Get Next To You" and the nine-minute epic "Hellbound Train" (decades later Love & Rockets adapted it as "Bound For Hell"). Walker then quit to join Fleetwood Mac, pre-Buckingham/Nicks.

In 1997, Simmonds released his first solo acoustic album, entitled Solitaire. He continues to tour worldwide with various configurations of Savoy Brown - of particular note is the 2004 live set You Should Have Been There, recorded in early 2003 in Vancouver with Simmonds himself handling lead vocals - and also as a solo acoustic act. In 2011 he celebrated 45 years of touring with the Savoy Brown album Voodoo Moon.

As leader of Savoy Brown, he has released over 50 albums. He is also a painter, and the cover of his 2008 solo release "Out of the Blue" features his original art.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Express Yourself

Be bold in expressing what your heart holds for someone. Pay no mind to risk of rejection or emotional vulnerability. If we love or yearn to love someone, we should not put our own gratification before that person. In a cold and impersonal world, those people need to know that they are regarded with favor and love.

Fearlessly share your love as a pure gift.

The worst thing that will happen is that person will know they are loved. That’s pretty damn good.

"If you are graced with the love of truth, everything is possible. But if your fundamental sense of reality is flawed, nothing you can do will bring about change. You can put pearls on a pig, but you can't stop it from squealing."

-- Adyashanti

Sunday, January 19, 2014


Laodiceanism: the quality of being indifferent in politics or religion.

First-century Laodicea sat astride two major trade routes. The first road ran from Rome eastward into Asia Minor, then beyond to Cilicia where Paul was born. At Derbe it split: one leg went to the south through Damascus and on into Egypt; the other leg struck across the east to Mesopotamia, the ancient home of Babylon. Connecting the city to southern Europe through Byzantium, the second route entered Laodicea from the north and continued to the Mediterranean.

The founders built the city in the Lycus valley where these routes crossed. This provided Laodicea with unlimited opportunities for trade, but caused other significant problems. Ideally, prosperous cities are built close to abundant natural resources, especially water. Great cities are usually founded on deep natural harbors or on the banks of navigable rivers where water is abundant. Unfortunately, Laodicea was not established near an adequate water supply. More driven by trade, its builders located it where the roads crossed.

However, the city had much in its favor, and of special note were its three main industries. The Laodiceans produced a glossy, black wool that was prized by the wealthy all over the world. No one knows whether its rich color came from a particular strain of sheep that they bred in the area, or whether they dyed it, but the quality of the wool is indisputable. In fact, they cornered the market in this commodity, producing tremendous wealth.

Their second business was medicine. Laodicea boasted of one of the most renowned medical schools in the world, and with it came all of its associated industries like pharmaceuticals. They produced a world-famous salve, reputed to cure certain kinds of eye diseases. Another salve supposedly healed ear problems. People came from all over the Roman world in search of remedies for their ailments.

These two industries produced a third that multiplied their already vast wealth—banking. Laodicea became a center of currency exchange and money lending. Cicero, it is said, cashed huge bank drafts there. So huge were its assets that, when it was demolished by a first-century earthquake, the city refused Rome's offer of help, rebuilding with its own funds.

So Laodicea had a monopoly in textiles, a world-renowned medical industry, and a prosperous financial center. Writers of the ancient world speak openly of their envy of Laodicean wealth. Record after record attests to their status.

Their one weakness was their water supply. Water had to be piped in to Laodicea. Cold water could come from the abundant supply at Colossae, but by the time it traveled the ten or so miles from the cold springs, it was lukewarm. About six miles away in Hierapolis were hot springs, but that water, too, was lukewarm when it reached Laodicea. Whether they piped in the cold or the hot water, it arrived at Laodicea lukewarm.

By extension, when someone is referred to as Laodicean, it means they are neither excited nor apathetic -- they are, essentially content to let matters pass without comment or judgment. A laodicean, it is said, is neither hot nor cold. While we congratulate ourselves on being tolerant, it is not always best for society if we constantly allow our tolerance to prevent us from protecting that which might be valuable, such as our basic rights, and common-sense notions that lead to matters of law and order. Are you Laodicean?

The principles of living greatly include the capacity
to face trouble with courage,
disappointment with cheerfulness, and trial with humility.”

Thomas S. Monson

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Growing Up

"My ghost likes to travel,
so far in the unknown..."

Stand By Me

Stand by Me is a 1986 American coming of age drama comedy film directed by Rob Reiner. Based on the novella The Body by Stephen King, the title is derived from the Ben E. King song of the same name, which plays over the end credits. The films tells the story of four boys who go on a hike across the countryside to find the missing body of a dead kid. In March 1986, Columbia Pictures, concerned that the original title The Body was misleading, renamed the film Stand by Me. According to screenwriter Raynold Gideon, " sounded like either a sex film, a bodybuilding film or another Stephen King horror film. Rob came up with Stand by Me, and it ended up being the least unpopular opinion."

Wil Wheaton as Gordie Lachance (aged 12),
River Phoenix as Chris Chambers,
Corey Feldman as Teddy Duchamp,
Jerry O'Connell as Vern Tessio,
Kiefer Sutherland as "Ace" Merrill,
Bradley Gregg as "Eyeball" Chambers,
Casey Siemaszko as Billy Tessio,
John Cusack as Denny Lachance,
Richard Dreyfuss as Gordie Lachance (adult),
Gary Riley as Charlie Hogan,
Marshall Bell as Mr. Lachance,
Frances Lee McCain as Mrs. Lachance,
Bruce Kirby as Mr. Quidacioluo,
Jason Oliver as Vince Desjardins,
William Bronder as Milo Pressman,
Kent W. Luttrell as Ray Brower (the body).

In a 2011 interview with NPR, Wil Wheaton attributed the film's success to the director's casting choices:

Rob Reiner found four young boys who basically were the characters we played. I was awkward and nerdy and shy and uncomfortable in my own skin and really, really sensitive, and River was cool and really smart and passionate and even at that age kind of like a father figure to some of us, Jerry was one of the funniest people I had ever seen in my life, either before or since, and Corey was unbelievably angry and in an incredible amount of pain and had an absolutely terrible relationship with his parents.

The soundtrack for the film consists of the following 50s songs:

"Everyday" (Buddy Holly)
"Let the Good Times Roll" (Shirley and Lee)
"Come Go with Me" (The Del-Vikings)
"Whispering Bells" (The Del-Vikings)
"Get a Job" (The Silhouettes)
"Lollipop" (The Chordettes)
"Yakety Yak" (The Coasters)
"Great Balls of Fire" (Jerry Lee Lewis)
"Mr. Lee" (The Bobbettes)
"Stand by Me" (Ben E. King)2:55

In 1987, following the success of Stand by Me, Rob Reiner co-founded a movie and television production company and named it Castle Rock Entertainment after the fictional setting of the story. On October 31, 1993, Phoenix collapsed and died of drug-induced heart failure on the sidewalk outside the West Hollywood nightclub The Viper Room, at the age of 23.

On July 24, 2010, a 25th Anniversary Celebration of the filming of Stand by Me was held in Brownsville, Oregon. The event included a cast and crew Q&A session, an amateur blueberry pie eating contest, and an outdoor showing of the film.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Amazing Moon

"We cannot help but come to the conclusion that the Moon by rights ought not to be there. The fact that it is, is one of the strokes of luck almost too good to accept… Small planets, such as Earth, with weak gravitational fields, might well lack satellites… … In general then, when a planet does have satellites, those satellites are much smaller than the planet itself. Therefore, even if the Earth has a satellite, there would be every reason to suspect… that at best it would be a tiny world, perhaps 30 miles in diameter. But that is not so. Earth not only has a satellite, but it is a giant satellite, 2160 miles in diameter. How is it then, that tiny Earth has one? Amazing."

Isaac Asimov --
American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University and Science Fiction writer. Asimov was one of the most prolific writers of all time.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Jewel at the Heart of Quantum Physics

Physicists have reported the discovery of a jewel-like geometric object that dramatically simplifies calculations of particle interactions and challenges the notion that space and time are fundamental components of reality.

“This is completely new and very much simpler than anything that has been done before,” said Andrew Hodges, a mathematical physicist at Oxford University who has been following the work.

The revelation that particle interactions, the most basic events in nature, may be consequences of geometry significantly advances a decades-long effort to reformulate quantum field theory, the body of laws describing elementary particles and their interactions. Interactions that were previously calculated with mathematical formulas thousands of terms long can now be described by computing the volume of the corresponding jewel-like “amplituhedron,” which yields an equivalent one-term expression.

“The degree of efficiency is mind-boggling,” said Jacob Bourjaily, a theoretical physicist at Harvard University and an author of the first of two papers detailing the new idea. “You can easily do, on paper, computations that were infeasible even with a computer before.”

The new geometric version of quantum field theory could also facilitate the search for a theory of quantum gravity that would seamlessly connect the large- and small-scale pictures of the universe. Attempts thus far to incorporate gravity into the laws of physics at the quantum scale have run up against nonsensical infinities and deep paradoxes. The amplituhedron, or a similar geometric object, could help by removing two deeply rooted principles of physics: locality and unitarity.

“Both are hard-wired in the usual way we think about things,” said Nima Arkani-Hamed, a professor of physics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., and the lead author of the two new papers, which were posted on the physics preprint site, one last December, and one last week. “Both are suspect.”

Nima Arkani-Hamed, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, and his former student and co-author Jaroslav Trnka, who finished his Ph.D. at Princeton University in July and is now a post-doctoral researcher at the California Institute of Technology. Jaroslav Trnka

Locality is the notion that particles can interact only from adjoining positions in space and time. And unitarity holds that the probabilities of all possible outcomes of a quantum mechanical interaction must add up to one. The concepts are the central pillars of quantum field theory in its original form, but in certain situations involving gravity, both break down, suggesting neither is a fundamental aspect of nature.

In keeping with this idea, the new geometric approach to particle interactions removes locality and unitarity from its starting assumptions. The amplituhedron is not built out of space-time and probabilities; these properties merely arise as consequences of the jewel’s geometry. The usual picture of space and time, and particles moving around in them, is a construct.

“It’s a better formulation that makes you think about everything in a completely different way,” said David Skinner, a theoretical physicist at Cambridge University.

The amplituhedron itself does not describe gravity. But Arkani-Hamed and his collaborators think there might be a related geometric object that does. Its properties would make it clear why particles appear to exist, and why they appear to move in three dimensions of space and to change over time.

Because “we know that ultimately, we need to find a theory that doesn’t have” unitarity and locality, Bourjaily said, “it’s a starting point to ultimately describing a quantum theory of gravity.”

The amplituhedron looks like an intricate, multifaceted jewel in higher dimensions. Encoded in its volume are the most basic features of reality that can be calculated, “scattering amplitudes,” which represent the likelihood that a certain set of particles will turn into certain other particles upon colliding. These numbers are what particle physicists calculate and test to high precision at particle accelerators like the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.

The iconic 20th century physicist Richard Feynman invented a method for calculating probabilities of particle interactions using depictions of all the different ways an interaction could occur. Examples of “Feynman diagrams” were included on a 2005 postage stamp honoring Feynman. US Postal Service

The 60-year-old method for calculating scattering amplitudes — a major innovation at the time — was pioneered by the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman. He sketched line drawings of all the ways a scattering process could occur and then summed the likelihoods of the different drawings. The simplest Feynman diagrams look like trees: The particles involved in a collision come together like roots, and the particles that result shoot out like branches. More complicated diagrams have loops, where colliding particles turn into unobservable “virtual particles” that interact with each other before branching out as real final products. There are diagrams with one loop, two loops, three loops and so on — increasingly baroque iterations of the scattering process that contribute progressively less to its total amplitude. Virtual particles are never observed in nature, but they were considered mathematically necessary for unitarity — the requirement that probabilities sum to one.

“The number of Feynman diagrams is so explosively large that even computations of really simple processes weren’t done until the age of computers,” Bourjaily said. A seemingly simple event, such as two subatomic particles called gluons colliding to produce four less energetic gluons (which happens billions of times a second during collisions at the Large Hadron Collider), involves 220 diagrams, which collectively contribute thousands of terms to the calculation of the scattering amplitude.

In 1986, it became apparent that Feynman’s apparatus was a Rube Goldberg machine.

To prepare for the construction of the Superconducting Super Collider in Texas (a project that was later canceled), theorists wanted to calculate the scattering amplitudes of known particle interactions to establish a background against which interesting or exotic signals would stand out. But even 2-gluon to 4-gluon processes were so complex, a group of physicists had written two years earlier, “that they may not be evaluated in the foreseeable future.”

Stephen Parke and Tommy Taylor, theorists at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois, took that statement as a challenge. Using a few mathematical tricks, they managed to simplify the 2-gluon to 4-gluon amplitude calculation from several billion terms to a 9-page-long formula, which a 1980s supercomputer could handle. Then, based on a pattern they observed in the scattering amplitudes of other gluon interactions, Parke and Taylor guessed a simple one-term expression for the amplitude. It was, the computer verified, equivalent to the 9-page formula. In other words, the traditional machinery of quantum field theory, involving hundreds of Feynman diagrams worth thousands of mathematical terms, was obfuscating something much simpler. As Bourjaily put it: “Why are you summing up millions of things when the answer is just one function?”

“We knew at the time that we had an important result,” Parke said. “We knew it instantly. But what to do with it?”

By Natalie Wolchover, Quanta Magazine

A Blessing

May you awaken to the mystery of being here and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.

May you have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.

May you receive great encouragement when new frontiers beckon.

May you respond to the call of your gift and find the courage to follow its path.

May the flame of anger free you from falsity.

May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame and may anxiety never linger about you.

May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of soul.

May you take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.

May you be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.

May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.

by John O’Donohue
From: Eternal Echoes: Celtic Reflections on Our Yearning to Belong

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The ideal politician is a stupid crook,
and we have many that meet that ideal.

John J. Xenakis

Scientists Are Learning To Shape Our Memory

The next treatment for trauma could be spotless minds.

Roadside bombs, childhood abuse, car accidents—they form memories that can shape (and damage) us for a lifetime. Now, a handful of studies have shown that we’re on the verge of erasing and even rewriting memories. The hope is that this research will lead to medical treatments, especially for addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Researchers have known for decades that memories are unreliable. They’re particularly adjustable when actively recalled because at that point they’re pulled out of a stable molecular state. Last spring, scientists published a study performed at the University of Washington in which adult volunteers completed a survey about their eating and drinking habits before age 16. A week later, they were given personalized analyses of their answers that stated—falsely—that they had gotten sick from rum or vodka as a teen. One in five not only didn’t notice the lie, but also recalled false memories about it and rated that beverage as less desirable than they had before. Studies like these point to possible treatments for mental health problems. Both PTSD and addiction disorders hinge on memories that can trigger problematic behaviors, such as crippling fear caused by loud noises or cravings brought about by the sight of drug paraphernalia.

Studies have found chemical compounds that can be used to subdue or even delete memories.Several studies have found chemical compounds that can be used to subdue or even delete memories in mice (and maybe someday in people). In June, a report led by an Emory University researcher showed that SR-8993, a drug that acts on the brain’s opioid receptors, can prevent a fear memory from forming. Researchers strapped mice to a wooden board for two hours—a stressful experience that later gave them a heightened sense of fear similar to PTSD. But mice given SR-8993 before or after the stressful incident were less likely to end up this way. Another study identified a drug, Latrunculin A, that can erase memories days later. The researchers trained rodents to consume methamphetamine in an environment with distinctive visual, tactile, and scent cues such as black walls, gridded floors, and the scent of vanilla or peppermint. Rodents that were injected with Latrunculin A two days later didn’t seek out meth when returned to that environment, but others did. Latrunculin A is known to mess up scaffolding that supports connections between neurons. Considering how broadly these two drugs affect the brain, there’s a possibility of serious side effects.

To make more targeted treatments, researchers will ultimately need to understand how the brain’s neurons encode each memory. Last year, Susumu Tonegawa at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reported that individual memories in mice leave telltale molecular signatures in the brain’s hippocampus region. In July, his group caused mice to falsely associate an old memory with a new context—essentially creating a false memory. First, they genetically engineered a mouse so that when its hippocampal cells were activated, they would be tagged with a protein that the researchers could switch on later. Then, they put the mouse in an unfamiliar cage. The next day, they moved it to a strikingly different cage (smelly with black walls). Then, at precisely the same time, they gave it an uncomfortable shock and switched on the tagging protein to briefly activate cells that had been active in the old cage. When they put the mouse back in the old cage, it froze as if afraid—as if it had a false memory of being shocked there.

The idea of scientists manipulating memory does, naturally, sound a bit creepy. But it also points to some possible good: treatment for millions of people tormented by real memories. And that’s something worth remembering.

This article originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of Popular Science.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Dualism is the position that mental phenomena are non-physical, or that the mind and body are not identical. So, Dualism encompasses a set of views about the relationship between mind and matter.

Aristotle shared Plato's view of multiple souls, and further elaborated a hierarchical arrangement corresponding to the distinctive functions of plants, animals and people: a nutritive soul of growth and metabolism, that all three share, a perceptive soul of pain, pleasure and desire, that only people and other animals share, and the faculty of reason, that is unique to people only. In this view, a soul is the hylomorphic form of a viable organism, wherein each level of the hierarchy formally supervenes upon the substance of the preceding level. Thus, for Aristotle, all three souls perish when the living organism dies. For Plato however, the soul was not dependent on the physical body; rather, he believed in metempsychosis, the migration of the soul to a new physical body.

Dualism is closely associated with the philosophy of RenĂ© Descartes (1641), which holds that the mind is a nonphysical substance. Descartes clearly identified the mind with consciousness and self-awareness and distinguished this from the brain as the seat of intelligence. Hence, he was the first to formulate the mind–body problem in the form in which it exists today. Dualism is contrasted with various kinds of monism. Substance dualism is contrasted with all forms of materialism, but property dualism may be considered a form of emergent materialism or non-reductive physicalism in some sense. Findings in neuroscience that concern the mind-body problem do not support dualism, and the field operates under the assumptions of physicalism.

Nobody Home

It's bonus video day on The Drifter!

"I've got a little black book with my poems in..."

Tell Mama

Monday, January 13, 2014

Quantum Consciousness And Eternity

The theory of Biocentrism contains the notion that life does not end when someone dies. Indeed, according to Biocentrism, a life can last for eternity. It is not a new notion, but one that is not commonly attributed to men of science.

Dr. Robert Lanza is an expert in regenerative medicine. Before he was known for his research with stem cells, he was famous for several successful experiments on cloning endangered animal species.

Like other brilliant men, Lanza is not a one trick pony. He is also involved with physics, quantum mechanics and astrophysics. This mixture of academic disciplines has given rise to the new theory of Biocentrism. In short, Biocentrism teaches that life and consciousness are fundamental to the universe, and furthermore, it is consciousness that creates the material universe, not the other way around.

Lanza points to the structure of the universe itself, saying that the laws, forces, and constants of the universe appear to be fine-tuned for life, thus implying that intelligence existed prior to matter. He also claims that space and time are not objects or things, but rather tools of our animal understanding. Lanza says that we carry space and time around with us “like turtles with shells,” meaning that when the shell comes off (space and time), we still exist.

The theory of Biocentrism implies that death of consciousness simply does not exist. Death only exists as a thought because people identify themselves with their body. We believe that the body will perish sooner or later and that consciousness will disappear too. While it seems reasonable that if the body generates consciousness, then consciousness goes away when the body dies, but if the body receives consciousness in the same way that a radio receives signals, then it could be viewed that consciousness does not end at the death of the body. In fact, according to Lanza, consciousness exists outside of the constraints of time and space. Consciousness (you) are able to be anywhere: in the human body or outside of it. In other words, consciousness is non-local in the same sense that quantum objects are non-local.

Lanza also believes that multiple universes can exist simultaneously. The concept is rather mind-bending, but essentially, in one universe, the body can be dead, while in another it continues to exist, absorbing consciousness which migrated into this universe.

Among Lanza's supporters are physicists and astrophysicists who tend to agree with the existence of parallel worlds and who suggest the possibility of multiple universes.

The first was science fiction writer H.G. Wells who used the theory in his 1895 story “The Door in the Wall”. 62 years later, the idea was developed by Dr. Hugh Everett in his graduate thesis at Princeton University. Everett suggested that at any given moment the universe divides into countless similar instances. These newborn universes also split in a similar fashion. Each of these worlds contain some variation from the present moment. The trigger point for these multiplying worlds is our actions, said Everett.

Andrei Linde from Lebedev’s Institute of physics developed the theory of multiple universes in the 1980's. Linde is now a professor at Stanford University. Linde theorized that space consists of mumerous inflating spheres, which give rise to similar spheres, and those, in turn, produce spheres in even greater numbers, and so on to infinity. They are not aware of each other’s existence, but they do represent parts of the same physical universe.

The fact that our universe is not singular in nature is supported by data received from the Planck space telescope. An accurate map of the microwave background, the so-called cosmic relic background radiation, has been created from the data. It shows that the universe has many dark recesses represented by holes and extensive gaps. Theoretical physicist Laura Mersini-Houghton from North Carolina University argues that the anomalies of the microwave background exist due to the fact that our universe is influenced by other universes existing nearby.

And so, Dr. Lanza postulates, in all seriousness, that there is an abundance of places or other universes where our soul could migrate after death. But does the soul exist? Is there any scientific theory of consciousness that could accommodate such a claim? According to Dr. Stuart Hameroff, a near-death experience happens when the quantum information that inhabits the nervous system leaves the body and dissipates into the universe. Contrary to materialistic accounts of consciousness, Dr. Hameroff offers an alternative explanation of consciousness that can perhaps appeal to both the rational scientific mind and personal intuitions.

Consciousness resides, according to Stuart and British physicist Sir Roger Penrose, in the microtubules of the brain cells, which are the primary sites of quantum processing. Upon death, this information is released from your body, meaning that your consciousness goes with it. They have argued that our experience of consciousness is the result of quantum gravity effects in these microtubules, a theory which they dubbed orchestrated objective reduction (Orch-OR). This theory lies on particularly shaky ground primarily because the microtubles have not been found. It does not, however, dismantle Lanza's theory of Biocentrism.

Consciousness, or at least proto-consciousness is theorized to be a fundamental property of the universe, present even at the first moment of the universe during the Big Bang.

According to this view, our souls are in fact constructed from the very fabric of the universe – and have existed since the beginning of time. Not the brain, but rather the heart, with its generated fields of energy, is the likely seat of the soul and the link to what lies beyond our perceived universe.