Category Archives: Science

Autism and Measles

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Folk art, Telluride, Colorado, 2003

I read a little about Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in the March, 2019 issue of Psychiatric Annals.  The prevalence has risen dramatically in the last decade, now at one in fifty-nine children.  However, it’s not clear how these statistics were obtained.  Broadened diagnostic criteria, diagnosis by hearsay, and other factors may be involved.

Autism used to be lumped with “childhood schizophrenia” but no longer is.  It lacks the hallucinations and delusions of schizophrenia but has features of social withdrawal, repetitive behavior, communication and socialization problems, and resistance to change.  The article had some history about how the diagnosis came to be and the idea that “mother blame” became popular in the 1950s and 1960s.  I thought that wasn’t fair, because if close others contribute to the problem, the whole family dynamic should be considered as well as the larger role of society.

I also wondered about the cultural expectation for children to conform to socialization models dictated by the schools.  Anyone who doesn’t fit the excessively structured militaristic regimentation of grades, classes, sitting at desks, and listening for hours of every day, is considered abnormal, autistic, hyperactive, or given other labels applied to those who fall outside the bell curve.

Schizophrenics I’ve encountered have trouble dealing with society’s hypocrisy, and I wonder if autistic children retreat inward to escape a world that makes no sense.

Meanwhile, I caught part of an interview on NPR about the measles outbreak, which let me know a judge has blocked the Rockland County, New York ban on un-vaccinated children entering public places.  This “public health emergency” consists of hundreds of cases–465 in 19 states as of April 4, says the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)–but not one death or any real complications.  The CDC spokesperson on the radio informed us that before the MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) vaccine was developed, millions of people got measles, and there were hundreds of deaths.  She mentioned complications like meningitis.  Further research revealed the Rockland County outbreak started with a traveler returning from Israel, which is also experiencing a spate of measles. The CDC says outbreaks in the US are primarily among un-vaccinated  people in orthodox Jewish communities.

I was glad that New York state Judge Rolf Thorsen postponed the ban—which I consider a gigantic government power grab to force medical treatment on people—at least until a hearing on April 19.  Even the mentally ill have more rights to refuse medications than parents of children in today’s drug-crazed world.

Meanwhile, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has issued “an emergency health order necessary to curtail the large measles outbreak in the ultra-orthodox Jewish community” of Williamsburg, in Brooklyn, according to the New York Times. Mayor de Blasio has targeted those living in several zip codes for vaccinations and threatens a $1000 fine for non-compliance. This has generated a heated backlash, in advance of a lawsuit, with an affidavit circulating to the effect that the mandate is in “clear violation of the Nuremburg Code which forbids forcing medical procedures on anyone without their fully informed consent.”

Government officials and the CDC lament the “misinformation” being spread by the anti-vaxers, who are “falsely warning that [vaccines] cause autism and lead to other health problems,” says the New York Times.  Now, “City officials say countering the anti-vaccine movement is a priority.”

The Psychiatric Annals report discounted the link between MMR and ASD in one sentence.  That had been a hypothesis of Bernard Rimland, a psychologist who founded the Autism Society of America in 1965, two years after the MMR vaccine was introduced.  (The CDC says on its website that thimerosal, the mercury-containing agent implicated in the claims of autism, was removed from all childhood vaccinations in 2001, and that the flu vaccine may or may not contain it.)

What they don’t say is that a case of the measles confers lifelong immunity.  Nor do they say that some doctors claim even vaccinated people can be carriers of the disease, or that vaccinations can confuse the body such that it becomes hypersensitive or allergic to a variety of usually innocuous substances.

Why do I care?  My psychiatric confreres are wimps hypnotized by their own propaganda.  Psychiatric Annals laments physician burnout and the loss of doctors from an “economy” that turns on the doctor’s signature.  This can be alleviated, they say, by a CWO, a wellness officer, who monitors physician burnout, and by better access and reduced stigma for seeking mental help.  And we should make electronic medical records more efficient, with doctors involved in design of software.

I wrote all over that article.  As one of the burned out physicians who preferred to retire and maybe starve than be beat to death by a psychotic system, I feel especially qualified to diagnose the health scare/snare racket as “suicidal, homicidal, psychotic, and out of emotional control.”  Doctor burnout is also a public health emergency.  We are losing prescription-writing machines faster than we can replace them, and everyone who has a “right” to health care has to pay through the nose for that right.  If they are broke or broken, Congress and federal/state/local bureaucracy, our “medical providers” of first and last resort, will step in and make sure the approved insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, bureaucracies, lawyers, government lobbyists and contractors, as well as universities, get paid to make sure everyone’s rights are protected from everyone else’s rights.  With Congress and the mayor of New York practicing medicine, who needs doctors?

Addiction to Prediction

When you don’t have a television, friends, or family, you have lots of time to read.  At least I do, and lately, I’ve been reading about science and philosophy.

I’ve been trying to understand from a scientific point of view the apparently universal addiction to predictions.  Albert Einstein believed it is the goal of science to predict, as did Isaac Newton.  They believed the laws of the universe could be apprehended and codified mathematically.  This was the basis of Einstein’s discomfort with quantum physics.  That events could not be definitely predicted–only their relative probabilities–led him to insist the theory was “incomplete.”

It could be said the future is incomplete, too, that science and the future will never be finished.  The ancients (and moderns) have a similar argument about God.  If God is perfect, the mover that doesn’t move, as Aristotle believed, or if God is done, complete, finished, and all life is moving toward that ideal, it does imply an end point.

It intrigues me that science has taken on the soothsayer’s cloak, seemingly without awareness that this is the stuff of superstition and mythology.  What’s this preoccupation with the future?  Is the present not good enough?

Quantum mechanics takes a leap by challenging the assumption of predictability.  It also challenges the mechanistic tradition that ousted God or other life force from the cosmos.  It supports my contention that there is no objective reality standing apart and uninvolved.  The experiment is a creation of the experimenter.

The most significant distinction, here, to me, is that quantum mechanics turns conventional views of science’s predictive aspirations upside down.  The cosmos is unpredictable.  We are floating in an ocean of probabilities punctuated with unlikely events.

We can predict with relative certainty that all our bodies are going to die, but no one can predict how or when.  Those who commit suicide may on some level want to decide the method and timing.  Those who “live dangerously” increase the probability that the how and when will occur dramatically and sooner rather than later.

Psychologically, the admission by scientists and mathematicians that life is unpredictable, that nature, the universe, and even electrons pulsate to their own rhythms–despite the rules mankind wants to impose on them–rattles the cages of the concrete thinkers who believe reality consists of rules.  It’s possible that the theologically inclined and the philosophers are more mentally nimble with respect to probabilities, possibilities, and the unexpected.  The people who believe miracles are possible, that prayer works, that all is not what it seems, might delight in the idea of a probable universe of infinite variability.

It seems science has painted itself into a corner by creating a construct that has little relevance to life.  Will Durant, in The Story of Philosophy, looks to Francis Bacon–who wanted to compile all human knowledge and saw science as the guiding light of the future–as a kind of messenger.  Durant praises Bacon’s vision but notes Bacon was not familiar with the scientists of his own time, like Kepler and Harvey.  His enthusiasm was ideological, not practical.  But Durant also suggests the idea of world rule by scientists instead of politicians is laudable.  According to me, Durant is idealistic himself.  Scientists in politics become politicians, as indicated by the current controversy over global warming or “climate change.”  According to the media-digested and regurgitated “statistics” or “evidence,” scientists speak with one voice.  Dissenters are ignored, discredited, or otherwise cast into the dustbin of irrational heretics.

My point, which I keep skirting, is that today’s science is not my version of “science,” so maybe I should respect Socrates’ insistence on strict definitions.  In our world, scientists as a group are accorded the awe and respect formerly reserved for gods, but who can define what “science” or “a scientist” is?

The Latin root for “science,” is “sciere,” or “to know,” so it presumes nothing about forecasts.  Aristotle made observations and used inductive reasoning to synthesize what he observed into an organized framework.

My dictionary says science is “knowledge obtained by study and practice.”  It also refers to systematized knowledge and classification.  By that definition, any organized body of knowledge could be a “science.”  The dictionary refers to the “science of boxing.”

Also by that definition, anyone who studies and uses a certain skill or set of skills can call himself a scientist.  The science of carpentry, the science of advertising, and of course, political science.  The “scientific method” need not apply.

My definition starts with the scientific method, which uses deductive reasoning to establish a hypothesis and seek evidence pro and con.  To establish cause and effect in a controlled experiment, the variables must be artificially reduced to one.  There is a “study” group and a “control” group, with the numbers in each group great enough to produce statistically significant differences between the groups, should differences exist.  So “scientific research,” at least in modern terms, only seeks to predict probabilities, like quantum physics does.

I have oft-expressed doubts about whether the scientific method is valid for obtaining knowledge that can be generalized outside the experiment, but this is the method used in medical research, at least.  The idea of causation, the motivation to prove or disprove a hypothesis, and the factors that might affect the outcome are arbitrarily chosen.

Does any effect have a single cause?  Here I have perhaps a broader view than most, yet I’m subject to “because” thinking, myself.  I figure it’s so much a part of traditional Western thought processes that many are not even aware of its subliminal effect on how we structure reality.  As I read the ideas of philosophers through time, I see they, too, sought causes for the effects they observed.  This correlated with beliefs in God, or nature worship, or superstitions and mythology.  The idea of an unseen hand directing the forces of nature and thereby life on earth, reveals the human desire to understand.

Quantum mechanics and the Oriental pattern-based approach to understanding shakes the cause-and-effect pedestal.  It no longer reigns absolute in a world in which correlations are given at least as much intellectual weight as presumed causes.

I wonder about such taken-for-granted notions as the speed of light.  How do they know it travels at 186,000 miles/second?  Who discovered that and how was it proved?  How does anyone know that’s the absolute speed limit of the cosmos?

It’s hard to know where hypothesis or mathematical conjecture ends and proof or answers begin.  So much is assumed to be true, until it no longer is, like the world is flat or evolution is a fact.

Are concepts of space and time even legitimate when considering the scope of the universe?  I wonder if any answer will satisfy the questioners.  Aren’t answers just the flip sides of the next questions, or series of questions?

Another serious limitation of the scientific method, especially as it’s applied to natural phenomena or human activity, is that you can’t know what might have been.  There are no alternative scenarios with which to judge and compare.  This is my dilemma with historical trends and concepts like man-made climate change.

Ex-post facto justification for historical events—like dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan—rely on the propaganda generated by “our side” about what might have happened instead.  “The Japanese would never have capitulated,” or “We saved thousands of American lives” are excuses I’ve heard numerous times.  Fact is, nobody knows what might have happened.  It is not given to us to know the results of unrealized action.

The disconnect between science and life also bugs me.  Thomas Hobbes tried to apply scientific principles to human behavior for a model of government.  I suppose the “behavioral sciences” also strive to fit human behavior into scientific models.  This seems backwards.  The deductive method tries to exclude too much and risks being blind-sided by factors it chooses not to see.

My study of astrology made me wary of predictions long ago.  People want and crave predictions, but “good” or “bad” forecasts both put binders on the future and restrict imagination regarding alternative possibilities.  “Science” might be more useful to humanity by broadcasting its knowledge of the present and leaving predictions to the fortune tellers.

Predicting Uncertainty

 

 

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It’s impossible to know what might have been.  It’s just as impossible to know what lies ahead.  I just finished reading a biography of Albert Einstein (Einstein: His Life and Universe, Walter Isaacson, 2007).  It struck me that Einstein wanted to believe in a universe that could be predicted, if only we knew the hidden laws.  He thus believed in predestination, insisting that “God doesn’t play dice with the universe.”  He wanted to believe in strict cause and effect.

In this regard, Einstein ran up against, and spent the latter part of his life, trying to refute the implications of his own 1905 paper on the “photoelectric effect” which won the Nobel Prize in 1922.  He relied on the work of Max Planck, who in 1900 had come up with an equation that described the curve of radiation wavelengths at each temperature.  This required the use of a constant (now called Planck’s constant) that accounted for the sudden shift in wavelengths of light emitted by metal at different temperatures.  Planck believed these “quanta” were not properties of the light itself, but of the interaction between matter and light.  It was Einstein who suggested these “quanta” were properties of the light itself.  Thus he and Planck laid the foundations for quantum mechanics, but neither was comfortable with the fact that their ideas undermined the Newtonian concepts of strict causality and certainty they cherished.

Based on these beginnings, the rising physicists of “quantum mechanics,” like Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, recognizing that light demonstrated the dualistic qualities of particles or waves, refuted age old ideas of an objective reality, existing apart from the observer.  They began to think in terms of probabilities.  Heisenberg developed his “uncertainty principle” in 1927.  This asserted that it is impossible to know the exact position and momentum of a particle, such as an electron, at the same time.  Knowing the precise location precludes certain knowledge of the momentum, and vice versa.

Quantum mechanics expanded the world of physics far beyond Isaac Newton’s absolute, objective universe, based on observable laws. But throughout his life, Albert Einstein resisted the vagueness of non-absolutes, even though he made his own contributions to quantum physics.  Einstein’s stubborn desire for predictability, which is the ostensible goal of science, for some people, could not adapt to the uncertainty of probabilities.  As another early quantum physicist, Erwin Schrodinger, might explain, the wave function of probabilities exists until an actual event is observed, at which point the probability wave collapses and the probability of the event’s occurrence becomes 100%.  Linked with this is the idea that the observer cannot be objective but must be considered a participant in the event.

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That the observer necessarily affects the experiment is an integral component of quantum physics, but the principle has more general implications, too.  Books like The Tao of Physics (Fritjof Capra, 1975), or The Dancing Wu Li Masters (Gary Zukav, 1979), describe how modern physics parallels the beliefs of Oriental mystics.  As noted in The Dancing Wu Li Masters, the Chinese term for “physics” is “wu li,” which means “patterns of organic energy.”  This relates to the pervasive quality of “qi,” sometimes described as “life force,” or “vital energy,” which is said to pervade the cosmos, including all matter and non-matter.  The idea of ‘qi” is ignored in Western thinking, as if life exists apart from science or medicine.

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Western science presumes to disconnect life from the mechanical universe we imagine, but this is a relatively modern development.  Astronomy grew out of astrology and chemistry grew from alchemy, ancient belief systems that gave life to the heavens and to earthly minerals.  The search for cosmic laws or the language of the gods is as old as man’s awareness of the sun, moon, the planets and constellations, and their mysterious cycles.  All these have been used to make predictions.  The seer, the fortune teller, the prognosticator–these are as powerful as ever.  Modern superstition confers blessings on the predictors of weather, stock market, politics, or football games, as well as on the climate changers and the Apocalyptic soothsayers of the twenty-first century.

From a quantum mechanics point of view, however, it might be said that nothing can be predicted with certainty.  We only can assess probabilities and can’t know all the contingencies that affect events.  There is no objective reality, no ultimate outcome, no absolute end-point.  Time is endless.  There is only process, and no one knows where it will lead.  The possibilities are infinite.

 

Global Warmists and Thought Forms

The global warmists are making summer last too long.  Today, on September 29, a week after the autumnal equinox, the temperature at my house is over 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Now the “scientists” of the world–in this latest religion of abstractions that supposedly controls the cosmos–agree that man is responsible for “climate change,” and we must do something about it.  Even the psychiatric establishment has linked arms with the “scientists” to advocate for a “call to action,” “educational initiatives,” “alliances with other organizations,” “leadership,” “evidence-based advances,” “special responsibility,” and “radical measures” to spread the word that climate change poses a threat to public health, including mental health,” according to the September 7 issue of Psychiatric News.

Well, the climate changes every day and every minute, and each square centimeter of the earth has a different climate.  This could be proven by sticking a thermometer in the ground or hanging it in a tree or dunking it in an ocean.  Where in this scenario is the climate not changing? This simplistic grasp of science is too easy for the “climate scientists” to comprehend.

The fundamental precepts of modern “science” require hypotheses that can be tested, according to the “scientific method.”  This method requires inclusion of a “control group,” which is identical to the test group but without the experimental intervention.  It also requires that the experiment must reduce variables to one, so that the test is high in selectivity and specificity.  That is, the test must measure what you want to measure (selectivity) and only that variable (specificity).

The notion that the climate is changing and that man is the cause, contains two hypotheses, neither of which is testable under the scientific method.  This makes it “political science,” which employs its own methods.

It is at least as valid for me to claim the global warmists are extending summer temperatures through misguided thought forms.  I’m not the first or only person to claim man can and does influence the weather through thought.  This was the province of the shaman in some tribal cultures, and the premise behind Native American rain dances, and of mystics and seers around the world.

The idea of “thought forms” was popularized in the book Thought Forms: A Record of Clairvoyant Investigation by Annie Besant and CW Leadbetter, of the Theosophical Society, in 1901.  The book asserted that people’s thoughts, experiences, emotions, and music have an  ethereal substance that can be perceived by the psychically attuned.  The book contained paintings of thoughts related to devotion and devotion sacrifice, three types of anger, three types of love (undirected, directed, and grasping) and jealousy, intellect and ambition. The authors claimed that the quality of a person’s thought influences his life experience and can affect other people.  The book had a strong influence on modern art and literature.  Kandinsky, Yeats, TS Eliot, Malevich and Mondrain, especially, were charmed by Theosophy.  Wikipedia notes that Annie Besant and CW Leadbetter played a pivotal role in shaping the globalized culture of East-West mysticism and rationalism, sound and sight.

While the book refers specifically to individual thought forms, I’ve also read and believe there are group thought forms, too, akin to what psychiatrist Carl Jung called “archetypes,” “the collective unconscious,” or universal symbols.  It could be argued that the terms “most people” or “society,” or even “we” refer to a type of mass mind thought form, the generally accepted notion of what humanity as a whole is like, what it believes, or how it thinks.  Perhaps television or the mass media reflect the mass mind thought form and its assumptions.

It’s never clear how those who refer to “most people” arrive at their characterizations.  I know of no one who has interviewed “most people,” yet these terms slide easily off lips and are just as easily accepted.  Who are these nameless, faceless, creatures so easily packaged into stereotypes such as “liberal,” “conservative,” “black,” “white,” and all the labels “we” use to lump individuals together in so much featureless protoplasm?

The “scientists” only acknowledge what they can perceive with the five senses they admit to, or with sense-extenders, like microscopes or spectroscopy.  They have yet to prove life exists, or that the mind exists, and they have yet to prove the universe has only three dimensions.

If the mind exists, I would dearly love to see the “climate scientists” use theirs to bring fall weather to my back yard.

Placebo and Qi

An article in the September 3-9, 2018 issue of Time magazine, “Placebo’s New Power,” describes instances of people knowingly taking placebos and getting relief.  These “honest placebos” were administered in a study of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients.  One patient, whose IBS symptoms improved dramatically during the study, later found her symptoms recurred.  She decided to continue the placebo treatments at the researcher’s private clinic and achieved remission again.

Overall, results were so encouraging in this Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center study that the National Institute of Health has awarded the research team a $2.5 million grant to replicate the study.

Placebos have been around since time immemorial, used to advantage in numerous conditions.  Their use is predicated on the belief that a patient’s faith in the treatment has a healing effect.  Formal pharmaceutical studies in Western medicine measure a presumed new drug’s effects against placebo to determine whether it will work on a large scale.  In Western medicine, generally, the “placebo effect” is disparaged, as though there is something “un-scientific” about it.

The Time article speculates about why people who know they are taking fake pills get better.  It notes patients appreciate doctors who validate their suffering.  They fare better with doctors they perceive as warm and competent.  We are told that confidence in “medical industry leaders” in the US has plunged to 34%, from 73% in 1966.

To me, this is another example of Western medicine taking credit for applying common sense.  Not once does the article mention such old-fashioned terms as “bedside manner,” which cannot be measured or billed for in the codified, prioritized list of “evidence-based” protocols that wants to squeeze patients into convenient, binary-based boxes.

In Western medicine, the patient is seen as a relatively passive recipient of medical care.  The doctor, treatments, and pills act upon the patient, with the external agent believed to effect the healing.

In contrast, Oriental medicine perceives the body is its own healing agent, with its own homeostatic wisdom, presumed to want healing, with the practitioner a partner and participant in the process.  Belief in the treatment, and in the practitioner’s competence, are valuable and acknowledged aids in the healing process.  Far from being “placebo,” the partnership between patient and clinician becomes an integral component of the treatment goal.

A fundamental difference between Oriental and Western medicine involves “qi,” (also spelled “chi”) or “life force.” In Oriental philosophy and medicine, “qi” pervades all things, and is crucial to life. When the body’s “qi” is depleted, restricted, or out of balance, it leads to trouble.  Disharmonies begin on a spiritual level, then become increasingly “dense,” manifesting as intellectual, emotional, and finally physical levels.  Practices like acupuncture rely on stimulating or balancing qi along specific energy channels called “meridians.”

There’s a mistaken belief in the West that we know more than we do about the body.  While we point to specific brain chemicals, such as neurotransmitters serotonin or acetylcholine, these are only two of perhaps thousands of brain messengers that interact in a constant dynamic.  The brain is only one organ in an equally complex body, with signals going back and forth at lightning-fast speed.  Western science presumes the body is like a machine, but the mechanical construct of Western medicine gives no credit to life.

For me to say Western medicine is backwards, that the practice of dehumanizing patients under mechanical models works against health, may sound extreme.  Certainly the most expensive “health care industry” in the world deserves more respect, more funding, and more of our life blood.  But I suspect the opposite, that the commercialization and institutionalization of the “health care industry” has devitalized the system in the name of high-tech, low-yield placebos that only help if you believe they work, and often not even then.

 

Monsanto and Bayer Merged

The following is re-blogged from Justice4Poland.com, a good site for updates on the chemicals and pharmaceutical industries.

June 7, 2018 GMO Fact Check Bayer’s buyout of the biotech giant will allow Monsanto to hide in the shadows. Action Alert! Bayer, the German pharmaceutical company, is wrapping up a $63 billion dollar purchase of Monsanto, and has said that it will retire Monsanto’s name. It will become impossible to know which products are […]

via Monsanto is Finally Gone…But Not in a Good Way — Justice4Poland.com

Waste Not . . .

The plastics industry is the third largest manufacturing industry in the United States.  In fact, the US hosts half of the world’s top fifty plastics manufacturing companies.  Sales in 2014 were over $961 billion, with the US holding a sizable trade surplus in plastics.  Demand continues to rise, with consumption between 2011 and 2012 going up 5.7 percent.

Since its basic component is mineral oil, plastic is considered a petrochemical.  Some of the largest plastics manufacturers are household names in the US, including Exxon Mobil, Dow Chemicals, and Chevron Phillips.

In developed countries like the US, a third of plastics goes into packaging.  Another third is used in buildings, such as pipes, plumbing, and vinyl siding.  Other uses include toys, furniture, cars, and medical equipment, among other things.

Thanks to the fracking boom, the US is now one of the cheapest places in the world to manufacture plastics.  The chemical industry plans to spend $185 billion in the next few years to expand its capacity.  Four new plastics plants were slated to begin operations in the US in 2017.

At the same time, the US’ main export to China is—or has been—trash, including plastic trash.  It is a multi-billion dollar industry.  Since the 1980’s China has been the world’s largest importer of waste.  By 2012 56% of global exported plastic waste ended up in China, but lack of oversight led to major environmental and health problems.  Also, China’s middle class has started discarding enough waste so that the Chinese no longer need imported garbage. So, as of January 1, 2018, China has imposed a ban on imported waste.

According to the New York Times of January 11, 2018, “Plastics Pile Up as China Refuses to Take the West’s Recycling.”  According to the article, Canada, Ireland, Germany, Britain, and Hong Kong have reported backups in their waste.  Steve Frank, of Pioneer Recycling in Oregon is looking to export to Indonesia, India, Vietnam, and Malaysia.  In Britain, Jacqueline O’Donovan of O’Donovan Waste Disposal also exports and reports huge bottlenecks.  China’s ban covers 24 kinds of solid waste and sets new limits on impurities.  China notified the WTO last year it would ban some imports because of contaminants, including hazardous materials.

Germany leads the world in recycling, at 70%.  Americans generate 4.4 pounds per person per day of trash, and generate the most waste in the world, but Americans only recycle 34% of waste and only 9.5% of plastic.  Fifteen percent is burned for electricity and/or heat.  About one-third is exported, and until the ban began, half of that went to China.  The remainder goes to landfill.  It is estimated that it takes 500 years for plastic to break down.  As it does, it leaches toxic components into the ground.  But many US landfill sites are old and fast reaching capacity.

China has the highest carbon emissions in the world, as of 2011, but it also has the largest population.  The United States (third in population), Russia and India (second in population) are the next largest carbon emitters.  Emissions have grown faster than population since 1950.  Since 2000, emissions have grown twice as fast as population.

China, which has a longstanding problem with pollution, is making comprehensive efforts to improve its air and water quality.  Beijing has started promoting green technology, including waste-to-energy incineration.  With WTE, China’s stated priority is trash disposal rather than energy production.

Waste-to-energy (WTE) is a process by which trash is burned to generate electricity, steam, or both.  According to Wikipedia, the first waste incinerator was built in the United Kingdom in 1874.  The first in the US came on line in 1885 on Governor’s Island, New York.  Burning reduces original waste volume by 90-95%. The plants produce electric efficiencies of 14-28%.  Or, water is boiled to power steam generators.  Co-generation can increase efficiency to 80%.

WTE must meet strict emission requirements for nitrous oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2), heavy metals and dioxins, based on worldwide emissions standards set by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an inter-governmental economic organization with 35 member countries, founded in 1961.

The plants may emit low levels of particulates, heavy metals, trace dioxin, and acid gas.  There’s also toxic fly ash (which requires hazardous waste disposal installation) and incinerator bottom ash, which must be reused properly.  Lime scrubbers reduce acid gas.  Electrostatic precipitators, fabric filters, reactors and catalysts are also used.  In WTE, filters capture mercury and lead. However, even controls can’t eliminate all the dioxin, according to some claimants.

Proponents say the plants emit the same amount of nitrous oxide as coal-fired plants and have the same requirements, but WTE plants emit fewer particulates than coal.

Some European countries burn half of their waste.  Cost for the facilities can be prohibitive, at up to $1 billion.  There are 87 operational WTE facilities in the US, 431 in Europe, and 330-439 in China, depending on the internet source.* Japan is the biggest user of WTE in the world.  It burns 40 million tons of municipal solid waste annually.

Because Germans generate so little waste, the country’s WTE plants lack enough trash to supply its electricity generators.  It imports trash from the UK, Italy, and Switzerland.  Sweden imports trash, too.

The largest waste-to-energy plant in the world is currently under construction in Shenzhen, China, but protesters have succeeded in getting a delay in the project.  Babcock and Wilcox Voland of Denmark has the $40 million contract to design a 168 megawatt boiler that will consume 5600 tons/day of trash.  The roof is to be covered with solar panels.  It is expected to recover 95% of water and 90% of metals, with slag recycled as gravel.  Flue gas is expected to be 95-99% clean.  An even larger WTE plant is being planned in Dubai, capital of the United Arab Emirates, with construction scheduled to begin later in 2018.  It is projected to produce 185 megawatts.

The EPA says the US sent 33.66 million tons of waste for conversion to energy in 2013.  Fifty percent of facilities are privately owned, with Covanta Energy and Wheelabrator Labs the largest.  Most produce electricity only, and 25% produce electricity and stream.  A handful produce only steam.  Twelve states have operating WTE plants.  Florida has the most, at twelve, then New York (10), Massachusetts (7), Pennsylvania and Connecticut (6 each), Virginia and Delaware (5 each).  California, Maryland, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Maine have three.

The largest WTE facilities in the US produce over 90 megawatts of electricity and consume around 3000 tons/day of waste.  They each serve around one million people.

In the US, the first WTE plant in 20 years opened in Florida in 2015.  It consumes 3000 tons/day of waste and cost $670 million.  The Palm Beach Renewable Energy Facility in West Palm Beach, Florida is publicly owned by the Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach, County and operated by Babcock and Wilcox, an international firm out of Denmark.  It is a mass burn facility and produces 95 megawatts. Advocates stress the idea that waste is a resource.

However, the new plant is not getting the loads it expected.  The county already had a WTE plant, in operation since 1989.  There was a fear that landfill would reach capacity around 2022-2023, so the new plant received little public resistance.  There are substantial controls on emissions.  Emission requirements allow for 110 pounds of mercury/year.  The price of the electricity is competitive.  They test for the toxicity of the ash.

An argument against incinerators is that they compete with recycling. Recycling has increased three-fold over the 1980s.  Still, it’s cheaper to make new paper than to recycle, and China’s new ban on trash imports includes mixed paper.

There is a $1 billion facility planned for Baltimore, but it is meeting with public resistance.  Opponents object to emissions so close to a school and blame WTE facilities in Detroit and Harrisburg, PA for those cities’ bankruptcies.  However, WTE industry representatives claim that Harrisburg continued to refinance its facility and to pull cash out for the general fund.  The cost went from $15 to $240 million.  The plant sold for $130 million.

The trajectory of plastics from production to disposal presents a growing problem worldwide, including in the oceans, where huge “gyres,” of floating debris have formed in five separate locations.  The best known is the “Great Pacific Garbage Dump,” which some say is at least the size of Texas.  If there were ever an industry looking for jobs, the pollution control industry would be one of them.

* A problem with internet research is that data is often old, sometimes without posted dates. Some is promotional (so possibly biased), often superficial, and hard to verity.

A Stinky Subject

This isn’t about sex, murder, war, politics, or Donald Trump, so if that’s all that interests you, you may as well stop reading now.  It’s about landfill gas recapture and utilization, a subject that makes my engineering friends yawn but fascinates me.

It links my interests in environmental toxins, garbage disposal, and multi-purpose innovation to address commonly acknowledged problems.  While the political scientists debate whether the Earth is undergoing “climate change” and, if so, whether humankind is causing it, I’m looking at litter in the streets; noting the extraordinary growth of plastic and single use packaging; and throwing away heaps of junk mail in post office recycling bins.  At least the PO has recycling bins, a forward shift in consciousness, according to me, within the past ten years.  Not only does the post office subsidize this mountain of murdered trees by reduced rates, but my various alma maters and professional organizations are the worst perpetrators of this global plot to deforest the planet and speed up the global warming agenda.  One would think the ivory-tower elitists would be the first to rail against this glut of self-serving propaganda, but alas, they can’t afford to support their tenured positions and building campaigns with mere tuitions.  They must perpetually dun their graduates—and their graduates’ offspring—for money, if only to prove how cost-ineffective and eco-unfriendly they are.

So, rather than spend money supporting those who can’t support themselves, I choose to educate myself without cost in ways to reduce all my problems and the world’s problems at the same time.  A tall order, perhaps, and maybe a futile one, considering the stinky subject of landfill.  Nobody wants to touch it, unless, of course they can get government funding.

To get government funding, one is obliged to package the idea in terms that make the government look good.  For instance, did you know the United States has 2000 regulated landfills, the most in the world?  By 2006, the US generated 413 million tons of municipal solid waste, and 64% went into landfill.  70 percent of this was composed of food, paper, and corrugated cardboard, and 15 percent was of petrochemicals, mostly plastic.

Biogas, including carbon dioxide and methane, are emitted from decomposition of organic materials in landfill.  Aerobic decomposition of waste generally leads to the production of carbon dioxide (CO2), and anaerobic decomposition produces methane (CH4). Methane is also known as natural gas. MSW (municipal solid waste) landfill gas is comprised of 45-60% methane and 40-60% CO2.

Methane is believed to be at least 24 times more potent than carbon dioxide in its global warming effects.  About 50 million tons of methane are generated annually by municipal solid waste, but only 5 million tons are captured.

Landfills generate a maximum of methane at five years, then the amount begins to decline.  Landfill gas utilization is a process by which methane is captured and used to generate electricity or heat, or upgraded for inclusion in commercial natural gas products.  In 2006, there were 325 landfills in the US that collected biogas, up from 231 in 1999.  California had the most:  65 landfill gas facilities, followed by Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania.  In 2001, there were 955 landfills that recovered biogas, with the most in the United States, followed by Germany and the United Kingdom.  In the United Kingdom, the number of facilities went from 329 in 2005 to 519 in 2009.

There are two methods for capture of methane from landfill, closed and open capture.  Closed capture refers to gas extraction from landfills that have been closed and can be capped.  It is considered more efficient than capture from open landfills, at 84% and 67% respectively.  Methods for capture including drilling wells either vertically or horizontally.  Equipment needed for utilization depends on the size of the landfill.  Smaller facilities can employ reciprocating engines; medium-sized facilities can use turbines; and steam cycles are used for the largest deposits.

General Motors has significantly reduced its energy costs by using landfill gas to power some of its production facilities.  As of August, 2016, the General Motors Orion plant in the Orion Township of Michigan boasted that landfill gas was supplying 54% of its electricity.  The gas comes from two open landfills nearby, owned by Waste Management and Republic Services, respectively.  The GM plant also has a 350 kW solar array.

There are incentives from the Treasury Department, Department of Energy, the Agriculture Department, and the Department of Commerce for landfill gas extraction.  Landfill gas is considered a renewable form of energy.  The US EPA operates a landfill Methane Outreach Program.

Opponents of landfill gas utilization include such organizations as the Energy Justice Network, which claims that landfill gas has contaminants that are either inherently toxic or combine into toxic substances when burned.  Although “non-methane organic compounds” (NMOCs) comprise less than one percent of landfill gas, there are also non-organic toxic substances, such as mercury and tritium, in minute amounts.  Also, when halogens–like chlorine, fluorine, and bromine– are combusted with hydrocarbons, they can produce dioxins and furans, some of the most toxic substances known.  While other sources state that a burning temperature of 850 degrees centigrade can destroy dioxins, Energy Justice Network claims these can be re-formed in the cooling process.

At the same time, Energy Justice Network admits that methane is responsible for 10.6 percent of global warming from US human sources, with 35.8 percent of this from landfill gas.  It also claims that if landfill gas is to be utilized for energy, boilers offer the safest mode, with turbines, then internal combustion engines less desirable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October, 2007 Memories

 

In October, 2007, I had just retired my state medical and DEA licenses.  The practice of medicine was ruining my health and attitude.  It had become too hostile and dangerous for this wimp of a psychiatrist.

I spent the next few months reading.  These journal entries are the result.

MY GRANDFATHER’S SON, CLARENCE THOMAS, 2007
Monday, October 1, 2007 – I went to B&N hoping to buy a copy of Clarence Thomas’ book, My Grandfather’s Son, which comes out today.  Jonathan, my B&N employee friend – the coin-collector customer-service-book-orderer, a 20’s something kid who agrees with me so is very intelligent – told me B&N only ordered 12 copies of the book.  Corporate B&N in New York “didn’t know Clarence Thomas was from Savannah.”

Well, Jonathan, you and I both know that’s a lie, but we’ll pretend they don’t want to undersell his book in his home town.  He’s much too credible.

Sure enough, B&N’s 12 copies sold out in about ten minutes.  They had to rush order 40 more copies.  Should be here in 2-3 days.  400 more copies would be more cost-effective.  They can save on UPS shipments.

Apparently B&N’s entire marketing department missed the 60 Minutes interview with Thomas last night in advance of this pub date.  60 Minutes interviewed him right here in Savannah.

Is B&N trying to lose money?  I would sell its stock real quick-like if I had it, and I would buy copies of Thomas’ book, instead, from another distributor.  What is B&N trying to hide?

Thus do I think like a free market capitalist.

THE ROBBER BARONS, MATTHEW JOSEPHSON, 1934

Tuesday, October 2, 2007 – I’m reading in The Robber Barons, about Jay Gould, the money churner and asset plunderer par excellence.  Gould was a master manipulator, but anyone who refused to play his games could have stopped him.  He used Vanderbilt’s and others’ spite towards him to play out his line, then reeled in the big fish over and over.  How many times do people bite before their mouths are full of holes and they are still starving?

I’m getting an explosion of awareness regarding American history.  Why has this become my latest passion?

I see the patterns set in motion long ago, in the history of human beings as we remember them, and in America.

The American history most astounds me.  Lincoln essentially bought political favoritism by giving the West, the Louisiana Purchase, away to friends, political donors, and corporate railroad interests.  Thus did he finance his war on the South.

I’m seeing Lincoln and Wilson as ego-driven megalomaniacs, not the great liberators their handlers claimed.  They got us into two of the bloodiest wars to date, and the third great liberator, Roosevelt, got us into World War II.

I haven’t appreciated the intensity of my feelings for peace.  What I’ve believed was my own violent nature is merely the reflection of a world so foreign to me that I had to identify with it to understand it.  Once identified, I can forgive it, or so I hope.

Vis a vis The Robber Barons, I don’t understand sleazy business practices.  I read, astounded that taxpayers have allowed these people to get away with such cruel dishonesty for so long.  We have the veneer of civilization, but the viciousness has only changed garments and venue in time.

Jay Gould must be the idol of today’s Wall Street.  This is why product quality has plummeted.  Gould, et al. paid more attention to stocks than to managing tangible assets, and today’s brokers are doing the same.  They have even less connection with the corporations’ tangible products than before.  They deal only in electronic stock certificates, used in place of currency for the insiders.  It’s a method for selling other people’s and taxpayers’ productivity.  The companies’ products and services are only excuses for selling stock and feathering government pension and benefit nests.

Through all these wars and contests, who has benefitted, I wonder, as I sit in my lofty 21st century perspective.  I have the advantage of history to guide me.  For all of recorded history, war and fighting don’t work.  The fruits of victory are spoiled by the fighting.

ROBBING HOOD

Monday, October 8, 2007 – When you rob from the perceived rich to give to the perceived poor, you are still a thief.  You set up a race to the bottom, because everyone vies to be the best thief.

What happens when everyone is equally poor?  Leadership loses its relevance, and it’s every man for himself, unless he can learn to cooperate with those around him.  This is genuine leadership.

Now government robs from the poor to give to the rich.  This is easily camouflaged, because there are so many more poor people than rich people.  Cumulatively, poor people consume much more food, energy, clothes, and other tangible products and pay more in taxes than the rich, who reap the bulk of the profits from taxpayer-funded infrastructure.

BURNED-AT-THE-STAKE LIFE

Tuesday, October 9, 2007 – I’ve been thinking about my friends’ attitudes, which they revealed over the years I went the psychiatry route.  They seemed to think I defected.  I was merely exploring my own consciousness through the medical model.  They hurt my feelings most by making no effort to understand my point of view or to give me credit for the history we shared.

They seemed so afraid I would abandon them that they pushed me away.  I had to go deep inside myself to find companionship.  Here I make friends of ghosts, memories, my cat, plants, and the few people who accept me at face value or who must deal with me.

I feel like a witch appearing to burn at the stake, shackles melting in the heat, but who emerges triumphantly from the blaze.

“I’m only waiting for the chains to melt, Assholes, then we’ll see who can take the heat.”

The witch got a little burned in the chastening, admittedly, but she’s walking, talking, and breathing fire.  She cackles.

Smell that?  They piled hemp on the logs, this time, so the burning was more enjoyable.

I have internalized the sacrificial heat, contained and controlled it, practicing using the dragon’s fire to advantage.  Sort of.  Burned the tips of my first and second fingers the other day.

However, burning witches is a waste of time and resources, and it distracts everyone from doing anything useful.  It pollutes the air and puts everyone in a bad mood.

bkswildrey1927

 

THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY, THORNTON WILDER, 1927

Saturday, October 13, 2007 – I started one of Mama’s books, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, by Thornton Wilder.  Published and printed in 1927, the book has thick pages, almost like cardboard.  I have avoided it, thinking it a war novel, but I was wrong.  It’s about a 100-plus-year-old, hand-made bridge across a deep gorge between Lima and Cusco, Peru.  Set in 1714, it tells the imagined lives of the five people who fell to their deaths when the bridge finally gave way.  I’ve read about Dona Maria, the sad, alcoholic, rich mother, whose adored daughter had repudiated her, married a rich patron of the Spanish court, and moved to Spain.

Now, I’m reading about Esteban, whose identical twin brother, Manuel, died, leaving him half alive and desolate.

THE CREATURE FROM JEKYLL ISLAND:   A SECOND LOOK AT THE FEDERAL RESERVE, G. EDWARD GRIFFIN, 1991-2007

Saturday, October 13, 2007 –  So far, The Creature from Jekyll Island is astounding.  It is so clear, concise, well researched and documented, reasonable, and logical that I’m amazed it hasn’t made a larger splash.  Perhaps the time wasn’t right.  It’s a sleeper and about to come into its own.

Griffin writes about the history of money and defines terms.  He mentions tobacco as commodity money. So are shrimp, eggs, and any food, and that’s the bottom line.

He discusses the gold standard, says there were only about three examples of “honest” money in the world:  Ancient Greece, the Byzantine Empire – which lasted 800 years on the gold standard – a bank in Germany before Napoleon plundered it, and maybe one in Amsterdam.

By “honest money” Griffin means money which is 100% backed by solid deposits, like gold.  He says fractional reserve banking, which is lending more money than you have in deposits, against deposits that already belong to someone, is dishonest, because the banks have no right to do that.  Why have a bank store your money if it’s not safe there?  If I want to lend money, I can do it and keep the interest.

Fractional money eventually disintegrates into fiat money.  This usually seems to happen to finance wars.  The author doesn’t specifically state the latter, at least not yet.  He says fiat money has zero percent backing, and that’s what the US dollar has become, fiat money.

Seems funny in light of all the political debate about international currency.  I don’t know if any international currencies are backed by gold or silver, so they are all equally worthless, according to Mr. Griffin.

SCIENTIFIC METHOD

Tuesday, October 16, 2007 – We all know quantum theory turns the “scientific method” on its ear. If it works in sub-atomic physics, it works in life, because we are all composed of those electrons they study.

Now, if the experimenter influences outcome by desire or expectation, there is no way the scientific method can be valid.  Experiment design alone can determine outcome, as any drug study shows.

Now that we’ve established that the “scientific method” is a crock, a sacred cow that needs to be broiled and served up as steaks, for the mastication and nourishment of truly progressive science, we introduce the quantum leap from the scientific method, which is the fact that human beings, by the power of their will, have the ability to influence destiny!

DIAGNOSIS:  TESTOSTERONE POISONING

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Genetics:  A sex-linked condition, like hemophilia

Epidemiology:  Found almost exclusively in males

Presentations:

Sadistic type:  Bullies

Masochistic type: Cons

Other:  Disputed

Treatments (Experimental):

Death: Not politically correct

Funded by costs

Not economically sound

Prison camps:  A better idea, but still must house and feed

Not economically sound

Castration:  The nation is almost equally divided on this one.  A growing contingent claims testosterone poisoning is a medical illness, with castration the treatment of choice, worthy of insurance funding.  It is believed Leydig and other testicular cells could be recycled into pill form and scientific research.  Many female scientists have already applied for research funding.  A particularly elated female researcher said no man has had the balls to apply, so the women have an open field on government contracts.

THE RAIN FALLS ON ALL

Friday, October 19, 2007 – I dyed fabrics last night, noticing how cotton or silk, sewed with polyester thread, doesn’t dye right, because the polyester doesn’t absorb dye.  It also melts at lower temperatures, which makes garments with polyester thread hard to iron.

As I do things like this, I think about world politics, and how they affect daily life.  We are being socially engineered to use man-made products in lieu of natural ones, because our textile mills and cotton are going to China.   Meanwhile, China exports acrylic – a petroleum product – to the US, complete with the overhead of packaging, transportation, import and export taxes, and distribution.  Machine-made polyester is considered a cheaper improvement, but it doesn’t wear or last like natural fibers.  To me, plastic clothes reflect America’s cheap, plastic attitudes.

It’s raining.  The rain is natural and impartial.  Governments come and go, but the rain falls on them all.

ON MEDICAL LICENSE RETIREMENT

Monday, October 22, 2007 – Other people are more upset than I am about retiring my medical licenses.  This shows how over-rated the license is.  Once I explain my rationale, no one challenges it. I’m becoming convinced this is the most powerful statement – nay, indictment possible regarding the health scare/snare racket.  If the system has become so bad that I am afraid to practice within it, that must be truly scary, indeed.

From my perspective, malpractice has become entrenched, subsidized, mandated, and legislated to the point where the risk to me is too great to continue.  Only by retiring my medical licenses do I make my stance definitive, direct, and consistent with my beliefs.

DIEBOLD

Monday, October 22, 2007 – My psychodrama continues.  I removed stuff from the safety deposit box today and put it in a safer place than bank with a Diebold key.  It makes me nervous that Diebold has the contract on voting machines, bank safety deposit boxes, and bank ATM’s.   Call me paranoid.  No, it’s not a conspiracy.  Anyone can buy Diebold stock, I suppose.  I should check it out.

THE “CONSPIRACY THEORY” AND LIZARD WISDOM

Monday, October 22, 2007 – People like Hillary Clinton scoff at “the conspiracy theory.”  My sister mentioned it today.  It is they who imagine such grandiosity.  I merely think the politicos’ behavior is stupid and counterproductive.  That there are so many people being stupid, incompetent, paranoid, dangerous, and dishonest doesn’t necessarily make it a conspiracy.  It merely means the planet is overrun with idiots.

This is something lizards understand.  On my way to run errands, I had a conversation with a lizard on my back door.  He was too close to the hinge for my comfort.  I stopped to caution him – her, I think, although she was large.  I told her she needs to be more careful.  I mean well, but I’m clumsy, and when I get agitated, I’m dangerous.  I’m also noisy, so she needs to stay out of my way if she doesn’t want to get hurt.  I watched her listen.  She tilted her head this way and that, eyeing me from different angles, while spread getaway style along the bottom edge of a step.  My head was sideways, watching her, studying the wide blue eye shadow that ringed her eye.  Such wisdom in animals’ eyes, if you look closely.

According to the World Book encyclopedia (2005), lizards are 65 million years old.  Cockroaches are 250 million, birds 213 million, cats 55 million, dogs 34 million, man two million years old.

I told the lizard this hanging out on back doors is a bad idea. I killed one of her relatives by accident the other day. He got caught in the screen flange.  It devastated me, because I figure these lizards are Lizardo’s relatives and descendants, and they are watching out for me.

As I got in the car, I saw a second, smaller lizard on the porch, also watching me.  I hope he/she was listening.

Of course they were.  That’s how they have survived so long.

Then, as I leave, I startle three deer in the woods, a doe and two fawns.  They stopped to watch me, and I told them how much I love them.  It worries me that Carol is clearing out so much of the underbrush, because the deer have fewer and fewer places to hide.

LET ‘EM FAIL

Wednesday, October 31, 2007 – Status post a trip to Cutter’s Point Coffee, where I read a Wall Street Journal scarfed from an outside table.  I’d also purchased the USA Today and Savannah Morning News from the news boxes in front of CVS/Piggly Wiggly, so I was saturated with more current events than I knew what to do with.

The Fed meets today, and Wall Street is all aflutter.  The presumed crisis is most amusing to me.  These idiots will not see that it is not my crisis but theirs.

What they perceive is a crisis, I see as blessed relief from Yankee oppression and aggression.  Let the markets fail.  It’s high time they did.  Get outside before the skyscrapers collapse.  The penthouses have the farthest to fall.

What is Truth? What is Real?

DSC02013

Climate change?  Does it matter?   The storm surge from Hurricane Irma flooded my crawl space, water heater, and outside air conditioner, and I’m still cleaning up the debris.  kco091117 

Information.  Misinformation.  Disinformation.  News.  Fake News.  Opinion.  Generalization.  Prediction.   Propaganda.  Lies.  Advertising.  Gossip.  Second guesses. Stereotypes.  Assumptions.

I feel overwhelmed by the glut of demands on attention and allegiance.  What to believe?  What not to believe?   To believe everything and nothing at the same time?  To trust my own judgment or to doubt?  I long for escape, to screen it all out, to hear only the sounds of birds and wind through the trees, to see only the clouds floating by or the filigree of Spanish moss.  Nature speaks her own language, full of mystery, but without hypocrisy.

Consensual science says the climate is changing, and it’s man’s fault.  “Climate deniers,” some with the same education and backgrounds, say the whole idea is a hoax.

The public and the media seem obsessed with the president of the United States, as if he alone has the power to bring on the Apocalypse.

I look at my immediate, media-avoidant home and see the reality of today’s chores awaiting me. The frenzy that has gripped the world in fear of terrorism, Congressional bickering, North Korea, “climate change,” the latest hurricane, and what gaffe the “Orange Tweet” has committed now. . . all seem far away, surreal, and not my concern.

My “scientific inquiry” has a more practical bent.  How to repair the broken handle on my favorite plastic thermal mug, so that it will hold.  Scientific experiment number one only worked a few days.  Scientific experiment number two added rubber bands to hold the handle while epoxy dried.

DSC02016

The word “science” comes from the Latin, “sciere,” “to know,”  but I contend knowledge is forever evolving and changing, based on new data, new perspectives. Lately, I’ve had to accept that much of what I thought I knew no longer applies.  Not only that, I’ve found those who speak with the most authority often believe they know more than they do.  Are they lying?  Not if they believe they know.  Who knows?

They say “knowledge is power.”  I’ve found knowledge also brings the responsibility for decisions about what to do with it.  Each action or non-action leads to unforeseen probabilities.  We can never know the paths not taken.

Lately, I’ve had to question everything I’ve been taught, especially within the field of medicine, but also regarding history and politics.  While they may seem to be different areas of concern, they have merged as two inextricably linked paradigms regarding the human body and mind, as they relate to the greater social family of humanity.

I feel a greater need to understand than to know.  To understand is eventually to love, according to one of my favorite philosophers.  To believe I “know” is an exercise in hubris, maybe, and this is where official “science” and I part ways.  How do you know you know?

Maybe I’m psychic.  Maybe I’m psychotic.  Maybe there’s no difference, from an internal perspective.  I’ve always relied on what I call a “vibrational perception” that tries to attune to “energy fields” of emotion:  the frenetic human angst in the city, the mood of a room, the quality of the sounds in the atmosphere, the body language of someone I’ve unwittingly offended.  I feel things I can’t verify.  I dream of things—usually minor things—before they happen.  I believe I live many lives, not in a sequential way, but in a group of parallel lives in a “spacious present” where “bleed throughs” regularly occur.  I believe time is an illusion, so we are all essentially immortal, thrust together in multiple contexts until we figure out how to get along.  I believe ghosts talk to me, although I’ve never seen one.  I feel them in my “vibe space.”  They like to mess with me.

I can’t “prove” any of this, nor do I care to try. Maybe it’s imagination, but imagination gives things their own validity. I still have a physical body in the physical world we breathing human beings agree exists, the “reality” that depends on physical senses for information.

I contend there is no objective reality, that we are all subjective, with unique perspectives, experiences, orientations.  I believe life is universal and provides the energy of the cosmos.  Some people call it god.  Some call it “qi.”  Some may not think of it at all.

I read today that many people feel a strong need to be “right.”  They screen out conflicting evidence and dig their heels into defending ossified conclusions.  That was my father’s way.  He was a proud “rational scientist,” scornful of the “emotional irrationality” of women, generally, and my mother, specifically.  To be wrong around him was a character flaw, never to be lived down, so it became an exercise in pride never to admit error.  Ghosts don’t exist, he claimed, until he became one, witnessed by a friend of science, after he died.

So who really knows?  Maybe we’re in the throes of a massive paradigm shift, in which the desire to understand begins to surpass the futile attempt to know.  I don’t believe the future is fixed or predictable.  There are many probable futures, I hope, but the present is a good place to start.