Archive for June, 2008

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June 29, 2008

That the warrior survived the arrow’s strike for even a short time was remarkable. The triple-barbed arrowhead, probably launched by an opponent on horseback, shattered bone below his right eye and lodged firmly in his flesh.

The injury wasn’t the man’s first brush with death. In his youth he had survived a glancing sword blow that fractured the back of his skull. This injury was different. The man was probably begging for death, says Michael Schultz, a paleopathologist at the University of Göttingen. Holding the victim’s skull in one hand and a replica of the deadly arrow in the other, Schultz paints a picture of a crude operation that took place on the steppes of Siberia 2,600 years ago.

“The man was crying, ‘Help me,’” Schultz– says. Thin cuts on the bone show how his companions cut away his cheek, then used a small saw to remove pieces of bone, but to no avail. Pointing to a crack in the skull, he describes the next agonizing step: An ancient surgeon smashed into the bone with a chisel in a final, futile effort to free the arrowhead. “Hours or a day later, the man died,” Schultz says. “It was torture.” The slain warrior’s remains were found in 2003, buried with those of 40 others in a massive kurgan, or grave mound, in southern Siberia at a site that archaeologists call Arzhan 2.

To find out more about the lives and deaths of these ancient people, Schultz has spent years teasing out the secrets of their bones, using techniques like those employed at crime scenes. In April he announced the results of his research on the wounded warrior. His body, Schultz says, bore some of the earliest evidence of battlefield surgery. (Prior to this announcement, in October 2007, Schultz had reported a finding on a prince buried at the center of the Arzhan 2 mound. Using a scanning electron microscope, Schultz found signs of prostate cancer in the prince’s skeleton. This is the earliest documentation of the disease.)

The Arzhan 2 skeletons, which belong to warrior-nomads the ancient Greeks called Scythians, are part of a spectacular series of finds in remote sites in central Asia. One of the discoveries dates back to the 1940s when mummies were found in the Altai Mountains, which run through Siberia and Mongolia. Later, after the fall of the Soviet Union, when some of the sites became more accessible for excavation, the pace of Scythian-related discoveries picked up. The warrior skeleton Schultz is talking about, for example, was found on a plain not far from the 1940s discovery. More recently, other well-preserved mummies—not skeletons—have been found at altitudes of 8,000 feet in the valleys of the Altai Mountains. Still other discoveries have been made on the coast of the Black Sea and the edge of China. Together, the evidence illuminates aspects of the Scythians’ unusual culture, from tattooing warriors to creating intricate metalwork.

Never constituting an empire, the Scythians were a network of culturally similar tribes that ranged from Siberia to Egypt almost 3,000 years ago and faded away around A.D. 100. The Greek historian Herodotus describes the Scythians as murderous nomads. As for how the Scythians—who did not have a written language—perceived themselves, only their artifacts and human remains are left to speak for them.
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For Hermann Parzinger, the 49-year-old German archaeologist who excavated the tombs of the wounded warrior and the cancerous prince, the Scythians have been an obsession. Even so, he and his Russian colleague Konstantin Chugonov were surprised to find that the grave mound contained the bodies of 26 men and women, most of them apparently executed to follow the ruler into the afterlife. One woman’s skull had been pierced four times with a war pick; another man’s skull still had splinters in it from the wooden club used to kill him. The skeletons of 14 horses were arranged in the grave. More impressive was the discovery of 5,600 gold objects, including an intricate necklace weighing three pounds and a cloak studded with 2,500 small gold panthers.

After the Arzhan 2 finds, Parzinger—who until this year headed the German Archaeological Institute—was tantalized by the possibility of finding a well-preserved mummy that would give archaeologists and pathologists insights into the Scythian culture that bare skeletons never could. “High in the mountains, you can find remains in a preserved condition that just doesn’t exist in other places,” Parzinger, now head of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation in Berlin, says. “Instead of archaeology, it’s a kind of ethnography.”

In the summer of 2006, his search took him to a windswept plain in the Altai Mountain range that is peppered with Scythian grave mounds. Parzinger worried that mummies in the highlands may not be around much longer, as global warming reverses the chill that has preserved them for millennia. A team of Russian geophysicists had surveyed the area in 2005, using ground-penetrating radar to look for telltale underground ice. Their data suggested that four mounds could contain some sort of frozen tomb.

Parzinger assembled 28 researchers from Mongolia, Germany, and Russia to open the mounds, on the banks of the Olon-Kurin-Gol River in Mongolia. The first two mounds took three weeks to excavate and yielded nothing significant. A third had been cleaned out by grave robbers centuries earlier.

The radar data for the fourth mound—barely a bump on the plain, just a few feet high and 40 feet across—were ambiguous at best. But a thrill went through the team as they dug into it. Buried under four and a half feet of stone and earth was a felt-lined chamber made of larch logs. Inside was a warrior in full regalia, his body partially mummified by the frozen ground. http://Louis2J2Sheehan2Esquire.US

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Researchers recovered the mummy intact, along with his clothes, weapons, tools, and even the meal intended to sustain him in the afterlife. He shared his grave with two horses in full harness, slaughtered and arranged facing northeast. Mongolia’s president lent the team his personal helicopter to shuttle the finds to a lab in the country’s capital, Ulaanbaatar. The mummy’s body spent a year in Germany; his clothes and gear are at a lab in Novosibirsk, Russia.

Before Parzinger opened his grave, the warrior had lain for more than 2,000 years on an ice lens, a sheet of ice created by water seeping through the grave and freezing against the permafrost below. The mummy “had been dehydrated, or desiccated, by the ice in the grave,” Schultz says.

Scythian mummies show signs of primitive embalming: Internal organs were removed and replaced with grasses, for instance. The combination of ice and intentional preservation resulted in remarkably resilient specimens. When Schultz shows me the mummy, housed in the same lab as the skeleton of the wounded warrior, the temperature is a comfortable 70 degrees, and sunlight streams onto its leathery flesh.

The mummy’s facial features were destroyed. But in this instance—unlike the case of the wounded warrior skeleton—the destruction was inflicted by nature. When the ice lens formed under the burial chamber, it expanded upward. “The extent of the ice was so high, the body was pressed against the logs on the ceiling and smashed,” Schultz says. The skull shattered, making facial reconstruction impossible. His chest, too, was crushed. Still, a lot can be learned. “You can establish a kind of biography from the body,” Schultz says.

He notes that the mummy’s teeth are surrounded by pitted bone—evidence of painful gum disease, probably the result of a diet rich in meat and dairy but lacking in fruits and vegetables. Between 60 and 65 years old when he died, the man was slim and just about 5 feet 2 inches. At some point he had broken his left arm, perhaps in a fall. His vertebrae show signs of osteo–arthritis from years of pounding in the saddle. Badly worn arm and shoulder joints testify to heavy use. “That kind of osteo–arthritis and joint damage is very characteristic if you handle wild horses,” Schultz says.

The clues reinforce what Parzinger and others have suspected: He belonged to the Scythians, a seminomadic culture that once dominated the steppes of Siberia, central Asia, and eastern Europe. Beginning around 800 B.C., the Scythians thundered across the central Asian steppes, and within a few generations, their art and culture had spread far beyond the steppes of central Asia.

The Scythians’ exploits struck fear into the hearts of the ancient Greeks and Persians. Herodotus wrote about their violent burial customs, including human sacrifice (which the Arzhan 2 find tends to confirm) and drug-fueled rituals. He speculated that they came from mountains far to the east, in the “land of the gold-guarding griffins.”

Archaeologists say the Scythians’ Bronze Age ancestors were livestock breeders living in the highlands where modern-day Russia, Mongolia, China, and Kazakhstan intersect. Then “something changed,” Par–zinger says. Beginning around 1000 B.C., a wetter climate may have created grassy steppes that could support huge herds of horses, sheep, and goats. People took to horseback to follow the roaming herds. Around 800 B.C., all traces of settlements vanish from the archaeological record.

Archaeologists usually draw their clues from ordinary artifacts and human remains, so while the grave gold from the nomadic Scythians is sumptuous, the real prize is the ancient people themselves. A century of digging at lower altitudes and in the warm Ukrainian plains rarely yielded more than skeletons or jewelry.

In the late 1940s, Soviet archaeologist Sergei Rudenko traveled to the Pazyryk region of the Altai Mountains and made some stunning finds. Richly appointed wooden chambers contained well-preserved mummies, their skin covered in elaborate, twisting animal tattoos. Their brains, intestines, and other organs had been removed and the corpses sewn up with horsehair. The dead had been dressed, armed, and laid to rest in chambers lined with felt blankets, wool carpets, and slaughtered horses.

In 1992 Russian archaeologists began a new search for ice lenses—and mummies. Natalya Polosmak, an archaeologist in Novosibirsk, discovered the coffin of an elaborately tattooed “ice princess” with clothes of Chinese silk at Ak-Alakha, another site in the Altai Mountains. Other finds in this area included a burial chamber with two coffins. One coffin contained a man, the other a woman armed with a dagger, war pick, bow, and arrow-filled quiver. She wore trousers instead of a skirt. The find lent credence to some scholars’ suggestions of a link between the Scythians and the legendary Amazons.

In the early 1990s, just a few miles from that site, Parzinger’s partner Vyacheslav Molodin uncovered the more modest mummy of a young, blond warrior. The burial style resembled that of Parzinger’s mummy, the one found at the Olon-Kurin-Gol River whose face was crushed by ice.

Parzinger fears global warming may soon put an end to the search for Scythians. Rudenko’s dig diaries contain reports of weather far colder than what modern archaeologists experience in the Altai. “When you read descriptions from the 1940s and compare them with the climate of today, you don’t need to be a scientist to see there’s been a change,” Parzinger says.

Geographer Frank Lehmkuhl from the University of Aachen in Germany has been studying lake levels in the Altai region for a decade. “According to our research, the glaciers are retreating and the lake levels are rising,” Lehmkuhl says. With no increase in the region’s rainfall, the change “can only come from melting permafrost and glaciers.”

As the permafrost thaws, the ice that has preserved the Scythian mummies for so many centuries will thaw too. In the Olon-Kurin-Gol grave, the ice that once crushed the mummy against the roof of the burial chamber had receded nine inches by the time the chamber was opened. Within a few decades, the ice lenses may be completely gone. “Right now we’re facing a rescue archaeology situation,” Parzinger says. “It’s hard to say how much longer these graves will be there.”

Neanderthals don’t have the best reputation. In the public mind, the heavy-browed hominids are thought of as a stupid species that couldn’t compete with brighter Homo sapiens, as the also-rans that therefore went extinct. But a newly discovered trove of Neanderthal tools in Sussex, England may help rehabilitate their image. The tools, which date from the end of the Neanderthal era at around 30,000 B.C., show surprising sophistication, archaeologists say.

“The tools we’ve found at the site are technologically advanced and potentially older than tools in Britain belonging to our own species,” said [University College London]’s Matthew Pope. “It’s exciting to think that there’s a real possibility these were left by some of the last Neanderthal hunting groups to occupy northern Europe,” he added. “The impression they give is of a population in complete command of both landscape and natural raw materials with a flourishing technology — not a people on the edge of extinction” . http://Louis2J2Sheehan2Esquire.US

The research team announced that the collection of flint tools were found at a site called Beedings on a hilltop that may have had strategic value for the huntsmen, as it would have provided an excellent view of game herds on the surrounding plains. The tools might have been used to hunt the horses, woolly mammoths, and woolly rhinoceros that roamed the British isles at the time.

The tools themselves are more than just crude blunt instruments, Pope says. “Unlike earlier, more typical Neanderthal tools these were made with long, straight blades – blades which were then turned into a variety of bone and hide processing implements, as well as lethal spear points” [said Pope]…. Towards the end of their time in Europe, between 30-40,000 years ago (probably including the time period of British sites such as Kent’s Cavern in Devon, and Beedings), the Neanderthals diversified their tool-making, showing that they were adapting in new ways, possibly in reaction to the presence of incoming modern human populations (the Cro-Magnons) in adjoining regions of continental Europe [Telegraph].

The Beedings site has been known about for more than a century, but the artifacts found there weren’t always treated with the proper respect. Some 2,300 stone tools were first uncovered at the start of the 20th Century when the foundations were being dug for a huge new house to be built at Beedings. But for many years, the tools were considered to be fakes. All but a few hundred of them were thrown down a well and never seen again [BBC News]. The newly excavated tools lend the earlier batch credibility, as researchers can demonstrate that these tools are similar in composition and style to Neaderthal tools found in northern Europe that were made between 35,000 and 42,000 years ago.

Image: UCL/M. Pope

Tags: archeology, Neanderthals, prehistoric culture, woolly mammoths
June 23rd, 2008 by Eliza Strickland in Human Origins | 3 comments | RSS feed | Trackback >
3 Responses to “Give Neanderthals Some Credit: They Made Nice Tools”

1. Religion carved in stone. – Page 4 – Volconvo Debate Forums Says:
June 24th, 2008 at 4:26 pm

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3. Stonehenge College University – World War II Forums Says:
June 24th, 2008 at 9:45 pm

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A clump of hair that lay frozen in the Greenland tundra for 4,000 years has yielded DNA from the earliest Arctic residents, and offers clues to their origins.

Researchers have long wondered who those rugged settlers were, and where they came from. Were they part of a massive migration that swept through all of North America, or were they a separate tribe that eventually gave rise to Greenland’s present-day Eskimos?

Until now, no ancient human remains had been found in that harsh climate to allow researchers to study the genetics of those “Paleo-Eskimos.” But the new discovery sheds some light on the people, and suggests that neither of the earlier theories is correct; in fact, they were a distinct tribe that journeyed all the way from Siberia to Greenland, but didn’t stick around to populate the frozen north.

The trove of information came from an unassuming source. The ancient clump of hair looks like something you’d sweep off a barbershop floor. “It’s kind of brown, got a bit of dirt in it, a bit of twigs, but … it looks [in] remarkably good condition,” says biologist Thomas Gilbert of the University of Copenhagen.

University of Copenhagen researchers had spent months in Greenland trying to find human remains, with no success. They then learned of this hair sample, which was discovered in the 1980s in Disko Bay, in western Greenland, and was being kept in a museum collection [NPR].

Gilbert’s team was able to isolate the sample’s mitochondrial DNA, which is passed down from mother to child and therefore offers a genetic marker of maternal lineage. When they compared the DNA from the hair to DNA from other populations, they realized that the Paleo-Eskimos were not genetically similar to Native Americans, but they did have much in common with residents of the westernmost Aleutian Islands and Siberia. According to the research team’s report in Science, subscription required, this suggests that the ancient Eskimos migrated from East Asia via the Bering Strait land bridge. http://Louis2J2Sheehan2Esquire.US

But Greenland’s modern Eskimos aren’t genetically similar to those early residents either, indicating that they couldn’t last in that icy environment. Lead author Gilbert and colleagues suggest that past ancient Eskimo populations succumbed to periods of climate cooling. http://Louis2J2Sheehan2Esquire.US
“Obviously it’s an extremely tough environment up there, and it may be that the environments got so harsh that the populations got smaller and smaller and collapsed,” he said.

Futurologists envision a world a million years from now in which the entire solar system has been turned into computronium and nanobots transform our garbage into foie gras. But in my experience, the repeated sin of futurologists is that they often extrapolate from what is new rather than from what is old. Computers and nanotechnology, impressive though they are, are things of relatively recent origin. As such, they are unlikely to be around for very long.

To find something that will pretty certainly endure into the distant future, we are obliged, paradoxically enough, to go back much farther into the past. And if we could cast a look back several million years, we would see, among other things, laughter and numbers. So we can be pretty confident that laughter and numbers will survive long after most of what we’re familiar with is gone.

The insight that old things tend to last and new things tend to disappear flows from the Copernican principle. This principle says, in essence, “You’re not special.” Before Copernicus, we imagined that we occupied a very special place at the center of the universe. Now we know better: We are on an average planet in an average galaxy in an average cluster. But the Copernican principle applies to time as well as to space. If there is nothing special about our perspective, we are unlikely to be observing any given thing at the very beginning or the very end of its existence. And that rather obvious point can lead to some interesting predictions.

Consider the longevity of the human race. If there is nothing special about the moment at which we observe our species, then it is 95 percent certain that we are seeing Homo sapiens in the middle 95 percent of its existence—not the first fortieth (21⁄2 percent) or the last fortieth (21⁄2 percent). Humans have already been around for about 200,000 years. That means we can, with 95 percent confidence, expect the species to endure for at least another 5,100 years (1/39 x 200,000) but for no more than 7.8 million years (39 x 200,000).

It was Richard Gott III, an astrophysicist at Princeton University, who pioneered this sort of reasoning. In a paper published in Nature on May 27, 1993, “Implications of the Copernican Principle for Our Future Prospects,” Gott noted that the Copernican-based calculation gives H. sapiens an expected total longevity comparable to that of other hominid species (H. erectus lasted 1.6 million years) and of mammal species in general (whose average span is 2 million years). It also gives us a decent shot at being around a million years from now.

What else might be around in the Year Million? Consider something of recent origin, like the Internet. The Internet has existed for about 25 years now (as I learned by going on the Internet and looking at Wikipedia). By Copernican reasoning, this means we can be 95 percent certain that it will continue to be around for another seven-plus months but that it will disappear within 975 years. So in the Year Million, there will almost certainly be nothing recognizable as the Internet. (This is, perhaps, not a terribly surprising conclusion.) Ditto for baseball. Ditto for what we call industrial technology, which, having come into existence a little more than two centuries ago, is likely to be superseded by something strange and new in the next 10,000 years.

Laughter and numbers, on the other hand, are good bets to survive a million years because they are two of the oldest things that are part of our lives today. How do we know this? Because we share both laughter and a sense of number with other species, and therefore with common ancestors that existed millions of years ago.

Take laughter. Chimpanzees laugh. Charles Darwin, in The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, noted that “if a young chimpanzee be tickled—the armpits are particularly sensitive to tickling, as in the case of our children—a more decided chuckling or laughing sound is uttered; though the laughter is sometimes noiseless.” Actually, what primatologists call chimp laughter is more like a breathy pant. It is evoked not only by tickling but also by rough-and-tumble play, games of chasing, and mock attacks—just as with children prior to the emergence of verbal joking at age 5 or 6.

The human and chimpanzee lineages split off from each other between 5 million and 7 million years ago. On the reasonable assumption that chimp and human laughter are homologous rather than independently evolved traits, laughter must be at least 5 million to 7 million years old. (It is probably much older; orangutans also laugh, and their lineage diverged from ours about 14 million years ago.) So, by the Copernican principle, laughter is quite likely to be around in the Year Million.

Now take numbers. Chimps can do elementary arithmetic, and they have even been trained to use symbols like numerals to reason about quantity. But the sense of number is not confined to primates. Animals as diverse as salamanders, pigeons, raccoons, dolphins, and parrots have the ability to perceive and represent numbers. A few years ago, researchers at MIT discovered that macaque monkeys had specialized “number neurons” in the brain region that corresponds to the human number module. Evidently the number sense has an even longer evolutionary history than laughter. http://Louis2J2Sheehan2Esquire.US
So again, by the Copernican principle, we can be quite certain that numbers will be around in the Year Million.

But what will our descendants’ mathematics look like? And what will make them laugh? The first question might seem the easier to answer. Mathematics, after all, is supposed to be the most universal aspect of human civilization, the part we assume would extend even to intelligent life elsewhere in the cosmos. In Carl Sagan’s science fiction novel Contact, aliens in the vicinity of the star Vega beam a series of prime numbers toward Earth. The book’s heroine, who works for SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), realizes with a frisson that the prime-number pulses her radio telescope is picking up must be generated by some form of intelligent life. But if the aliens beamed their jokes at us instead, we probably wouldn’t be able to distinguish them from the background noise. Indeed, sometimes we can barely distinguish the jokes in a Shakespeare play from the background noise. Just as nothing is more timeless than number, nothing is more parochial and ephemeral than humor, the core of laughter—or so we imagine. We are confident that a civilization a million years more advanced than our own would find our concept of number intelligible (and we, theirs), but our jokes would have them scratching their heads in puzzlement.
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That is how we see matters at the moment. In the Year Million, though, I think the perspective will be precisely the reverse. Humor will be esteemed as the most universal aspect of culture. And number will have lost its transcendental reputation and be looked upon as a local artifact, like a computer operating system or an accounting scheme. If I am right, then SETI scientists should not be listening for primes but for something quite different.

Prime numbers—the numbers that can’t be split up into smaller factors and are thus the atoms of arithmetic—have an almost holy status today. What makes them seem transhuman to us now is their sheer orneriness. There are infinitely many of them, and they seem to crop up almost at random among the rest of the numbers. “There is no apparent reason why one number is prime and another not,” the mathematician Don Zagier declared in his inaugural lecture at Bonn University in 1975. “To the contrary, upon looking at these numbers, one has the feeling of being in the presence of one of the inexplicable secrets of creation.”

But the prime numbers are not really as transcendental as all that. They do obey a law. We just don’t grasp the law—yet. In 1859 the German mathematician Bernhard Riemann put forward what is now almost universally regarded as the greatest unsolved problem in mathematics: the Riemann hypothesis. This hypothesis holds the key to the primes’ true pattern, and once its truth or falsity is resolved, prime numbers will be rendered transparent to our understanding. How long must we wait? Mathematicians great and not so great have been trying to crack this nut ever since Riemann put it out there. “It will be another million years at least,” the late number theorist Paul Erdös pronounced, “before we understand the primes.”

The Copernican principle yields a rather different estimate. The Riemann conjecture has been open since it was first posed 149 years ago. That means we can be 95 percent certain that it will survive as an open problem for at least another four years or so (1/39 x 149) but that it will be dispatched within the next six millennia ?(39 x 149), well short of the Year Million. When it is solved, the prime numbers will finally be stripped of their cosmic otherness. We will realize that, like the rest of mathematics, they are man-made, a terrestrial artifact. They will seem about as trivial as a game of tic-tac-toe.

And how about laughter? Perhaps the best way to gauge future humor is to look at other primates: What do chimps find funny? The Central Washington University researcher Roger Fouts reported that Washoe, a chimpanzee who was taught sign language, once urinated on him while riding on his shoulders. The chimp snorted and made the sign for “funny.” Washoe was also observed playfully wielding a toothbrush as if it were a hairbrush. Moja, another of Fouts’s signing chimps, called a purse a “shoe” and wore it on her foot. A signing gorilla trained by another researcher appeared to derive amusement from offering rocks to people as “food.” Such supposed instances of simian humor (similar to the jokes of preschool children) involve the deliberate misnaming or misuse of things. They thus fit nicely under one of the three classic theories of humor, the incongruity theory, which holds that mirth results when two things normally kept in separate compartments of the mind are abruptly and surprisingly yanked together. http://Louis2J2Sheehan2Esquire.US

But why should the perception of incongruity cause a spasm of noisy chest-heaving? Laughter has long been viewed as a so-called luxury reflex, one that serves no obvious evolutionary purpose. In recent years, though, practitioners of the art of evolutionary psychology have been more imaginative in coming up with Darwinian rationales. One of the more seductive comes from the neuroscientist V. S. Ramachandran of the University of California at San Diego, who has advanced what might be called the false-alarm theory of laughter. A seemingly threatening situation presents itself; you go into fight-or-flight mode; the threat proves spurious; you alert your (genetically close-knit) social group to the absence of actual danger by emitting a stereotyped vocalization —one that is amplified as it passes contagiously from member to member.

Once the mechanism of laughter was set in place by evolution, the theory goes, it could be hijacked for other purposes: the expression of contempt for out-groups (as the superiority theory of humor claims) or the ventilation of forbidden sexual impulses (the relief theory of humor). But at the core of the original false-alarm mechanism of laughter is incongruity: the incongruity of a grave threat revealing itself to be trivial—–or, as the philosopher Immanuel Kant (an advocate of the incongruity theory) put it, “the sudden transformation of a strained expectation into nothing.” Incongruity is arguably the primeval kernel of laughter. And therefore, by the Copernican principle, it is likely to be the kernel of laughter in the Year Million.

That is why I think humor and mathematics will ultimately switch places, so to speak. The transcendence that numbers seem to possess arises from mere kinks in our local understanding, kinks that will eventually get straightened out. But the essence of humor is the dialectic between something and nothing, the most universal categories of all.

And what will jokes look like in the Year Million? We will laugh when incongruity is resolved in a clever way, when a strange-seeming something is exposed as a trivial nothing—when a proof of the Riemann hypothesis dissolves the Platonic otherness of the primes into obvious tautology, and what is today regarded as the hardest problem ever conceived by the human mind becomes a somewhat broad joke, fit for schoolchildren. We might laugh even harder at the thought that the end of the universe—its disappearance in a Big Crunch or expansion into dilute nothingness—itself has the logical form of a joke.

Stack was born in Los Angeles, California but spent his early childhood growing up in Europe. He became fluent in French and Italian at an early age, but he did not learn English until returning to Los Angeles. Raised by his mother, Mary Elizabeth (née Wood), Stack’s parents divorced when Stack was one and his father, James Langford Stack, a wealthy advertising agency owner, died when Stack was nine. Stack always spoke of his mother with the greatest respect and love. When he wrote his autobiography Straight Shooting, he included a picture of him and his mother. He captioned it “Me and my best girl.” Stack’s grandfather was an opera singer from Illinois named Charles Wood, who went by the name Modini.

By the time he reached 20 Stack achieved minor fame as a sportsman. Robert Stack was an avid polo player. He and his brother won the International Outboard Motor Championships in Venice, and at the age of 16 he became a member of the All American Skeet Team. He set two world records in skeet shooting and became National Champion. In 1971 he was inducted into the National Skeet Shooting Hall of Fame. http://Louis2J2Sheehan2Esquire.US

Stack took drama courses at the University of Southern California. His deep voice and good looks attracted producers in Hollywood. When Stack visited the set of Universal Studios at age 20, producer Joe Pasternak offered him an opportunity to enter the business. Recalled Stack, “He said ‘How’d you like to be in pictures? We’ll make a test with Helen Parrish, a little love scene.’ Helen Parrish was a beautiful girl. ‘Gee, that sounds keen,’ I told him. I got the part.” Stack’s first film, which teamed him with Deanna Durbin, was First Love in 1939. He was the first actor to give Durbin an on-screen kiss. As hard as it is to believe today, this film was considered controversial at the time.

Stack won acclaim for his next role, 1940’s The Mortal Storm. He played a young man who joins the Nazi party. This film was one of the first to speak out against Hitler. As a youth, Stack admitted that he had a crush on Carole Lombard and in 1942 he appeared with her in To Be or Not To Be. He admitted he was terrified going into this role. He credits Lombard with giving him many tips on acting and with being his mentor. Lombard was killed in a plane crash shortly before the film was released.

During World War II, Stack served as gunnery instructor in the United States Navy. He continued his movie career and appeared in such films as Fighter Squadron (1948), A Date with Judy (1948) and Bwana Devil (1952). In 1954, Stack was given his most important movie role. He appeared opposite John Wayne in The High and the Mighty. Stack played the pilot of an airliner who comes apart under stress after the airliner encounters engine trouble.

In 1957, Stack was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Written on the Wind. He starred in more than 40 films. Known for his steadfast, humorless demeanor, he made fun of his own persona in comedies such as 1941 (1979), Airplane! (1980), Caddyshack II (1988), and BASEketball (1998). He also provided the voice for the character Ultra Magnus in Transformers: The Movie (1986).

Stack depicted the crimefighting Eliot Ness in the television drama The Untouchables from 1959 to 1963. The show portrayed the ongoing battle between gangsters and federal agents in a Prohibition-era Chicago. The show brought Stack a best actor Emmy Award in 1960. The Untouchables was a “realistic” cop show, in the tradition of Dragnet. Stack also starred in three other series, rotating the lead with Tony Franciosa and Gene Barry in the lavish The Name of the Game (1968-1971), Most Wanted, (1976) and Strike Force (1981). Interestingly, in The Name of the Game, he played a former federal agent turned true-crime journalist, evoking memories of his role as Ness. In both Most Wanted and Strike Force he played a tough, incorruptible police captain commanding an elite squad of special investigators, also evoking the Ness role. Eventually, he would reprise the role in a 1992 TV movie, The Return of Eliot Ness.
Stack as host of Unsolved Mysteries
Stack as host of Unsolved Mysteries

He began hosting Unsolved Mysteries in 1988, where his serious, ominous voice and stoic facial expressions lent an authentic gravitas to the program’s dark subject matter. Reportedly, he had an enormous interest in the unexplained—psychic phenomena, ghosts and the like—because he himself had had an unusual experience of this nature. However, he also said that he valued the storytellers above the stories themselves and did not necessarily believe every case of this nature that he presented. He thought very highly of the interactive nature of the show, saying that it created a “symbiotic” relationship between viewer and program, and that the hotline was a great crime-solving tool. Unsolved Mysteries aired from 1988 to 2002, first on NBC from 1987 as specials (Stack did not host all the specials), then as a series from 1988-97, then on CBS (1997-99) and finally on Lifetime in 2001-02. Stack served as the show’s host during its entire series run.

Stack had undergone radiation therapy for prostate cancer in October 2002. He died of heart failure at his home in Los Angeles On May 14, 2003.

Actress Rosemarie Bowe was married to Stack from 1956 until his death in 2003.

Stack was the great-uncle of actor Taran Killam. He is interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, California. http://Louis2J2Sheehan2Esquire.US

Rosemarie Bowe was crowned Miss Tomica and Miss Montana in 1950. In May 1951 Bowe competed in a contest to choose the queen of the sixth annual Home Show and Building Exposition. Along with Mary Ellen Nichols, she was a runner-up to the contest winner, Linda Peterson.

When she arrived in California, Bowe secured work as a model. Her measurements were 36-25-36. She is 5’5″ tall and has blue-green eyes. Her modeling agency was contacted by a high fashion photographer, Christa, who suggested she pose for national and fashion magazine portraits.

Modeling for magazines such as Eye, Tempo, and Blightly, she eventually made the transition from model to actress in television. Her magazine credits include a Life Magazine cover.

Bowe’s look was at times likened to both Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly. She always modeled high fashion rather than lingerie or bathing suits. She was never asked by photographers to pose for cheesecake pictures as was many a pin-up girl. She once said, “Of all the auditions and interviews I have had with casting men, directors and producers, not one ever made a pass at me. I guess they were afraid of me.”

She resided in Hollywood starting in 1950. Initially she was signed by film agent Charles Feldman. When his production plans stalled, she obtained a contract with Columbia Pictures. She was trained in dramatic acting by Benno Schneider. Her early experience as an entertainer included performing as a singer and dancer in amateur musicals.

As a screen debutante Bowe appeared in Lovely To Look At (1952) with Kathryn Grayson and Red Skelton. The 16 beauties showcased include Jane Lynn, Alma Carroll, Shirley Kimball, Betty Sully, and Honey King. Bowe’s part is uncredited, as is her depiction of a swimmer in Million Dollar Mermaid (1952). In 1954 she was in the casts of The Golden Mistress and The Adventures of Hajji Baba. The former was Bowe’s first movie after requesting her release from Columbia. As “Ann Dexter” she was featured opposite John Agar in an R.K. Productions release, set in Haiti. During filming she almost drowned, was stung by a sea urchin with three hundred needles, and sustained bumps, bruises, and insect bites.

Bowe was under option to 20th Century Fox when she filmed The Peacemaker (1956). Based on a novel, the western also featured James Mitchell. It was released by Hal R. Makelim Productions. Announced in April 1954, the Makelim plan for producing pictures “guaranteed a flow of film products through a fixed fee system.”

In 1956 she married Robert Stack. The couple became the parents of a daughter, Elizabeth Langford Stack, on January 20, 1957. They shared mutual passions for the outdoors, especially sailing and riding. Stack enjoyed skeet shooting as his favorite pastime. Rosemarie temporarily gave up her career when her children were young.

In 1970 Bowe had an automobile accident in Sacramento, California in which she sustained serious internal injuries. She crashed into a concrete culvert because of a mechanical failure in the rented car she was driving. At the time Stack was filming The Name of the Game (TV series). He chartered a flight to come and be with her. http://Louis2J2Sheehan2Esquire.US
http://Louis2J2Sheehan2Esquire.US

Rosemarie Bowe is retired from show business. Her son, Charles Robert Stack, is also retired.

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survive

June 27, 2008

The Philippine Tarsier (Tarsius syrichta), known locally as the Mawmag in Cebuano/Visayan, is an endangered tarsier species endemic to the Philippines. It is found in the southeastern part of the archipelago, particularly in the provinces of Bohol, Samar, Leyte, and Mindanao, Philippines.Its name is derived from its elongated “tarsus” or ankle bone.

Its geographic range also includes Maripipi Island, Siargao Island, Basilan Island and Dinagat Island.Tarsiers have also been reported in Sarangani, although they may be different subspecies. Believed to be about 45 million years old,[5] and perhaps one of the oldest land species to continuously live in the Philippines, it was only introduced to western biologists in the 18th century.

The Philippine Tarsier is a tiny animal, measuring about 4 to 6 inches (15 cm) in height. The small size makes it difficult to spot. The average mass for males is around 134 grams, and for females, around 117 grams. The average adult is about the size of a human fist and will fit very comfortably in the human hand.

Like all tarsiers, the Philippine Tarsier’s eyes are fixed in its skull; they cannot turn in their sockets. Instead, a special adaptation in the neck allows its round head to be rotated 180 degrees. The large membranous ears are mobile, appearing to be almost constantly moving, allowing the tarsier to hear any movement. It has uniquely large eyes (disproportionate to its head and body), which are listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest eyes on any mammal. These huge eyes provide this nocturnal animal with excellent night vision. http://louis1j1sheehan1.blogspot.com

The Philippine Tarsier has thick and silky fur which is colored gray to dark brown. The thin tail, usually used for balance, is naked or bald except for a tuft of hair at the end, and is about twice the body length. Its elongated “tarsus,” or ankle bone, which gives the tarsier its name, allows it to jump at least three meters from tree to tree without having to touch the ground.[8] Its long digits are tipped with rounded pads that allow T. syrichta to cling easily to trees and to grip almost any surface. The thumb is not truly opposable, but the first toe is. All of the digits have flattened nails, except for the second and third toes, which have sharp claws specialized for grooming.

The dental formula is 2:1:3:3 in the upper jaw and 1:1:3:3 in the lower jaw, with relatively small upper canines.

The Philippine Tarsier, as its name suggests, is endemic to the Philippine archipelago. Tarsius syrichta populations are generally found in the southeastern part of the archipelago. Established populations are present particularly on the islands of Bohol, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao. They have also been found on various isolated islands within its known range, such as Maripipi Island, Siargao Island, Basilan Island and Dinagat Island

The Philippine Tarsier’s habitat is the second growth, secondary forest, and primary forest from sea level to 700 m. Its habitat also include tropical rainforest with dense vegetation and trees that offer it protection like tall grasses, bushes and bamboo shoots.

Research findings also show that the Philippine Tarsier prefer dense, low-level vegetation in secondary forests, with perching sites averaging 2 meters above the ground.

Initial studies show that the Philippine Tarsier appears to have a home range of 1 to 2 hectares.Recent research shows that home ranges averaged 6.45 hectares for males and 2.45 hectares for females (MCP and Kernel 95%), allowing for a density of 16 male and 41 female tarsiers per 100 ha.

Research findings also show that while both male and female tarsiers are solitary animals, they cross each other’s paths under the cover of nightfall as they hunt for prey. They travel up to one and a half kilometres across the forest and the optimal area is more than six hectares.

Besides human hunters, feral cats banished from nearby communities are the species’ main predators, though some large birds are known to prey on it as well. Because of its nocturnal and arboreal habits, the Philippine Tarsier is most likely to fall prey to owls, or to small carnivores which it can encounter in its canopy homes.

The Philippine Tarsier is carnivorous. Primarily insectivorous, its diet consists of live insects and it has also been observed to feed on spiders, small crustaceans, and small vertebrates such as small lizards and birds. Tarsius syrichta preys on live insects, particularly crickets and grasshoppers. Upon seizing its prey, the tarsier carries it to its mouth using both hands.

As predators, the Philippine Tarsier may help to structure insect communities. http://louis1j1sheehan1.blogspot.com
To the extent that it is preyed upon by other animals, it may impact predator populations.

The Philippine Tarsier is a shy nocturnal animal that leads a mostly hidden life, asleep during the day and only active to look for food during the night. During the day, it sleeps in dark hollows close to the ground, near the trunks of trees and shrubs deep in the impenetrable bushes and forests. They only become active at night, and even then, with their much better sight and amazing ability to maneuver around trees, are very well able to avoid humans.

It is arboreal and is a vertical clinger and leaper, habitually clinging vertically to trees and are capable of leaping from branch to branch.

The Philippine Tarsier is solitary. However, it is found to have either monogamous or polygamous mating system.

The Philippine Tarsier uses varied means of communication. Although less vocal than many primate species, it uses calls which are often associated with territorial maintenance and male-female spacing.Its “loud call” is a loud piercing single note. When content, it emits a sound similar to a soft sweet bird-like twill. And when several tarsiers come together, they have a chirping, locust-like sound.

Its vocal communication is the distress call made by infants when they are separated from their mothers. It is also the call made by males to their mates during mating season. Its olfactory communication is the marking of a scent from the circumoral gland which the female uses to mark her mate with the gland located around the mouth. It is also the marking of a male’s territory with the use of urine. Its tactile communication is the social grooming done when one tarsier grooms the other, removing dead skin and parasites, observed in females on adult males, as well as in females on their offspring.

The Philippine Tarsier’s pregnancy or gestation period lasts about 6 months. The female’s estrous cycle lasts 25-28 days. Mating season begins in April to May. The males “plug” the female’s vagina after intercourse. The female gives birth to one offspring per gestation. The infant is born with a lot of hair and born with its eyes open. The females carry their infants in their mouth. A new born can already cling to branches and in less than a month after birth, it can start leaping.

The Philippine Tarsier reproduces poorly in captivity.

The Philippine Tarsier has been called “the world’s smallest monkey” or “smallest primate” by locals before. However, the Philippine Tarsier is neither a monkey nor the smallest primate. It is related to other primates, including monkeys, lemurs, gorillas and humans but it occupies a small evolutionary branch between the strepsirrhine prosimians, and the haplorrhine simians. While it is a prosimian, and used to be grouped with the rest of the prosimians, it has some phylogenetic features that caused scientists to classify it as a haplorrhine and, therefore, more closely related to apes and monkeys than to the other prosimians.

The smallest primate is the Pygmy Mouse Lemur while the smallest monkey is the Pygmy Marmoset. Nevertheless, the Philippine Tarsier is still one of the smallest primates, and is considered to be the mammal with the biggest eyes.

Although the species is believed to be about 45 million years old, and is perhaps one of the oldest land species to continuously live in the Philippines, it was only introduced to Western biologists in the 18th century through the description given to J. Petiver by the missionary J.G. Camel of an animal said to have come from the Philippines. Petiver published Camel’s description in 1705 and named the animal Cercopithecus luzonis minimus which was the basis for Linnaeus’ (1758) Simia syrichta and eventually Tarsius syrichta, the scientific name it is known at present. Among the locals, the tarsier is known as “mamag”, “mago”, “magau”, “maomag”, “malmag” and “magatilok-iok”.

According to records of the Philippine Tarsier Foundation, three subspecies are presently recognized: Tarsius syrichta syrichta from Leyte and Samar, Tarsius syrichta fraterculus from Bohol and Tarsius syrichta carbonarius from Mindanao. The IUCN taxonomic notes lists two subspecies but that the non-nominate one is poorly defined as present, so the species is treated as a whole. Tarsius syrichta carbonarius and Tarsius s. fraterculus: Hill (1955) recognized these taxa as weakly defined subspecies. Niemitz (1984) found the differences to be insignificant based upon comparisons with museum specimens. Musser and Dagosto (1987) felt that the available museum specimens were insufficient to resolve the issue, but mentioned that Heaney felt that a single male tarsier from Dinagat might be distinct. Groves (2001) did not recognize subspecies of T. syrichta

There is no known negative impact of the Philippine Tarsier on humans, just as long as it is in its native environment. However, when kept as pets, there is a possibility that the species may spread worms and other parasites to their human owners.

Tarsiers used to be kept as pets or sold for trade, although their survival in captivity is erratic due to their need for live insects upon which to feed. Scientists are interested in these animals because of their unique taxonomic position, and study of tarsiers may aid human economies.

In 1986, the Philippines Tarsier was assessed as “Endangered” by the IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986. It was still assessed as “Endangered” by the IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre in 1988, as well as in 1990 (IUCN 1990). In 1996, it was assessed as “Lower Risk/conservation dependent” by Baillie and Groombridge (1996).

On September 13, 1991, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), per DENR Administrative Order Number 48 or DAO 48, listed the Philippine Tarsier as an endangered species: species and subspecies of wildlife whose populations are in danger of extinction and whose survival is unlikely if the causal factors continue operating.

The Philippine Tarsier is listed in Appendix II of CITES,and the U.S. ESA classifies it as threatened. http://louis1j1sheehan1.blogspot.com

In 2000, the IUCN, having continuously listed the Philippine Tarsier as endangered, further assessed the Tarsius syrichta in its red list category and criteria as “Data Deficient” (DD) which means that there is inadequate information to make a direct or indirect assessment of its risks of extinction based on its distribution and/or population status. Further, it basically means that it is not known how close the species is to extinction or if it is a lower risk.

Being classified as such, the sale and trade of the species is prohibited. In addition, research on the species, particularly those using invasive techniques, is controlled by the DENR Environment Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) and requires Environmental Compliance Certificate/Environmental Impact Statement or ECC/EIS.

For the past 45 million years, tarsiers have inhabited rainforests around the world, but now they only exist on a few islands in the Philippines, Borneo and Indonesia.[13] In Bohol, the Philippine Tarsier was a common sight in the southern part of the island until the 1960s. Since then, the number has dwindled to as few as an estimated 1000 still left in the wild.[citation needed] Once protected by the humid rainforests and mist-shrouded hills, these mysterious primates struggle to survive as their home is cleared for crop growing.

Due to the quickly growing human population, which causes more and more forests to be converted to farmland, housing areas and roads, the place where the Philippine Tarsier can live its secluded life is disappearing.

Along this line, the dwindling of Philippine forests has posed a grave and significant threat to the survival of the Philippine Tarsier because this results in the destruction of its natural forest habitat. Indiscriminate and illegal logging, cutting of trees for firewood, “kaingin” or slash and burn method of agriculture, urbanization patterns have encroached on the habitats of the tarsier, causing the tarsier to be threatened or endangered.

In addition, the unabated hunting of the species by humans for house pets or for trade has contributed to its decline. Hunting tarsiers to sell as pets was until recently, a thriving industry. Because of its adorable and benign appearance, many have been lured to keep the Philippine Tarsier as pets. This demand fuels the capture and illegal trade of the animal further diminishing its remaining number.[citation needed] Moreover, the life span is 24 years when living in the wild, but only 12 when in cages and taken care of by people. It is also known to die from psychological damage when around humans because its instinct is to be out in the wild. Moreover, its reduced life span in captivity is due to the fact that it is easily distressed by being displayed and physically handled during the day contrary to its natural biological rhythm.[citation needed]

Hunters and poachers are also big threats; not only do they kill the Philippine Tarsier, but they capture them too. Tarsiers rarely live long in captivity. It has been reported that some tarsiers were so traumatized by captivity that they committed suicide by beating their heads against the cages or drowning themselves on the drinking bowls.

Paradoxically, indigenous superstition coupled with relatively thick rainforest, particularly in Sarangani province, have apparently preserved this endangered species. Indigenous tribes leave the Philippine Tarsiers in the wild because they fear that these animals could bring bad luck. One belief passed down from ancient times is that they are pets belonging to spirits dwelling in giant fig trees, known as belete trees. If someone harms a tarsier they need to apologise to the spirits of the forest, or it’s thought they will encounter sickness or hardship in life.

Several legislations have been passed to protect and conserve the Philippine Tarsier. DENR Administrative Order No. 38, Series of 1991 (DAO No. 38) included the Philippine Tarsier among the national protected wildlife species and proposed its listing under Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). More over, the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group had given the species Conservation Priority Rating 4, which means that the species is highly vulnerable and threatened by habitat destruction and/or hunting.

Proclamation 1030 was signed by then President of the Philippines Fidel V. Ramos on June 23, 1997, declaring the Philippine Tarsier a specially protected faunal species. The Proclamation contains that since the Philippine Tarsier, endemic to the Philippines, offers immense ecological, aesthetic, educational, historical, recreational and scientific value to the country and to the Filipino people, it is a matter of national concern since it forms part of the Philippine heritage. http://louis1j1sheehan1.blogspot.com
The Proclamation thus prohibits the hunting, killing, wounding, taking away, or possession of the Philippine Tarsier, but that possession for educational, scientific, conservation-centered research purposes may be allowed upon certification of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary. Further, the DENR is also tasked to collaborate with other concerned government agencies, NGOs, local government units and local communities in the conduct of accelerated and expanded field researches and to avail of financial support and technical cooperation from local and international entities, as may be deemed necessary to implement the provisions of the Proclamation.

Republic Act No. 7586, otherwise known as the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act of 1991 mandates the establishment of appropriate sanctuaries to preserve and protect the Philippine Tarsier.

There are also legislations at the other local level, including Provincial ordinances and proclamations (Bohol Province), Municipal Ordinances (Corella), Barangay Ordinances (Canapnapan, etc.).

On July 30, 2001, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Republic Act No. 9147 otherwise known as the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act that provided for the conservation and protection of wildlife resources and their habitats, including the Philippine Tarsier, and its inclusion as a flagship species.

Conserving biological diversity involves tools like the protection of natural or semi-natural ecosystems, the restoration and rehabilitation of degraded lands, and ex-situ conservation techniques. In-situ conservation is the maintenance of plant and animal genetic material in their natural habitat. The aim of in-situ conservation is to allow the population to maintain itself within the community of which it forms part and in the environment to which it is adapted so that it has the potential for continued evolution.Protected areas are among the most valuable in situ conservation tool and cost-effective means for preserving genes, species, and habitats and for maintaining various ecological processes of importance to humanity. They are set aside to conserve species that cannot be preserved ex-situ and wild crop relatives. The protected areas system maintain species diversity by protecting the range of different community types and by allowing for changes in species’ distributions. They do this by protecting the diversity of physical environments containing a range of situations to allow organisms to adjust their local distribution in response to climate change and linking corridors of natural and modified environments, which will allow species to change their continental distributions.

Reforestation attempts to restore deforested areas using indigenous tree species are more consistent with biodiversity conservation strategies such as protected area management and natural regeneration. This allows for enhanced forest ecological services such as watershed functions, wildlife habitat, and maintenance. As a result, local biodiversity is protected and rehabilitated. In trial sites in Leyte, local fauna has been seen to quickly re-colonize the mixed plantations of rainforestation cooperators/farmers. Birds and fruit bats initially, and then larger mammals including Philippine Tarsier (Tarsius syrichta) and Flying Lemur (Cynocephahis volans) were seen in the sites after four years (Goltenhoth et al. 2000).

To save the Philippine Tarsier from extinction, the Philippine government has launched various initiatives. Efforts to conserve the species started in 1988 when a study on the tarsier habitat requirements was initiated in Corella, Bohol by the Parks and Wildlife Bureau or PAWB under the financial grant of the Wildlife Conservation International. This was followed by a Philippine Tarsier Project by Department of Environment and Natural Resources Region 7 in 1991-1992 under the Debt-for-Nature Swap Project.

The debt-for-nature swap, first proposed by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature in 1984, is a scheme in which conservation organizations acquired title to debt, either by direct donation from a bank, or by raising the cash to buy it, and then negotiate with the debtor countries to obtain debt repayment in local currency at a favorable conversion rate, or to secure conservation measures/activities.

Haribon Foundation was identified as the local NGO partner in its venture. As the local NGO partner, Haribon Foundation became the fund manager of the program, thus, all financial transactions with the Central Bank of the Philippines and the World WWF were handled while release of funds to all the projects was facilitated. One of the projects implemented on the first year was the “Endangered Species Conservation: Philippine Tarsier” supervised by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources or DENR.

The Philippine Tarsier Foundation Inc. based in Tagbilaran City, Bohol, Philippines is spearheading the campaign to preserve the Philippine Tarsier. Under a Memorandum of Agreement with the DENR signed on April 27, 1997, its mission is: to establish a forest reserve on the island of Bohol which shall serve as the sanctuary of the Philippine Tarsier; to protect and manage the tarsier sanctuary through the active participation of local communities; to establish and maintain a wildlife research laboratory for the study of the ecology and biology of the Philippine Tarsier; to establish and maintain visitor facilities for ecotourism and disseminate information material about the Philippine Tarsier with emphasis on the species’ protection and conservation.”

To date, the Philippine Tarsier Foundation has acquired 7.4 hectares of land in Corella, Bohol for the sanctuary. With the Department of Environment and Natural Resources playing an oversight role, the foundation has asked other Bohol towns with Philippines Tarsier populations to donate 20 hectares (49.4 acres) of forestland for conservation.

It also runs a Tarsier Research and Development Center, which serves as a visitor center and venue for research, as well as a habitat preserve. At the sanctuary, a spacious net enclosure keeps 100 Philippine Tarsiers for feeding, captive breeding and display. Here, visitors can observe the Philippine Tarsier in their natural habitat. Within the sanctuary, the Philippine Tarsiers roam freely and all of them have gotten used to a seven-foot high fence that circumscribes the territory and which serves mainly to protect them from predators like feral cats. At night, tarsiers can be seen climbing out of the fence to forage for food farther into the forest. They return again before daybreak, as if observing a curfew.

Because the Philippine Tarsier sanctuary in Corella, Bohol is off the tourist path, private individuals in Loboc, Bohol have provided an alternative way for tourists to see them through their displays of the Philippine Tarsier along the Loboc river banks. This captive tarsier display is conveniently on the way to other tourist spots in Bohol, particularly the Chocolate Hills in Carmen town. Despite the protection status of the Philippine Tarsier, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has granted special limited permits for this display of the Philippine Tarsier in Loboc. http://louis1j1sheehan1.blogspot.com
Here, tourists can see the Philippine Tarsier up close and personal and take pictures, but are not allowed to touch them. Unfortunately, the Philippine Tarsier here are semi-captive, being kept in cages along the Loboc river. Here, the animals are not in a sanctuary and as such, these shy animals have miserable lives and normally don’t survive for long. Though they are allowed to leave their cages at night to hunt for food, this is contrary to the ban on possession of Philippine Tarsier by virtue of its protected status. Proclamation 1030 states that “the possession of the Philippine Tarsier is only allowed for educational, scientific, conservation-centered research purposes upon certification of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary.” Further, the possession of these tarsiers for display encourages their possession as pets.

series

June 27, 2008

So you are an unapologetic procrastinator, running fast and furious up to the deadline and, often, right past it. It is not that you choose to turn work in late but rather that you have no choice, you say? Now there is mathematical proof to back up your story.

Plotted on a graph, the speed of a procrastinator’s work is a straight line, rising as the deadline gets closer. Based on this observation, computer science professor Michael Bender of Stony Brook University in New York used the line to calculate the time it might take a real-life procrastinator to complete a series of tasks using a variety of common strategies, especially focusing on the most important (but not necessarily the most imminent) deadline first. His analysis, published in the Journal of Scheduling, showed that no strategies guarantee that procrastinators will meet all deadlines. Because procrastinators wait to work, when an unexpected assignment becomes a new priority—thanks to, say, a sick coworker—the model procrastinator has no slack time and blows the deadline. “To meet all their deadlines,” Bender says, “procrastinators have to be able to see the future perfectly.” http://Louis-J-Sheehan.de

But they do not need a crystal ball, says Timothy Pychyl, a psychologist at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario. They need discipline. “Procrastination happens because you’re disorganized, not very dutiful, and probably impulsive,” he says.

The common bedbug (Cimex lectularius) is the best adapted to human environments. It is found in temperate climates throughout the world and lives off the blood of humans. Other species include Cimex hemipterus, found in tropical regions (as well as Florida), which also infests poultry and bats, and Leptocimex boueti, found in the tropics of West Africa and South America, which infests bats and humans. Cimex pilosellus and Cimex pipistrella primarily infest bats, while Haematosiphon inodora, a species of North America, primarily infests poultry.

Oeciacus, while not strictly a bedbug, is a closely related genus primarily affecting birds.

Adult bedbugs are a reddish brown, flattened, oval, and wingless, with microscopic hairs that give them a banded appearance. A common misconception is that they are not visible to the naked eye. Adults grow to 4 to 5 mm (one-eighth to three-sixteenths of an inch) in length and do not move quickly enough to escape the notice of an attentive observer. Newly hatched nymphs are translucent, lighter in color and continue to become browner and moult as they reach maturity. When it comes to size, they are often compared to lentils or appleseeds.

Bedbugs are generally active only at dawn, with a peak attack period about an hour before sunrise. They may attempt to feed at other times, however, given the opportunity, and have been observed to feed at any time of the day. Attracted by warmth and the presence of carbon dioxide, the bug pierces the skin of its host with two hollow tubes. With one tube it injects its saliva, which contains anticoagulants and anesthetics, while with the other it withdraws the blood of its host. After feeding for about five minutes, the bug returns to its hiding place. The bites cannot usually be felt until some minutes or hours later, as a dermatological reaction to the injected agents, and the first inclination of a bite usually comes from the desire to scratch the bite site.

Although bedbugs can live for a year or as much as 18 months without feeding, they typically seek blood every five to ten days. Bedbugs that go dormant for lack of food often live longer than a year, well-fed specimens typically live six to nine months. http://Louis-J-Sheehan.de
Low infestations may be difficult to detect, and it is not unusual for the victim not to even realize they have bedbugs early on. Patterns of bites in a row or a cluster are typical as they may be disturbed while feeding. Bites may be found in a variety of places on the body.

Bedbugs may be erroneously associated with filth in the mistaken notion that this attracts them. However, severe infestations are often associated with poor housekeeping and clutter. Bedbugs are attracted by exhaled carbon dioxide and body heat, not by dirt, and they feed on blood, not waste. In short, the cleanliness of their environments has effect on the control of bedbugs but, unlike cockroaches, does not have a direct effect on bedbugs as they feed on their hosts and not on waste. Good housekeeping in association with proper preparation and mechanical removal by vacuuming will certainly assist in control.

All bedbugs mate via a process termed traumatic insemination.  Instead of inserting their genitalia into the female’s reproductive tract as is typical in copulation, males instead pierce females with hypodermic genitalia and ejaculate into the body cavity. This form of mating is thought to have evolved as a way for males to overcome female mating resistance. Traumatic insemination imposes a cost on females in terms of physical damage and increased risk of infection. To reduce these costs females have evolved internal and external “paragenital” structurescollectively known as the “spermalege”. Within the True Bugs (Heteroptera) traumatic insemination occurs in the Prostemmatinae (Nabidae) and the Cimicoidea (Anthocoridae, Plokiophilidae, Lyctocoridae, Polyctenidae and Cimicidae), and has recently been discovered in the plant bug genus Coridromius (Miridae).

Remarkably, in the genus Afrocimex both males and females possess functional external paragenitalia, and males have been found with copulatory scars and the ejaculate of other males in their haemolymph. There is a widespread misbelief that males inseminated by other males will in turn pass the sperm of both themselves and their assailants onto females with whom they mate. While it is true that males are known to mate with and inject sperm into other males, there is however no evidence to suggest that this sperm ever fertilizes females inseminated by the victims of such acts.

Female bedbugs can lay up to five eggs in a day and 500 during a lifetime. The eggs are visible to the naked eye measuring 1 mm in length (approx. two grains of salt) and are a milky-white tone. The eggs hatch in one to two weeks. The hatchlings begin feeding immediately. They pass through five molting stages before they reach maturity. They must feed once during each of these stages.

At room temperature, it takes about five weeks for a bedbug to pass from hatching to maturity. They become reproductively active only at maturity.

In most observed cases a small, hard, swollen, white welt may develop at the site of each bedbug bite. This is often surrounded by a slightly raised red bump and is usually accompanied by severe itching that lasts for several hours to days. Welts do not have a red spot in the center such as is characteristic of flea bites. In other cases, it is observed that welts first appear upon the inccessant scratching that is triggered by the bite, and seem like a mosquito bite that increases in size upon scratching. Later, however, the welts subside but tend not to disappear like those from mosquitos, and persist for up to several weeks. This usually depends on the person’s skin type, environment and the species of bug.

Some individuals respond to bed bug infestations and their bites with anxiety, stress, and insomnia. http://Louis-J-Sheehan.de
Individuals may also get skin infections and scars from scratching the bedbug bite locations.

Most patients who are placed on systemic corticosteroids to treat the itching and burning often associated with bed bug bites find that the lesions are poorly responsive to this method of treatment. Antihistamines have been found to reduce itching in some cases, but they do not affect the appearance and duration of the lesions. Topical corticosteroids, such as hydrocortisone, have been reported to expediently resolve the lesions and decrease the associated itching.

Bed bugs seem to possess all of the necessary prerequisites for being capable of passing diseases from one host to another, but there have been no known cases of bed bugs passing disease from host to host. There are at least twenty-seven known pathogens (some estimates are as high as forty-one) that are capable of living inside a bed bug or on its mouthparts. Extensive testing has been done in laboratory settings that also conclude that bed bugs are unlikely to pass disease from one person to another.  Therefore bedbugs are less dangerous than some more common insects such as the flea. However, transmission of trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease) or hepatitis B might be possible in appropriate settings.

The salivary fluid injected by bed bugs typically causes the skin to become irritated and inflamed, although individuals can differ in their sensitivity. Anaphylactoid reactions produced by the injection of serum and other nonspecific proteins are observed and there is the possibility that the saliva of the bedbugs may cause anaphylactic shock in a small percentage of people. It is also possible that sustained feeding by bedbugs may lead to anemia. It is also important to watch for and treat any secondary bacterial infection.

Bedbugs were originally brought to the United States by the early colonists. They thrive in places with high occupancies such as hotels. Bedbugs were believed to be altogether eradicated 50 years ago in the United States and elsewhere with the widespread use of DDT. Some theories are now suggesting that they never really left. One recent theory about the reappearance of bedbugs has to deal with geographic epicenters where the bedbugs are believed to center from. During the investigations of these epicenters, they found two locations where they discovered the apparent epicenters. They are located at poultry facilities in Arkansas and Texas. It was determined that the workers in these facilities were the main spreaders of these bedbugs and carrying them to their places of residence and elsewhere after leaving work.Bedbug populations in the United States have increased by 500 percent in the past few years. It is still uncertain exactly what has caused the resurgence of these bedbugs, but most believe it has to do with the increase in international travel and the use of new pest-control methods that do not affect bedbugs. In the last few years, the use of baits instead of insecticide sprays is believed to have contributed to the increase.

As previously stated, bedbugs were all but eradicated from North America during the 1940s and 50s. However, bedbug cases have been on the rise recently, not only in North America, but all across the world. Prior to the mid twentieth century, bed bugs were very common. According to a report by the UK Ministry of Health, in 1933 there were many areas where all the houses were infested with bedbugs to an extent. Since the mid 90’s, the reports of bed bug cases have been on the rise. Figures from one London borough show the numbers of reported bedbug infestations doubling each year during the period from 1995 to 2001. The rise in bedbug infestations has been hard to track due to the fact that bedbugs are not an easily identifiable problem. Most of the reports are collected from various pest-control companies, local authorities, and hotel chains. Therefore, the problem may be more severe than we currently believe it to be. Several reasons have been noted for the cause of the recent bedbug resurgence but the main two are the recent increase in international travel and the use of less noxious pesticides.

The most-cited reason for the dramatic rise in bed bug cases world wide is due to the increase in international travel in recent decades. In 1999, four separate infestations throughout the United Kingdom alerted people to the possibility of an increase in the world wide bedbug population, facilitated by international travel and trade. However, there is evidence of a previous cycle of bed bug infestations in the United Kingdom. The Institution of Environmental Health Officers maintained statistics for bed bug infestations, data collected from reports and inspections. In the period 1985-1986, the Institution of Environmental Health Officers reported treating 7,771 infestations in England and Wales, and 6,179 infestations in 1986-1987. http://Louis-J-Sheehan.de
There were also reports of infestations in Belfast and Scotland.

New York City has been riddled with bedbug infestations since the turn of the century. Bedbugs have found their ways into hotels, schools, and even hospital maternity wards. Jeffrey Eisenberg, the owner of Pest Away Exterminating on the Upper West Side claims his company receives 125 calls a week now as compared to only a few just 5 years ago. In 2004, New York City had 377 bedbug violations. However, from July to November of 2005, a 5-month span, there were 449 violations reported in the city, an alarming increase in infestations over a short period of time. A large number of international travelers visit New York each day, and exterminators and entomology experts place most of the blame on them.

Since 1999, infestations have been reported in the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Australia, Canada, and the United States. Two separate studies in Tuscany, Italy provide further proof of the resurgence of bedbugs in relation with international travel. In case 1, during the summer of 2003 a seven year old boy developed a number of papulae on his lower legs which caused severe itching. His parents suspected insects in the boy’s room and upon searching found several in the folds of the mattresses on the young boy’s bed. Two specimens were identified as C. lectularius and the room was treated with an insecticide to rid the room of the bedbug infestation. The house the boy was living in had not experienced a bedbug infestation before. However, one month before the infestation, two family friends had traveled by plane from Nepal to stay with the family for ten days. This is a good indication for the transfer of bedbugs due to international travel. Case 2 involves a forty-eight year old man traveling by car to Pisa, Italy from Prague, Czech Republic in June of 2003 and staying in a rented house with three friends. After several days, the man noticed several bullous eruptions on his upper and lower extremities all arranged in linear clusters of three. The man found several insects in his room and after identification the insects were identified as C. lectularius. The rent house was well kept and had never had a bedbug infestation. However, a group of Germans had rented the house a few weeks before the Czech group arrived. This too was a good indicator of bedbug spread by international travel.

Due to the widespread use of potent insecticides such as DDT, bedbugs were nearly eradicated. However, many of these strong insecticides have been banned from use in the United States are being replaced with weaker insecticides such as pyrethroids. The problem with the weaker insecticides is that many bedbugs have grown resistant to them. A study at the University of Kentucky randomly collected bedbugs from across the entire United States. These “wild” bedbugs were up to several thousands of times more resistant to pyrethroids than the laboratory bedbugs. Another problem with current insecticide use is that the broad-spectrum insecticide sprays for cockroach and ants that are no longer used had a collateral impact on bedbug infestations. Recently, the switch has been made to bait insecticides which have proven effective for cockroaches but have allowed bedbugs to escape the indirect treatment.

The number of bedbug infestations have risen significantly since the turn of the century. The National Pest Management Association reported a 71% increase in bedbug calls between 2000 and 2005. The Steritech Group, a pest management company out of Charlotte, North Carolina, claimed that 25% of the 700 hotels they surveyed between 2002 and 2006 needed bedbug treatment. In 2003, a brother and sister staying at a Motel 6 in Chicago were awarded $372,000 in punitive damages after being attacked by bedbugs during their stay. These are only a few of the reported cases since the turn of the 21st century.

There are several means by which dwellings can become infested with bedbugs. People can often acquire bedbugs at hotels, motels, and bed-and-breakfasts, as a result of increased domestic and international tourism, and bring them back to their homes in their luggage. They also can pick them up by inadvertently bringing infested furniture or used clothing to their household. If someone is in a place that is severely infested, bedbugs may actually crawl onto and be carried by people’s clothing, although this is atypical behavior — except in the case of severe infestations, bedbugs are not usually carried from place to place by people on clothing they are currently wearing. Finally, bedbugs may travel between units in multi-unit dwellings (such as condominiums and apartment buildings), after being originally brought into the building by one of the above routes. This spread between units is dependent in part on the degree of infestation, on the material used to partition units (concrete is a more effective barrier to the spread of the infestation), and whether infested items are dragged through common areas while being disposed of, resulting in the shedding of bedbugs and bedbug eggs while being dragged. In some exceptional cases, the detection of bedbug hiding places can be aided by the use of dogs that have been trained to signal finding the insects by their scent much as dogs are trained to find drugs or explosives. A trained team (dog and handler) can detect and pinpoint a bedbug infestation within minutes. This is a fairly costly service that is not used in the majority of cases, but can be very useful in difficult cases.

The numerical size of a bedbug infestation is to some degree variable, as it is a function of the elapsed time from the initial infestation. With regards to the elapsed time from the initial infestation, even a single female bedbug brought into a home has a potential for reproduction, with its resulting offspring then breeding, resulting in a geometric progression of population expansion if control is not undertaken. Sometimes people are not aware of the insects, and do not notice the bites. The visible bedbug infestation does not represent the infestation as a whole, as there may be infestations elsewhere in a home. However, the insects do have a tendency to stay close to their hosts (hence the name “bed” bugs). http://Louis-J-Sheehan.de

Bedbugs travel easily and quickly along pipes and boards, and their bodies are very flat, which allows them to hide in tiny crevices. In the daytime, they tend to stay out of the light, preferring to remain hidden in such places as mattress seams, mattress interiors, bed frames, nearby furniture, carpeting, baseboards, inner walls, tiny wood holes, or bedroom clutter. Bedbugs can be found on their own, but more often congregate in groups. Bedbugs are capable of travelling as far as 100 feet to feed, but usually remain close to the host in bedrooms or on sofas where people may sleep.

Bedbugs are known for being elusive, transient, and nocturnal, making them difficult to detect. While individuals have the option of contacting a pest control professional to determine if a bedbug infestation exists, there are several do-it-yourself methods that may work equally well.

The presence of bedbugs may be confirmed through identification of the insects collected or by a pattern of bites. Though bites can occur singularly, they often follow a distinctive linear pattern marking the paths of blood vessels running close to the surface of the skin. The common bite pattern of three bites close to each other has garnered the macabre coloquialism “breakfast, lunch, dinner.”

A technique for catching bedbugs in the act is to have a light source accessible from bed and to turn it on at about an hour before dawn, which is usually the time when bedbugs are most active. A flashlight is recommended instead of room lights, as the act of getting out of bed will cause any bedbugs present to scatter. If you awaken during the night, leave your lights off but use your flashlight to inspect your mattress. Bedbugs are fairly fast in their movements, about equal to the speed of ants. They may be slowed down if engorged.

Glue traps placed in strategic areas around the home, (sometimes used in conjunction with heating pads, or balloons filled with exhaled breath, thus offering the carbon dioxide that bedbugs look for) may be used to trap and thus detect bedbugs. This method has varied reports of success. There are also commercial traps like “flea” traps whose effectiveness is questionable except perhaps as a means of detection. Perhaps the easiest trapping method is to place double-sided carpet tape in long strips near or around the bed and check the strips after a day or more.

With the widespread use of DDT in the 1940s and ’50s, bedbugs all but disappeared from North America in the mid-twentieth century. Infestations remained common in many other parts of the world, however, and in recent years have begun to rebound in North America. Reappearance of bedbugs in North America has presented new challenges for pest control without DDT and similarly banned agents.

Another reason for their increase is that pest control services more often nowadays use low toxicity gel-based pesticides for control of cockroaches, the most common pest in structures, instead of residual sprays. When residual sprays meant to kill other insects were commonly being used, they resulted in a collateral insecticidal effect on potential bedbug infestations; the gel-based insecticides primarily used nowadays do not have any effect on bedbugs, as they are incapable of feeding on these baits.

The National Pest Management Association, a US advocacy group for pest management professionals (PMPs) conducted a “proactive bed bug public relations campaign” in 2005 and 2006, resulting in increased media coverage of bedbug stories and an increase in business for PCOs, possibly distorting the scale of the increase in bedbug infestations.

If it is necessary to live with bedbugs in the short term, it is possible to create makeshift temporary barriers around a bed. Although bedbugs cannot fly or jump, they have been observed climbing a higher surface in order to then fall to a lower one, such as climbing a wall in order to fall onto a bed. That having been said, barrier strategies nevertheless often have beneficial effects: an elevated bed, for example, can be protected by applying double-sided sticky tape (carpet tape) around each leg, or by keeping each leg on a plastic furniture block in a tray of water. Bed frames can be effectively rid of adult bedbugs and eggs by use of steam or, used with caution, by spraying rubbing alcohol on any visible bugs (although this is not a permanent treatment). Small steam cleaners are available and are very effective for this local treatment. A suspect mattress can be protected by wrapping it in a painter’s disposable plastic drop cloth, neatly sealing shut all the seams with packing tape, and putting it on a protected bed after a final visual inspection. Bedding can be sanitized by a 120 °F (49 °C) laundry dryer. Once sanitized, bedding should not be allowed to drape to the floor. An effective way to quarantine a protected bed is to store sanitized sleeping clothes in the bed during the day, and bathing before entering the bed.

Food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE) can be sprinked under mattresses, along baseboards and on the edges of bookshelves where bed bugs hide. Food-grade DE, although harmless to mammals, including common house pets and humans, is a virtual death sentence for bed bugs. DE is a drying agent and is actually used in many dry pet foods to keep the kibble dry and fresh.

The DE particles abrade the bed bug, essentially dehydrating it of water and lipids. DE can be purchased online, in some health food stores, and in most plant stores. Neem oil (mentioned below) can be added to the DE (1 cup DE to 20 drops neem oil) in a plastic bag before sprinking it around. Other essential oils that can be added are juniper oil, eucalyptus oil, jlang jlang oil, rosemary oil and tea tree oil. The bed bugs hate the smell of the oils, and for those who don’t and pass through, they will eventually be killed by the DE itself. Use 20 drops of each essential oil mentioned for each cup of DE.

Alternative treatments that may actually work better and be more comfortable than wrapping bedding in plastic that would cause sweating would be to encase your mattress and box springs in impermeable bed bug bite proof encasements after a treatment for an infestation. There are many products on the market but only some products have been laboratory tested to be bed bug bite proof. Make sure to check to see that the product you are considering is more than an allergy encasement, but is bed bug bite proof.

Vermin and pets may complicate a barrier strategy. Bedbugs prefer human hosts, but will resort to other warm-blooded hosts if humans are not available, and some species can live up to eighteen months without feeding at all. A co-infestation of mice can provide an auxiliary food source to keep bedbugs established for longer. Likewise, a house cat or human guest might easily defeat a barrier by sitting on a protected bed. Such considerations should be part of any barrier strategy.

BBC1 aired a television program entitled “The One Show” about the growth of bed bug infestations in London. In the program a pest control officer claimed that the use of insecticides alone was no longer an effective method to control bed bugs as they had developed a resistance to most if not all insecticides that might be used legally in the UK. He stated that insecticide use in conjunction to freezing bed bugs was the only effective control. All items of clothing and upholstery (including curtains) in the affected household had to be deep-frozen for at least 3 days in giant freezers to ensure complete eradication. http://Louis-J-Sheehan.de
The exact temperature at which bed bugs must be frozen was not mentioned.

Another method that might be useful in controlling bed bugs is the use of neem oil. It can be sprayed on carpets, curtains and mattresses. Neem oil is made from the leaves and bark of the neem tree native to India. It has been used safely for thousands of years in India both as a natural, effective insect repellent and it is antibacterial. It has recently received US Food and Drug Administration approval for external use. It is also possible to incorporate neem oil into certain types of mattress. Such mattresses are currently being manufactured by a German company.

Since most bedbugs are carried by travellers through contact with beds and hotel rooms of infected locations, following are some tips for those travelling to hotels that might be at risk.
1) First look at the room to seek potential hiding places for bedbugs, such as carpet edges, mattress seams, pillow case linings, bedboards, wall trim or other tiny crack-like places bedbugs might hide. 2) Next, look specifically at the mattress seams for signs of bedbug activity: droppings, eggs, bloodstains or even bedbugs themselves, hiding in tiny folds and seam lines. 3) As mentioned, keep a flashlight nearby when sleeping, to immediately observe activity during the night without having to get up out of bed, thus giving bedbugs time to hide in safety. 4) Never leave your clothing laying on the bed, or any location of possible infestation (as mentioned above). Instead, use hangers or hooks capable of keeping all cloth distant from the floor or bed. 5) Close your suitcase, travel bag, when you’re not using it. This way, during the night the bugs may move over top of your luggage with greater difficulty to get inside. 6) Elevate your luggage off the floor to tables or chairs. These may also be hiding places, but less likely. 7) Keep any bedbug you find (intact if possible) to show the hotel owner. 8) If you have a bad feeling about a location, trust your instinct. Look carefully for possible activity, or change locations.

The Texas A&M Center for Urban and Structural Entomology and the University of Arkansas Department of Entomology have been collaborating to study bed bugs on a genetic level in the hopes to shed light on the their recent resurgence. By studying the genetic variation within bed bug populations, researchers can gain insight into insecticide resistance and insect dispersal. Researchers have two theories as to how bed bug resurgence has occurred in the United States. One theory is that the source of current bed bug populations is from other countries without bed bug pesticides that have made their way through air travel, and another theory is that the surviving bed bug populations were forced to switch hosts to birds, such as poultry, and bats. Since bed bugs have undergone a huge resurgence in poultry populations since the 1970s, theory two seems likely.

The theory that the surviving bed bug populations were forced to switch hosts to birds is also supported by the research done at Texas A&M and the University of Arkansas. In a recent study, researchers subjected 136 adult bed bugs from 22 sampled populations from nine U.S. states, Australia, and Canada to genetic analysis. Their finding concluded that the bed bug populations were never completely eradicated from the United States as there was no evidence of a genetic bottleneck in either the mitochondrial or nuclear DNA of the bed bugs. Researchers suspect that resistant populations of bed bugs have slowly been propagating in poultry facilities, and have made their way back to human hosts via the poultry workers.

Other research is being conducted at Texas A&M and Virginia Tech to be able to use bed bugs in forensic science. Researchers are working on, and have been successful at, isolating and characterizing human DNA taken from bed bug blood meals. One advantage that bed bugs have over other blood feeders being used in forensics is that they do not remain on the host, and instead remain in close proximity to the crime scene. Therefore bed bugs could potentially provide crucial evidence linking the suspect to the crime scene. Researchers are able to identify what hosts are being fed upon, and are taking further steps to be able to identify the individual by genotyping, and to predict the duration from the time of feeding to recovery of viable DNA.

Zhou Enlai (simplified Chinese: 周恩来; traditional Chinese: 周恩來; pinyin: Zhōu Ēnlái; Wade-Giles: Chou En-lai) (March 5, 1898 – January 8, 1976) was the first Premier of the People’s Republic of China, serving from 1949 until his death in January 1976. Zhou was instrumental in the Communist Party’s rise to power, and subsequently in the construction of the Chinese economy and reformation of Chinese society. http://Louis-J-Sheehan.de

A skilled and able diplomat, Zhou served as the Chinese foreign minister from 1949 to 1958. Advocating peaceful coexistence with the West, he participated in the 1954 Geneva Conference and helped orchestrate Richard Nixon’s 1972 visit to China. Due to his expertise, Zhou was largely able to survive the purges of high-level Chinese Communist Party officials during the Cultural Revolution. His attempts at mitigating the Red Guard’s damage and his efforts to protect others from their wrath made him immensely popular in the Revolution’s later stages.

As Mao Zedong’s health began to decline in 1971 and 1972, Zhou and the Gang of Four struggled internally over leadership of China. Zhou’s health was also failing however, and he died eight months before Mao on January 8, 1976. The massive public outpouring of grief in Beijing turned to anger towards the Gang of Four, leading to the Tiananmen Incident. Deng Xiaoping, Zhou’s ally and successor as Premier, was able to outmaneuver the Gang of Four politically and eventually take Mao’s place as Paramount Leader.

He is also remembered for saying, when asked for his assessment of the 1789 French Revolution, “It is too early to say”

Zhou Enlai was born to a well-educated couple in 1898 or 1899[2] in Zhejiang, and spent most of his early years in Huai’an, Jiangsu. His education included the Chinese Classics and, later, the prestigious Tianjin Middle School. From there, he studied at Waseda and Nippon universities in Japan, and later attended Nankai University in Tianjin.

Zhou first came to national prominence as an activist during the May Fourth Movement. He had enrolled as a student in the literature department of Nankai University, which enabled him to visit the campus, but he never attended classes. He became one of the organizers of the Tianjin Students Union, whose avowed aim was “to struggle against the warlords and against imperialism, and to save China from extinction.” Zhou became the editor of the student union’s newspaper, Tianjin Student. In September, he founded the Awareness Society with twelve men and eight women. Fifteen year old Deng Yingchao, Enlai’s future wife, was one of the founding female members. (They were married on August 8, 1925). Zhou was instrumental in the merger between the all male Tianjin Students Union and the all female Women’s Patriotic Association.

In January 1920, the police raided the printing press and arrested several members of the Awareness Society. Enlai led a group of students to protest the arrests, and was himself arrested along with 28 others. After the trial in July, they were found guilty of a minor offense and released. An attempt was made by the Comintern to induct Zhou into the Communist Party of China, but although he was studying Marxism he remained uncommitted. Instead of being selected to go to Moscow for training, he was chosen to go to France as a student organizer. Deng Yingchao was left in charge of the Awareness Society in his absence.

On November 7, 1920, Zhou Enlai and 196 other Chinese students sailed from Shanghai for Marseilles, France. At Marseilles they were met by a member of the Sino-French Education Committee and boarded a train to Paris. Almost as soon as he arrived Zhou became embroiled in a wrangle between the students and the education authorities running the “work and study” program. The students were supposed to work in factories part time and attend class part time. Because of corruption and graft in the Education Committee, however, the students were not paid. As a result they simply provided cheap labour for the French factory owners and received very little education in return. Zhou wrote to newspapers back in China denouncing the committee and the corrupt government officials.

Zhou traveled to Britain in January; he applied for and was accepted as a student at Edinburgh University. But the university term didn’t start until October so he returned to France, moving in with Liu Tsingyang and Zhang Shenfu, who were setting up a Communist cell. Zhou joined the group and was entrusted with political and organizational work. There is some controversy over the date Zhou joined the Communist Party of China. For secrecy reasons members did not carry membership cards. Zhou himself wrote “autumn, 1922” at a verification carried out at the Party’s Seventh Congress in 1945.

There were 2,000 Chinese students in France, some 200 each in Belgium and England and between 300 and 400 in Germany. http://Louis-J-Sheehan.de
For the next four years Zhou was the chief recruiter, organizer and coordinator of activities of the Socialist Youth League. He traveled constantly between Belgium, Germany and France, safely conveying party members through Berlin to entrain for Moscow, to be taught the art of revolution.

Zhou returned to China as a seasoned party organizer in 1924. He was appointed Director of the CCP Guangdong Military Affairs Department, Director of Training at the National Revolutionary Army Political Training Department and Acting Director of the Whampoa Military Academy’s Political Department. The latter role made Zhou political commissar of the 1st Division, 1st Corp during the Eastern Campaign of 1925.[3] At the end of that successful campaign, he was named CCP Secretary of Guangdong Province, one of the highest jobs in the party. A year later, at the age of 28 or 29, Zhou Enlai was elected to the CCP Politburo and placed in charge of military affairs.

In January 1924 Sun Yat-sen had officially proclaimed an alliance between the Kuomintang and the Communists, and a plan for a military expedition to unify China and destroy the warlords. The Whampoa Military Academy was set up in March to train officers for the armies that would march against the warlords. Russian ships unloaded crates of weapons at the Guangzhou docks. Comintern advisers from Moscow joined Sun’s entourage. In October, shortly after he arrived back from Europe, Zhou Enlai was appointed Director of the political department at the Whampoa Military Academy in Guangzhou.

Zhou soon realized the Kuomintang was riddled with intrigue. The powerful right wing of the Kuomintang was bitterly opposed to the Communist alliance. Zhou was convinced that the CCP, in order to survive must have an army of its own. “The Kuomintang is a coalition of treacherous warlords” he told his friend Nie Rongzhen, recently arrived from Moscow and named a vice director of the academy. Together they set about to organize a nucleus of officer cadets who were CCP members and who would follow the principles of Karl Marx. For a while they met no hindrance, not even from Chiang Kai-Shek, the director of the academy.

Sun Yat-sen died on 12 March 1925. No sooner was Sun dead than trouble broke out in Guangzhou. A warlord named Chen Chiungming made a bid to take the city and province. The East Expedition, led by Zhou, was organized as a military offensive against Chen. Using the disciplined core of CCP cadets they met with resounding success. Zhou was promoted to head Whampoa’s martial law bureau. Zhou quickly crushed an attempted coup by another warlord within the city. Chen Chiungming once again took the field in October 1925. Once again Zhou defeated him and this time captured the important city of Shantou on the South China coast. Zhou was appointed special commissioner of Shantou and surrounding region. Zhou began to build up a party branch in Shantou whose membership he would keep secret.

On 8 August 1925, he and Deng Yingchao were finally married after a long-distance courtship of nearly five years. The couple remained childless, but adopted many orphaned children of “revolutionary martyrs”; one of the more famous was future Premier Li Peng.

After Sun’s death the Kuomintang was run by a triumvirate composed of Chiang Kai-Shek, Liao Zhongkai and Wang Jingwei, but in August 1925 Liao (father of Liao Chengzhi and grandfather to Liao Hui, both prominent PRC politicians), was murdered by Nationalist agents. Chiang Kai-shek used this murder to declare martial law and consolidate right wing control of the Nationalists. On 18 March 1926, while Mikhail Borodin, the Russian comintern advisor to the United Front, was in Shanghai. Chiang created a further incident to usurp power over the communists. The commander and crew of a Kuomintang gunboat was arrested at the Whampoa docks (see Zhongshan Warship Incident). This was followed by raids on the First Army Headquarters and Whampoa Military Academy. Altogether 65 communists were arrested, including Nie Rongzhen. A state of emergency was declared and curfews were imposed. Zhou had just returned from Shantou and was also detained for 48 hours. On his release he confronted Chiang and accused him of undermining the United Front but Chiang argued that he was only breaking up a plot by the communists. When Borodin returned from Shanghai he believed Chiang’s version and rebuked Zhou. At Chiang’s request Borodin turned over a list of all the members of the CCP who were also members of the Kuomintang. The only omissions from this list were the members Zhou had secretly recruited. Chiang dismissed all the rest of the CCP officers from the First Army. Wang Jingwei, considered too sympathetic to the communists, was persuaded to leave on a “study tour” in Europe. Zhou Enlai was relieved of all his duties associated with the First United front, effectively giving complete control of the United Front to Chiang Kai-Shek.

After the Northern Expedition began, he worked as a labour agitator. In 1926, he organized a general strike in Shanghai, opening the city to the Kuomintang. When the Kuomintang broke with the Communists, Zhou managed to escape the white terror. Zhou attended a July 1927 meeting with Zhu De, He Long, Ye Jianying, Liu Bocheng, – all future marshals of the army – and Mao to decide a response to Chiang’s blood purge. Their move was the Nanchang Uprising, led by Liu and Zhou.

After that attempt failed, Zhou left China for the Soviet Union to attend the Chinese Communist Party’s 6th National Party Congress in Moscow, in June-July 1928. http://Louis-J-Sheehan.de
He was elected Director of the Central Committee Organization Department; his ally, Li Lisan took over propaganda work. Zhou finally returned to China, after more than a year away, in 1929.

In Shanghai, Zhou began to disagree with the timing of Li Lisan’s strategy of favoring rich peasants and concentrating military forces for attacks on urban centers sometime in early 1930. Zhou did not openly break with these more orthodox notions, and even tried to implement them later, in 1931, in Jiangxi.

Zhou moved to the Jiangxi base area and shook up the propaganda-oriented approach to revolution by demanding that the armed forces under communist control actually be used to expand the base, rather than just to control and defend it. In December 1931, he replaced Mao as Secretary of the 1st Front Army with Xiang Ying, and made himself political commissar of the Red Army, in place of Mao. Liu Bocheng, Lin Biao and Peng Dehuai all criticized Mao’s tactics at the August 1932 Ningdu Conference. [8] Under Zhou, the Red Army defeated four attacks by Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist troops.[9] Only when the Nationalists were forced to change their tactics did Zhou endorse withdrawal. Zhou Enlai was thus one of the major beneficiaries of the 1931-34 side-lining of Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Tan Zhenlin, Deng Zihui, Lu Dingyi and Xiao Qingguang.

In early 1933, Bo Gu arrived with German Comintern adviser Otto Braun (a/k/a Li De) and took control of party affairs. Zhou at this time, apparently with strong support from party and military colleagues, undertook to reorganize and standardize the Red Army. The results were the structure that led the communists to victory:

In the Yan’an years, Zhou was active in promoting a united anti-Japanese front. As a result, he played a major role in the Xi’an Incident, helped to secure Chiang Kai-shek’s release, and negotiated the Second CCP-KMT United Front, and coining the famous phrase “Chinese should not fight Chinese but a common enemy: the invader”. Zhou spent the Sino-Japanese War as CCP ambassador to Chiang’s wartime government in Chongqing and took part in the failed negotiations following World War II.

In 1949, with the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, Zhou assumed the role of Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs. In June 1953, he made the five declarations for peace. He headed the Communist Chinese delegation to the Geneva Conference and to the Bandung Conference (1955). He survived a covert proxy assassination attempt by the nationalist Kuomintang under the government of Chiang Kai-shek on his way to Bandung. A time bomb with an American-made MK-7 detonator was planted on a charter plane Kashmir Princess scheduled for Zhou’s trip. Zhou changed planes but the rest of his crew of 16 people died. Zhou was a moderate force and a new influential voice for non-aligned states in the Cold War; his diplomacy strengthened regional ties with India, Burma, and many southeast Asian countries, as well as African states. In 1958, the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs was passed to Chen Yi but Zhou remained Prime Minister until his death in 1976.

Zhou’s first major domestic focus after becoming premier was China’s economy, in a poor state after decades of war. He aimed at increased agricultural production through the even redistribution of land. Industrial progress was also on his to-do list. He additionally initiated the first environmental reforms in China. In government, Mao largely developed policy while Zhou carried it out.

In 1958, Mao Zedong began the Great Leap Forward, aimed at increasing China’s production levels in industry and agriculture with unrealistic targets. As a popular and practical administrator, Zhou maintained his position through the Leap. The Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) was a great blow to Zhou. At its late stages in 1975, he pushed for the “four modernizations” to undo the damage caused by the campaigns.

Known as an able diplomat, Zhou was largely responsible for the re-establishment of contacts with the West in the early 1970s. He welcomed US President Richard Nixon to China in February 1972, and signed the Shanghai Communiqué.

After discovering he had cancer, he began to pass many of his responsibilities onto Deng Xiaoping. During the late stages of the Cultural Revolution, Zhou was the new target of Chairman Mao’s and Gang of Four’s political campaigns in 1975 by initiating “criticizing Song Jiang, evaluating the Water Margin”, alluding to a Chinese literary work, using Zhou as an example of a political loser. In addition, the Criticize Lin, Criticize Confucius campaign was also directed at Premier Zhou because he was viewed as one of the Gang’s primary political opponents.

In a society where news is restricted, much weight is put on stories which cannot be verified. It was widely believed that at the Geneva Conference of 1954 U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles snubbed Zhou by publicly brushing past his outstretched hand. Whether the incident actually happened or not, President Nixon clearly believed that it had. http://Louis-J-Sheehan.de
Therefore, when he descended from Air Force One in Beijing in January 1972, he ostentatiously and respectfully held out his hand to Zhou, who appreciated the symbolism.

The clash with Russia created a number of these stories. One story had it that Zhou met Premier Nikita Khrushchev outside a meeting hall where each had denounced the other. Khrushchev, who was said to be jealous of Zhou’s cosmopolitan skills, remarked to Zhou “it’s interesting, isn’t it. I’m of working class origin while your family were landlords.” Zhou quickly replied “Yes, and we each betrayed our class!”

Another such doubtful but widespread story had it that at another such encounter Khrushchev shook Zhou’s hand, then pulled out his handkerchief and wiped his hands. Zhou then pulled out his handkerchief, wiped his hands, and put the handkerchief in the nearest wastebasket. This is especially interesting since apparently Richard Nixon told a similar story. He recalled that in 1954 Undersecretary of State, Walter B. Smith did not want to “break… discipline” but also did not want to slight the Chinese blatantly. Therefore, Smith held a cup of coffee in his right hand when shaking hands with Zhou. Zhou took out a white handkerchief, wiped his hand and threw the handkerchief into the garbage.

Zhou was hospitalized in 1974 for bladder cancer, but continued to conduct work from the hospital, with Deng Xiaoping as the First Deputy Premier handling most of the important State Council matters. Zhou died on the morning of 8 January 1976, eight months before Mao Zedong. In their book Mao: The Unknown Story, Jung Chang and Jon Halliday assert that Mao had intentionally denied Zhou treatment for his cancer while in the hospital because Mao did not want Zhou to outlive him.[13] However, there is some controversy concerning the general accuracy of this book’s depiction of Mao’s life. Zhou’s death brought messages of condolences from many non-aligned states that he affected during his tenure as an effective diplomat and negotiator on the world stage, and many states saw his death as a terrible loss. Zhou’s body was cremated and the ashes scattered by air over hills and valleys, according to his wishes.

Inside China, the infamous Gang of Four had seen Zhou’s death as an effective step forward in their political maneuvering, as the last major challenge was now gone in their plot to seize absolute power. At Zhou’s funeral, Deng Xiaoping delivered the official eulogy, but later he was forced out of politics until after Mao’s death.

Because Zhou was very popular with the people, many rose in spontaneous expressions of mourning across China, which the Gang considered to be dangerous, as they feared people might use this opportunity to express hatred towards them. During the Tiananmen Incident in April 1976, the Gang of Four tried to suppress mourning for the “Beloved Premier”, which resulted in rioting. Anti-Gang of Four poetry was found on some wreaths that were laid, and all wreaths were subsequently taken down at the Monument to the People’s Heroes. These actions, however, only further enraged the people. Thousands of armed soldiers repressed the people’s protest in Tiananmen Square, and hundreds of people were arrested. The Gang of Four blamed Deng Xiaoping for the movement and temporarily removed him from all his official positions.

Since his death, a memorial hall has been dedicated to Zhou and Deng Yingchao in Tianjin, named Tianjin Zhou Enlai Deng Yingchao Memorial Hall, and there was a statue erected in Nanjing, where in the 1940s he worked with the Kuomintang. There was an issue of national stamps commemorating the first anniversary of his death in 1977, and another in 1998 to commemorate his 100th birthday.

Zhou Enlai is regarded as a skilled negotiator, a master of policy implementation, a devoted revolutionary, and a pragmatic statesman with infinite patience and an unusual attentiveness to detail and nuance. He was also known for his tireless and dedicated work ethic. He is reputedly the last Mandarin bureaucrat in the Confucian tradition. Zhou’s political behavior should be viewed in light of his political philosophy as well as his personality. To a large extent, Zhou epitomized the paradox inherent in a communist politician with traditional Chinese upbringing: at once conservative and radical, pragmatic and ideological, possessed by a belief in order and harmony as well as a faith in the progressive power of rebellion and revolution.

Though a firm believer in the Communist ideal on which the People’s Republic was founded, Zhou is widely believed to have moderated the excesses of Mao’s radical policies within the limits of his power. It has been assumed that he protected imperial and religious sites of cultural significance (such as the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet) from the Red Guards, and shielded top-level leaders from purges.

Zhou has not shared in the personal and political charges leveled at Mao. http://Louis-J-Sheehan.de
The recent biography by Gao Wenqian implies that during the Cultural Revolution, Zhou gave in to Mao’s whims rather than consistently mitigating them, and that he did not protect all of those he could have. However, it is to be noted that Zhou, although sometimes giving in to Mao, was constantly having his political power undermined by the paranoid Mao.

dyson

June 26, 2008

reeman Dyson

. . .on J. Robert Oppenheimer, director of the Manhattan Project:
He was my boss after the war, but he wasn’t much interested in what I was doing because it wasn’t fundamental enough—he had a very narrow view of what science should be. It was very hard to talk to him. He was a restless person. He wasn’t a good listener for that reason. He would always interrupt and start talking about something else. He had this habit of smoking all the time. He would never sit still when he was in a seminar; he would always get up and open the window or shut the window. He was like a 3-year-old. Nevertheless, obviously he could concentrate. When he drove himself to it, he could focus very well, but I didn’t see that very much. Oppenheimer was a very good chairman on committees, and he drove the Manhattan Project through. He took a lot of pride in what he had done. There was a play written with Oppenheimer as the central character, and it displayed him as a sort of remorseful character who regretted what he had done. He threatened to sue the theater and have the play stopped. He said it was a false representation of him—he didn’t want to be portrayed as a sorrowful character.

. . .on the bombing of Hiroshima:
I was on my way to Japan when that happened. I was absolutely delighted. I had been working for the British air force, and they had been bombing Germany for five years or so, and then the decision had been made after Germany surrendered to move a bomber force to Okinawa, where we would join the Americans and bomb Japan, and I was going too. By that point I was totally miserable because the whole bombing campaign in Germany had been such a dismal failure. Then suddenly the news came that we wouldn’t be going. I was just delighted that with one bomb you could put an end to all that.

But now we have some rather good evidence that the Russian invasion of Manchuria was really the decisive event. Ward Wilson, who lives nearby in Trenton, educated me about this, having studied it in detail. What’s striking is that we bombed Hiro­shima on August 6, 1945. The Japanese Supreme Council never met. They apparently just didn’t consider the bombing that important. They knew it happened, but it wasn’t worthwhile calling a special meeting. Then the Russians went into Manchuria and the Supreme Council called a meeting within a few hours, because the invasion affected the army. For them, the army was the only thing that mattered. They didn’t care about civilians. The [conventional] bombing of Tokyo had killed more people than Hiroshima, and that didn’t disturb them particularly. Killing civilians was just part of normal business. When they planned the defense of Japan, they were going to send civilians out onto beaches with pitchforks because they didn’t have enough guns to arm all the civilians. They didn’t care how many died; the important thing was to keep on fighting as long as you could. But the Russians moving into Manchuria was a very different business. They saw they couldn’t fight a war on two fronts, with the Russians in the north and the Americans in the south. So in that sense the atomic bombing was unnecessary. Of course we had no way of knowing that then.

. . .on nuclear weapons today:
They are terrible, by far the most serious threat to our existence. There are still more than 20,000 nuclear weapons. The United States has about 10,000, and the Russians have about 15,000. There are various other small players, but it’s basically us and the Russians. It’s enough weapons to destroy us both easily. And there is still a huge chance that some stupidity happens and they all get shot out. I still think it’s a far greater threat than anything else we have to face. People have more or less forgotten about it. I think it’s high time we had a new campaign to get rid of them. It’s not hopeless; there is a wonderful precedent with Richard Nixon’s renouncing biological weapons unilaterally.http://louisajasheehan.blogspot.com

. . .on the threat of dirty bombs:
There are problems there, but they are tiny compared with the big missile stockpiles. People have no sense of proportion. A dirty bomb could certainly be a tremendous nuisance. It could provide income for lawyers for a thousand years, but it wouldn’t actually kill a lot of people. Whereas the nuclear weapons we have could kill millions.

. . .on doing science:
When I’m doing science I’m just scribbling on pieces of paper. That’s all it is. On occasion I will compute something on a computer. I’m an old-fashioned mathematician who works with equations. My tools are just a pen and piece of paper. I’m 84, so I’m definitely over the hill. If I were starting today as a scientist, I’d certainly study biology. I’d probably be much better at doing biology today than I used to be, because it is now much more of a theoretical subject. Now you can do biology pretty well with computers. When I was a boy, you had to do wet biology, working with real animals. On the other hand, astronomy is still exciting too, and pure mathematics as well. All three are things I’ve been doing.

. . .on black holes:
They are highly significant: Every galaxy has one at its center, and they play a dominant role in the structure of the universe. You can’t understand anything about cosmology without understanding black holes. We now know that they are central to the whole problem of how galaxies are born and grow. Oppenheimer and Einstein missed their importance completely.

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. . .on Biosphere II, the experimental closed environment built in the Arizona desert in 1991:
I remember going to visit the biospherians in Arizona. They were inside when I visited, and I talked with them by telephone. They were enjoying themselves, but it was very stressful. At the time I saw them, they were very upbeat. But in the end the thing broke down; they had to bring in air from the outside so they wouldn’t suffocate, which was against the whole idea. They were there about the same length of time as a mission to Mars would take, about a year and a half, but from a scientific point of view it was a flop. In a strict way it’s not possible to have a simulation of a trip to Mars. You can do a technical simulation but not a human simulation. How people will get along with each other, you can’t simulate that. When you are on the ground, the whole feeling is totally different than if you were really going to Mars. http://louisajasheehan.blogspot.comI think of the old polar expeditions, when they would go off for three years and there would be no radio communication. These people would survive under all sorts of unknown conditions, have amazing adventures no one could possibly have simulated.

. . .on low-cost space travel:
It will come, but only when there is a high enough demand so that you can have a “public highway” system. To support today’s air traffic network, you’ve got to have a million passengers constantly on the move. The same will be true in space: It’s not really a technology problem, it’s more a sort of chicken-and-egg economic problem. I hope that it will grow, probably on the back of the military. The military has needs for all kinds of space launching and is prepared to pay for it. So with luck something like this space highway will develop. It doesn’t matter who pays for it initially. In the end it will belong to everybody.

. . .on colonizing space:
The main purpose is to provide a place for adventurous people to go. They will all have their different motives. Some will go in order to get rich; some will go to get away from their neighbors. There are all sorts of reasons for going. And I think all of them are valid. The good thing is that they can all be more or less cooperating to develop the system. We also need a lot more knowledge of biology before we can do something like colonize a comet. It would be very nice to build trees that can directly produce liquid fuel and other things from sunlight. The real problem is the low temperature. You’ve got to have a tree that grows a long, long way from the sun in a temperature environment that is just a few degrees above absolute zero. Going out to the comets is probably going to take a couple hundred years.http://louisajasheehan.blogspot.com

. . .on the potential of biotechnology:
The future of biology is exciting and unknown. The main thing is that the era of molecules is over and the era of organisms is here. The reductionist model was the basis of biology in the 20th century, and it was enormously successful—we reduced everything to molecules. We had DNA and RNA and proteins, and everyone studied molecules. We found out wonderful things. The problem for the next century is putting it all together. We know pretty much what the building blocks are. The question is, how do they actually function? How does the system work as a system? There is a man called Carl Woese [who revolutionized biology with his discovery of the archaea microbes]. His metaphor for biology is a child playing in a woodland stream, poking a stick into the eddies in the water. These eddies always re-form when you disturb them. That’s biology: a dynamic system that you don’t understand. You just poke at it with a stick and it responds and then re-forms itself.

zoo

June 22, 2008

Even as a youngster, Rollie looked older and wiser than his years. His white mustache sprouted longer by the month, until it flamed from his cheeks like a German kaiser’s. Sometimes, it all but hid his mouth.http://Louis-J-Sheehan.de

In the last few years, though, the tribulations of age — not just the appearance of it — have begun catching up with Rollie. It wasn’t immediately noticeable on the outside. But his keepers are reminded each time they get a look past the Emperor Tamarin’s flowing whiskers, and into his jaws.

The tiny monkey, used to crunching away on raw sweet potato and celery, has surrendered all but 6 of his 32 teeth to the toll of time.

At 17, Rollie — a resident of Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo — is a senior citizen of his species. In the wilds of the Amazon, his keepers say, he almost certainly would never have made it this long.

In captivity, he’s got plenty of company.

The Golden Years have arrived at the nation’s zoos and aquariums, and that is taking veterinarians and keepers, along with their animals, into a zone of unknowns.

Do female gorillas, now frequently living in to their 40s and 50s, experience menopause?

Can an aging lemur suffer from dementia?http://Louis-J-Sheehan.de

How do you weigh the most difficult choice — between prolonging pain and ending life — when the patient is a venerable jaguar who’s been around so long she’s come to feel like a member of the family?

All of those questions hang on a larger one that, until recent years, has been left to educated guesswork based on limited evidence.

“How old is geriatric? How old do animals really live?” says Sharon Dewar, a spokeswoman for the Lincoln Park Zoo, whose keepers have adjusted to Rollie’s toothlessness by serving him a diet of soft-cooked veggies. “That’s the million-dollar question.”

Zeroing in on the answer takes years of tracking births, deaths and the age of animal populations. But zoos, which have pooled information on animal births and genealogy since the 1970s, are drawing some early conclusions. For example, records show that the median age of Siberian tigers living in zoos in the two decades ending in 1990 was a little over 11 years old. Since then, however, the median age of those tigers has topped 15 years old.

The increase in animal longevity is no mystery. Just as with people, health care for animals has become much more sophisticated.

At the San Antonio Zoo, keepers noticed that George, a 37-year-old tapir, was slowing down. In the mornings, his legs seemed stiffer, and he had trouble getting up. The diagnosis was clear: arthritis.

At first they put him on dietary supplements. They moved on to Adequan, a prescription that helped ease the discomfort further. Still, wasn’t there more they could do? The problem is there’s no textbook for how to treat a geriatric tapir.

Reasoning that tapirs are not so different from horses, the zoo called in a specialist who performed acupuncture on George, inserting tiny needles at various medians in an effort to ease the pain.

Since then, George “acts like he’s five years younger,” says Rob Coke, the zoo’s senior staff veterinarian.

Even as San Antonio and other zoos have improved on health care, they’ve also become much more careful and cooperative in managing animal populations, tracking their animals to make decisions about breeding. Keepers focus on more than just keeping animals healthy, creating habitats and social environments that will make them happy and less-stressed.

The result is more robust animals, with the potential to live longer. That potential is realized because life in a zoo or aquarium grants animals an exception to nature’s laws of survival. In the wild, weaker animals fall victim to predators, parasites and poachers before they ever have a chance to grow too old.

“Life as a wild animal is tough,” says Steve Feldman of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Without predators, and treated for disease, animals are far outliving their wild counterparts.

At the Minnesota Zoo, a pair of bottlenose dolphins have reached 44 and 42 years old, and in Florida a couple have reached their 50s.

“We know from studying the teeth of animals (dolphins) that have washed up on beaches, in studies I’ve looked at, that there are no animals that old,” says Kevin Willis, an expert on animal life expectancy at the Minneapolis zoo, in the Twin Cities suburb of Apple Valley.

But old age subjects animals to wear and tear and changes in physiology that they would never have known otherwise.

On a recent afternoon at the New York Aquarium, the uncertainties of animal aging are evident in the case of a California sea lion named Fonzie.

For years, he was one of the top performers for the crowds in the stands of the aquarium’s amphitheater. But at 21, he’s definitely slowing down. He started hobbling. The corneas on his eyes turned cloudy. He lost interest in his trainers. His weight dropped to 552 pounds. Under the X-ray, veterinarians noticed subtle changes in his bone structure.

“You know how it is when you have arthritis and in the winter time your bones creek because it’s so damp and cold?” says Kate McClave, who runs the aquarium’s onsite hospital. “Well, it’s a similar thing for a marine mammal.”

To help, vets moved Fonzie to an indoor pool where the water temperature is a closely controlled 55 degrees and he is protected from winter winds, and put him on anti-inflammatories. Nearly three months later, the eggplant-shaped mammal lumbers in to the checkup room with all the grace of a sandbag, his breath fragrant with fish. In exchange for a finned snack, he submits himself to the probe of a stethoscope, a few eye drops, an ultrasound and a look inside his mouth.

“This is one of our few patients that will actually say ‘ahhhh’,” says Paul Calle, senior veterinarian for the Wildlife Conversation Society, which runs the aquarium.

Careful treatment appears to have eased Fonzie’s discomfort and he’s ready to rejoin the other sea lions. But his days as a performer are probably over. At the aquarium, his seniority is far from unusual. Immediately after his exam, keepers moved on to take a blood sample from Spook, a 43-year-old gray seal believed to be the oldest on record. Earlier in the week, the aquarium lost a sand tiger shark named Bertha who, at 65, also held an age record.

That longevity confronts zoo managers with mysteries and doubts they’ve never really had to deal with before.

“The simple question was: ‘Does a 41-year-old gorilla need to be on birth control?’ And nobody really knew,” says Sue Margulis, curator of primates at Lincoln Park.

Years ago, there wouldn’t have been much need to consider such a question. Even today, a gorilla that reaches 30 is getting up there. Now, though, the question applies to far more than the one gorilla at nearby Brookfield Zoo that provoked it. When Margulis and a fellow researcher set out to study the possibility of menopause in gorillas, they looked at 30 gorillas in 17 zoos around the country. Of those, 22 are considered geriatric, including one who’s now 55.

They found that about a quarter were no longer going through monthly menstrual cycles, while others were in transition. But while gorillas in menopause spent much less time with the male silverbacks, most were quite healthy. In the wild, female gorillas typically leave the group in which they’re born. In zoos, older female gorillas stick around, sometimes playing a grandmother role in childcare that is likely unique to captivity.

At the St. Louis Zoo, the uncertainties of aging have keepers wondering about the well-being of Ruffles, a black-and-white ruffed lemur. At 31, he’s a sage.

Some of Ruffle’s problems are easily identifiable and treatable. He gets an anti-inflammatory pill twice a day — he likes it tucked inside a grape — to combat the pain of spinal arthritis. When blood tests showed he had liver problems, he was put on medication for that, as well.

But there’s no easy diagnosis for another symptom. At times, Ruffles seems to be staring off into nowhere.

“Dementia is one of those things that’s very difficult to pin down just because we can’t use the same sort of testing as we do with humans,” says Joe Knobbe, St. Louis’ zoological manager of primates.

Ruffles has good days and others that could be better. The best keepers can do is make him comfortable, including installing a tiny hanging platform where the lemur, who no longer climbs like a young primate, enjoys resting with a blanket.

Many zoos have been making similar changes to animal habitat to ease geriatric residents into retirement. At the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, a black bear named Spike and his sister Missoula are no longer youngsters. The 22-year-old siblings both have arthritis and Missoula has a problem with inner ear infections that makes it difficult for her to keep her balance. They struggled to climb to their den on the third tier of an exhibit featuring steep, rugged artificial cliffs.

“You start seeing these changes and you realize that if you just let it go, eventually it’s going to be a problem where they can’t get up there,” said Craig Ivanyi of the museum, which is just outside Tucscon. “You realize it’s just a matter of time.”

So in December, keepers moved to the pair into retirement in a new, specially designed enclosure, with gently graded ramps and a large, sloping pool. Spike and Missoula will spend their lives there, off-exhibit, while the zoo renovates the old enclosure so that when new bears arrive, they will be able to age in place.

Ivanyi says that, even with the bears now too old to be exhibited, the zoo is obligated to take care of them and make them comfortable as long as their quality of life can be assured. The challenge for his institution and others is deciding what to do when quality of life begins to ebb away.

Even in old animals that appear healthy, examination after death often finds they “suffer from a range of health problems that may not have been apparent when they were alive,” a group of mostly Swiss veterinarians wrote in an article published last year in the journal Animal Welfare.

“Zoos often unwittingly condemn their animals to long painful lives,” wrote the authors, calling on zoos to use a scoring system to evaluate geriatric animals’ quality of life in order to make more informed decisions about euthanasia.

Animals don’t make diagnosis easy. Their instincts remain rooted in the wild, where survival requires covering up weaknesses and infirmities. But keepers who spend years watching these animals sense when something’s wrong.

At the El Paso Zoo, keepers noticed six years ago that Sheba, their regal black jaguar, was faltering. Worsening arthritis made it difficult for her to climb. Her kidneys were failing. Cataracts limited her ability to see.

Keepers fashioned a hammock from old firehose, and hung it low so she could climb in more easily, but even that became difficult. At day’s end, Sheba would retire from the exhibit space to be near her keepers as they cleaned up, quietly absorbing the sound of their voices.

But by last fall, as Sheba neared her 27th birthday, it became clear that pain and weakness were winning out. That left the zoo’s veterinary staff, managers and keepers with a very difficult choice.

“It’s a lot easier to second-guess yourself when you say, well, she probably would’ve lived four more days, slipping slowly down the slope,” said Victoria Milne, the zoo’s veterinarian.

They decided not to wait. On Nov. 8, vets anesthetized Sheba, then administered a solution by intravenous drip that, in a few seconds, shut down the big cat’s body for good.http://Louis-J-Sheehan.de

Then, as she lay there, keepers, vets and other zoo workers gathered around the cat they’d cared for for 17 years. Some whispered a few words, others reached out to lay a hand on her glossy black coat as they wept.

Like many of the zoo’s other geriatric animals, their girl had lived a long, full life. But that didn’t make it any easier to say goodbye.

Lou psilocybin

June 19, 2008

Lou Genise, a compact man with a shorn head and Fu Manchu mustache, sat propped up on a mattress in a hospital room tucked away on the fifth floor of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. Wearing an eyeshade and listening to music through a headset, he was oblivious to the two psychiatrists sitting nearby, quietly monitoring his every move.

Worry and nausea had been the 37-year-old performance artist’s constant companions during his treatment for metastatic colon cancer that was diagnosed a year earlier. Yet the shroud of negativity lifted under the influence of psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in the hallucinogenic mushrooms used in sacred Native American rituals.

Early one morning last July, Genise had taken a little white capsule containing the psychedelic as part of a medically supervised study to test whether it could ease the mental anguish of people with terminal cancer. He had checked into the hospital the afternoon before, and Charles Grob, the UCLA psychiatrist who is conducting the study, reviewed with him the issues he wanted to confront. Genise said he had developed a Pavlovian aversion to hospitals after all he had been through and would get nauseated in anticipation of getting treatment. He was also having trouble accepting his separation from a former girlfriend, who had come to Los Angeles to care for him when he fell ill.

“I had dealt with the big, earth-shattering problems, but the day-to-day anxieties were the hard part,” Genise recalled five months later, sipping tea in his home in the L.A. neighborhood of Echo Park. “But following the session, I had two startling epiphanies. First, here I was in a hospital having a pleasurable experience, which immediately cured my anxieties. And it suddenly clicked in my head that I didn’t need to cling to my ex. It was a spectacular experience, because in a short time I was able to work through some serious issues on a very deep level.”

At a handful of sites across the country, after a four-decade hiatus, psychedelic research is undergoing a quiet renaissance, thanks to scientists like Charles Grob who are revisiting the powerful mind-altering drugs of the 1960s in hopes of making them part of our therapeutic arsenal. Hallucinogens such as psilocybin, MDMA (better known as Ecstasy), and the most controversial of them all, LSD, are being tested as treatments for maladies that modern medicine has done little to assuage, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, drug dependency, obsessive-compulsive disorder, cluster headaches, and the emotional suffering of people with a terminal illness.

While Grob’s study is not complete—he has tested 11 out of a projected 12 volunteers—patients seemed to have positive experiences. “No one had a bad trip, and most derived some benefit,” he says. “It lowered their anxiety, improved their mood and disposition, and imbued them with a greater acceptance of their situation and capacity to live in the moment and appreciate each day.”

Other early test results are equally encouraging. University of Arizona scientists recently fed psilocybin to nine volunteers whose obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) was so disabling that many could not hold down a job or leave the house; they would observe elaborate cleaning rituals or shower for hours until they felt comfortable. Conventional treatments such as psychotherapy and medication had failed. In each of the nine patients in the study, psilocybin drastically diminished or melted away their compulsions for up to 24 hours, and several remained symptom-free for days.

In another ongoing study, psychiatrist Michael Mithoefer of Charleston, South Carolina, is testing MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) on people suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including rape victims and Iraq War veterans who have not gotten any relief from conventional treatments such as antidepressants and therapy.

PTSD is normally triggered by a terrifying incident—combat, childhood sexual abuse, physical abuse, a serious accident, rape, or a natural disaster—in which people feel their lives are in danger but are powerless to defend themselves. Sometimes PTSD can be triggered by growing up in a harrowing environment where a child is at the mercy of a cruel parent or parental figure. To survive such horrific circumstances, sufferers often numb themselves to their pain. The cornerstone of PTSD treatment involves reliving the trauma in a way that enables patients to process their fears in a rational way. But by definition, revisiting the experience can be frightening, and people often become locked in the grip of intense anxiety.

The drug MDMA, a chemical cousin of mescaline and methamphetamine, can kindle intense euphoria or sublime seren­ity, creating a calming therapeutic environment in which to revisit trauma. Eighteen out of a projected 21 patients in Mithoefer’s study have already been treated, and in many cases just two sessions dramatically diminished symptoms, which is remarkable because PTSD in this group of subjects has been resistant to other types of treatment.

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Psilocybe zapotecorum

Image courtesy of Alan Rockefeller

One of the study participants spent more than two decades in therapy in a futile attempt to heal the deep wounds inflicted by a violent and emotionally abusive stepfather. She ran away from home, was raped twice by men who picked her up hitchhiking, and ricocheted from one abusive relationship to another.
Lou Genise, a compact man with a shorn head and Fu Manchu mustache, sat propped up on a mattress in a hospital room tucked away on the fifth floor of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. Wearing an eyeshade and listening to music through a headset, he was oblivious to the two psychiatrists sitting nearby, quietly monitoring his every move.

Worry and nausea had been the 37-year-old performance artist’s constant companions during his treatment for metastatic colon cancer that was diagnosed a year earlier. Yet the shroud of negativity lifted under the influence of psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in the hallucinogenic mushrooms used in sacred Native American rituals.

Early one morning last July, Genise had taken a little white capsule containing the psychedelic as part of a medically supervised study to test whether it could ease the mental anguish of people with terminal cancer. He had checked into the hospital the afternoon before, and Charles Grob, the UCLA psychiatrist who is conducting the study, reviewed with him the issues he wanted to confront. Genise said he had developed a Pavlovian aversion to hospitals after all he had been through and would get nauseated in anticipation of getting treatment. He was also having trouble accepting his separation from a former girlfriend, who had come to Los Angeles to care for him when he fell ill.

“I had dealt with the big, earth-shattering problems, but the day-to-day anxieties were the hard part,” Genise recalled five months later, sipping tea in his home in the L.A. neighborhood of Echo Park. “But following the session, I had two startling epiphanies. First, here I was in a hospital having a pleasurable experience, which immediately cured my anxieties. And it suddenly clicked in my head that I didn’t need to cling to my ex. It was a spectacular experience, because in a short time I was able to work through some serious issues on a very deep level.”

At a handful of sites across the country, after a four-decade hiatus, psychedelic research is undergoing a quiet renaissance, thanks to scientists like Charles Grob who are revisiting the powerful mind-altering drugs of the 1960s in hopes of making them part of our therapeutic arsenal. Hallucinogens such as psilocybin, MDMA (better known as Ecstasy), and the most controversial of them all, LSD, are being tested as treatments for maladies that modern medicine has done little to assuage, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, drug dependency, obsessive-compulsive disorder, cluster headaches, and the emotional suffering of people with a terminal illness.

While Grob’s study is not complete—he has tested 11 out of a projected 12 volunteers—patients seemed to have positive experiences. “No one had a bad trip, and most derived some benefit,” he says. “It lowered their anxiety, improved their mood and disposition, and imbued them with a greater acceptance of their situation and capacity to live in the moment and appreciate each day.”

Other early test results are equally encouraging. University of Arizona scientists recently fed psilocybin to nine volunteers whose obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) was so disabling that many could not hold down a job or leave the house; they would observe elaborate cleaning rituals or shower for hours until they felt comfortable. Conventional treatments such as psychotherapy and medication had failed. In each of the nine patients in the study, psilocybin drastically diminished or melted away their compulsions for up to 24 hours, and several remained symptom-free for days.

In another ongoing study, psychiatrist Michael Mithoefer of Charleston, South Carolina, is testing MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) on people suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including rape victims and Iraq War veterans who have not gotten any relief from conventional treatments such as antidepressants and therapy.

PTSD is normally triggered by a terrifying incident—combat, childhood sexual abuse, physical abuse, a serious accident, rape, or a natural disaster—in which people feel their lives are in danger but are powerless to defend themselves. Sometimes PTSD can be triggered by growing up in a harrowing environment where a child is at the mercy of a cruel parent or parental figure. To survive such horrific circumstances, sufferers often numb themselves to their pain. The cornerstone of PTSD treatment involves reliving the trauma in a way that enables patients to process their fears in a rational way. But by definition, revisiting the experience can be frightening, and people often become locked in the grip of intense anxiety.

The drug MDMA, a chemical cousin of mescaline and methamphetamine, can kindle intense euphoria or sublime seren­ity, creating a calming therapeutic environment in which to revisit trauma. Eighteen out of a projected 21 patients in Mithoefer’s study have already been treated, and in many cases just two sessions dramatically diminished symptoms, which is remarkable because PTSD in this group of subjects has been resistant to other types of treatment.

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Psilocybe zapotecorum

Image courtesy of Alan Rockefeller

One of the study participants spent more than two decades in therapy in a futile attempt to heal the deep wounds inflicted by a violent and emotionally abusive stepfather. She ran away from home, was raped twice by men who picked her up hitchhiking, and ricocheted from one abusive relationship to another.

The patient, a 51-year-old woman from South Carolina, coped by deadening herself emotionally. “I knew I was messed up, but I sealed up all those feelings because they were so overwhelming,” she recalls. “They were like the monster that is locked behind a three-foot-thick steel door.”

Under the influence of MDMA, she was able to let go of the blockage that had stunted her emotionally. “The drug opened the door and removed that fear of feeling,” she says. “I never cried about those experiences before, but now I can and I welcome it. I no longer feel like I’m holding back the Red Sea.”

Success stories like these explain why psychedelics never lost their appeal for Grob and a handful of other academic scientists. Despite their promise, however, it is still difficult to get such studies off the ground. Psychedelics are classified as Schedule 1 drugs by the Drug Enforcement Administration, which outlaws their use outside a research setting. Exceptions are made for Native American church­goers, who are allowed by law to use peyote in prayer meetings, and members of a branch of a Brazilian-based church in Santa Fe, New Mexico, who have won court battles for the right to use the hallucinogenic tea ayahuasca in their religious rituals.

In the current climate, the main source of funding for studies of hallucinogens are two private philanthropies: the Heffter Research Institute in Santa Fe, which was founded in 1993 by academics and mental health professionals to finance scholarly research, and MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), which has dispensed more than $10 million since it was launched in 1986 by Rick Doblin, a drug reform activist in Boston with a Harvard University Ph.D. in public policy.

But it is not just social taboos that have scared off government funders and pharmaceutical companies. Critics worry that this research will legitimize reckless recreational use, especially among impressionable young adults. “That danger needs to be considered before we open a Pandora’s box,” says Glen Hanson, a pharmacologist at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and former acting director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “So much emotion is tied up with this research that it often gets in the way of critically analyzing the risks.”

Still, mainstream psychiatrists like Herbert Kleber, director of the Division on Substance Abuse at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, hope these experiments will chip away at institutional resistance. “They have therapeutic potential for crippling mental maladies, especially for OCD, PTSD, and drug and alcohol addictions, which have such a high relapse rate,” says Kleber, a former deputy director for the Office of National Drug Control Policy at the White House. “These are not easy drugs to work with, and some of the side effects are unpredictable. But they are all absolutely worthy of research.” http://louis-j-sheehan.com

With his salty beard, wire-frame glasses, khaki pants, tie, and sport jacket, Charles Grob, a 57-year-old professor of psychiatry, doesn’t look anything like a wild-eyed rebel of the ’60s. He squeezes in psychedelic research on weekends because his workdays are filled overseeing a large clinical program that handles 400 to 500 patients a year and supervising the child psychiatry fellows, residents, interns, psychology postdocs, and social workers in training who rotate through his department at UCLA.

Grob’s fascination with the medicinal powers of hallucinogens began in 1972, when he was babysitting dream-research experiments at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, where his father, David Grob, was chief of medicine. Having dropped out of college and with little to do but read, he dug into the library of his psychologist boss, Stanley Krippner, and was astonished to learn that after World War II scientists were achieving what seemed like miracle cures by treating once-intractable mental ills with psychedelics such as LSD. “They were at the cutting edge of psychiatric research,” Grob says.

While peyote and other plant hallucinogens had been used in shamanistic rites for centuries, the modern era of hallucinogenic research began in April 1943. At Sandoz Laboratories in Basel, Switzerland, chemist Albert Hofmann accidentally dosed himself with LSD, a rye ergot fungus he had been working with, and suddenly saw the world through kaleidoscope eyes.

That first acid trip sparked an explosion in experimentation by psychiatrists, intellectuals, artists, spiritual seekers, and even Nobel Prize–winning scientists including physicist Richard Feynman and Francis Crick, who reportedly admitted before he died in 2004 that he had visualized the double-helix structure of DNA while under the influence of LSD. In the heady postwar years, hundreds of promising studies were conducted in the United States, Canada, and Europe on the use of LSD and other psychedelics, like peyote, to treat such psychiatric maladies as schizophrenia, autism, drug addiction, alcoholism, and chronic depression. “People don’t realize today how valuable these studies were and how enthusiastic the reception was within psychiatry, which was then locked in a rigid Freudian orthodoxy,” Grob says. “Investigators were getting very rapid, positive, and transformative changes in patients.”

By the early 1960s more than 1,000 studies on LSD and other hallucinogens discussing the experiences of 40,000 patients had been published in reputable medical journals. “It was a medicine of remarkable power,” Stanislav Grof says. The Czech-born psychiatrist conducted dozens of government-sanctioned LSD experiments in the ’50s, ’60s, and early ’70s on heroin addicts, alcoholics, and terminal cancer patients in his native Prague and later at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, a mental health facility in Catonsville, Maryland, where he was chief of psychiatric research.

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“The results were quite impressive, particularly in some of those categories that are very resistant to treatment, such as heroin addiction,” recalls Grof, who is now 76. “It could also frequently relieve pain, even pain that didn’t respond to narcotics. I found the studies with cancer patients to be the most moving, to see how their attitudes toward death changed.”

During the 1950s and early ’60s, research in Canada by psychiatrists Abram Hoffer and Humphry Osmond using mescaline and LSD on patients with severe alcohol addictions became the stuff of legend (pdf). “Alcoholics Anonymous believed many alcoholics don’t do well until they become deeply motivated by ‘hitting bottom,’” says Hoffer, who at 90 still sees patients. “We thought we could use a whip to frighten alcoholics and drive them away from a desire to drink by giving them a bad trip. After giving it to five patients, we realized that instead of hitting bottom, they were having a beneficial, pleasurable experience. It opened their minds, they developed some insights, and they began to see things they never had seen before,” which made them more receptive to psychotherapy.

This prompted Osmond to coin the term psychedelic (from the Greek, meaning “mind manifesting”) to describe the drugs’ capacity for mental enrichment. When combined with talk therapy, just one or two daylong LSD sessions blunted the desire to drink, even in alcoholics written off as hopeless. Psychedelics became part of treatment in Saskatchewan’s five treatment centers and were administered in 100- to 800-microgram doses—many times the strength of a street dose and potent enough to conjure up visions. In follow-ups two and three years later, researchers found that more than half the patients—and, in some instances, up to 90 percent—remained sober, according to Erika Dyck, a medical historian at the University of Alberta in Edmonton and author of an upcoming book on psychedelic psychiatry. Many patients said the sessions saved their lives.

But these potent potions soon became a symbol of the dark side of the ’60s counterculture. Unhinged people on bad acid trips who had taken bootleg or adulterated street drugs began showing up in emergency rooms in the throes of severe panic attacks or psychotic breakdowns. Psychedelics, and LSD in particular, were held responsible for suicides, permanent brain damage, and cult thrill killings. In response to the hysteria, Sandoz stopped supplying researchers with LSD in 1965; a year later the drug was outlawed in the United States, and by 1972 legitimate scientific research had ground to a halt.

Lack of scientific standards in many of the early studies compounded the problem. Often the reports were based on anecdotal evidence, or the studies failed to give any participants dummy pills as a basis for comparison. Nor were the tests blinded. In a blinded test, researchers don’t know whether they are giving patients the drug being tested or fake medicine. That is an important control; other­wise, personal biases and expectations can muddy test results.

At the time, though, Charles Grob thought the setbacks were only temporary. After hearing a lecture by Grof in the 1970s about his studies with the terminally ill, he decided that pursuing this line of research was what he wanted to do with his life. “His research was inspiring,” Grob recalls. “The hospice movement hadn’t occurred yet, and these patients were often pushed off into a corner of a sterile hospital. But when I told my father, he said no one would listen to me unless I had credentials.”

Grob headed back to college, earned his medical degree in 1979, and, after completing a child psychiatry fellowship, began teaching at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1984. “Almost overnight, the field had gone into deep hibernation,” he recalls. Still, he never gave up on the drugs’ tantalizing potential. When UCLA wooed him away from the University of California at Irvine in 1993, where he was teaching and practicing after leaving Johns Hopkins, he told his future boss about his secret passion. “I hope I’m not too crazy for you,” Grob told him.

The research climate was changing once again. In 1990 Rick Strassman, a psychiatrist at the University of New Mexico in Albu­querque, got federal clearance to do the first psychedelic studies on humans in nearly two decades. Several factors helped pry open the regulatory doors, Strassman says. The countercultural excesses were a dim memory, a new regime at the FDA was more open, the little-known psychedelic he proposed to test—DMT—didn’t have the baggage of LSD, and he was persistent. “It took two years,” Strassman says. “They never said no, so I thought until they did, I would continue working on getting approval.”

Over the next five years, he injected 65 healthy adult volunteers with DMT (dimethyltryptamine), a powerful hallucinogen derived from plants that induces a trancelike state. Many of the subjects, all of whom had taken psychedelics before, reported having out-of-body and near-death experiences and felt the sessions were among the most intense episodes of their lives.

Not long after, Grob witnessed the salutary effects of psychedelics when he was invited by a colleague to do a privately funded investigation of the emotional health of people who regularly ingested these substances as part of their religion. In the summer of 1993, he traveled to Manaus, Brazil, a major port city in the Amazon rain forest, to study members of the Centro Espirita Beneficente União do Vegetal (UDV) church. Founded in Brazil in 1961, the 8,000-member religion mixes traditional Christianity with indigenous beliefs. Central to the UDV rituals is drinking ayahuasca, a tea brewed from two plants that grow in the Amazon basin. One contains DMT; the other contains an alkaloid that prevents DMT from being degraded in the stomach. Grob did a psychiatric and neuropsychological inventory comparing 15 long-term users of ayahuasca with 15 matched controls and found the church members were physiologically and psychologically healthier. They were more cheerful, confident, relaxed, even-tempered, and orderly and scored better on memory and concentration tests—and there was no evidence of deterioration of their personalities or their mental acuity.

So much emotion is tied up with this research that it often gets in the way of critically analyzing the risks.

When Grob quizzed them about their personal lives, many UDV members described themselves as angry, impulsive reprobates hell-bent on self-destruction before they entered the church. Some had unsavory histories of violence and spousal abuse and were severely alcoholic or addicted to drugs. “I was amazed because these were responsible, high-functioning pillars of the community,” Grob recalls. “They all unequivocally credited ayahuasca, when taken in the controlled setting of the church, as the catalyst for their evolution into upstanding citizens.”

Emboldened by Strassman’s success, Grob applied to the FDA for permission to test MDMA on dying cancer patients. The agency insisted that safety studies be completed first on 18 healthy volunteers to ensure that the drug didn’t trigger damaging side effects. In 1994 he administered the first dose of MDMA to a test subject. But after completing the pilot study, he abandoned the drug in favor of the less controversial psilocybin. After Grob made the switch, the FDA gave him the go-ahead, and he recruited his first terminal cancer patient in 2004.

But the real turning point was a 2006 Johns Hopkins study using psilocybin in 36 healthy adults who were spiritually inclined but had never done psychedelics. They all received both psilocybin and an amphetamine-like compound (Ritalin), which has some psychoactive effects, such as increasing heart rate and increasing concentration. Some received psilocybin first; others received Ritalin first. In follow-up interviews two months later, four out of five said that the psilocybin experience had improved their well-being and satisfaction with life, about 70 percent rated the experience as among the most spiritually significant events of their lives, and nearly 70 percent called it one of the most personally meaningful events, comparable to the birth of a first child or the death of a parent. These beneficial effects persisted more than a year, when the volunteers were interviewed again.

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“Many of these people had a genuine mystical experience, which was transformative in a profound way,” says Roland Griffiths, a behavioral psychopharmacologist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the study’s lead investigator. Especially significant was the experiment’s rigorous design, which proved that this type of research can be safely done under scientifically standardized conditions. Perhaps even more important, Herbert Kleber says, is that Griffiths is new to the field and “not a true believer.”

What are the drugs doing to create such powerful effects? At the chemical level, psilocybin, LSD, and DMT—which are classified as tryptamines—are structurally similar to serotonin, a powerful chemical messenger that expedites the transmission of nerve signals in the brain. Tryptamines work by mimicking the action of serotonin, which is responsible for controlling an array of functions, including mood, sexual desires, sleep cycles, memory, and appetite. MDMA is a phenethylamine; it taps into the neuronal reservoirs of the key brain chemicals serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine (adrenaline), boosting their levels in the brain. Mescaline, although it is classified as a phenethylamine, works more like LSD or DMT.

While no one knows why psychedelics exert powerful positive effects or why they transform perceptions, progress in brain imaging has allowed researchers to discover where these drugs act in the brain. Extensive animal studies and PET scans on humans reveal that tryptamines such as psilocybin stimulate an array of brain structures: the prefrontal cortex, which is the center of executive functioning; limbic regions such as the amygdala that govern our emotional life and the formation of memories; the striatum, which plays a role in cognitive functions; and the thalamus.

Scientists suspect that one of the key areas especially affected is the thalamus, a walnut-size structure at the base of the brain that is the gateway for sensory information—taste, touch, vision, and hearing. The thalamus normally acts as a filter, winnowing out extraneous sensory information before relaying data to the cerebral cortex, the seat of memory, attention, language, and consciousness. Under psychedelics, the sensory overload may overwhelm the thalamus, leading to delusions, hallucinations, thought disturbances, feelings of persecution, and loss of coherent ego experiences.

“The cortex basically takes all the information coming in and synthesizes it into reality,” says David E. Nichols, a professor of medicinal chemistry at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, who has done animal research on hallucinogens. “When you alter that circuitry, you’re essentially changing your perception of reality.”

That’s why scientists stress the importance of taking these powerful substances in a pleasant and well-supervised environment, rather than in the uncontrolled settings of recreational drug use. Psychedelics amplify whatever is going on around you and within you, Nichols says. “Taken in haste, without proper regard for their effects and in chaotic conditions, the effects can be really awful and frightening. But with the proper preparation, in a proper setting, with the right controls, the experience can be wonderful.”

Annie Levy, a participant in Grob’s study, agrees. The 54-year-old neuropsychologist underwent her psilocybin session at UCLA last May, shortly after her ovarian cancer had come roaring back in spite of two rounds of intensive chemotherapy. Overwhelmed by dread, Levy says she was “plagued by obsessive thoughts that I would suffer horribly while going through the dying process.”

A few days before her treatment, Levy says, “I had felt somewhat anxious about participating in the study, but meeting the treatment team helped calm my fears.” And once the psychedelic took hold, her despair disappeared. She was able to come to terms with her eventual death, concentrate on all the joy in her life, and stop ruminating about all the awful things that might happen in the future. The drug’s influence endured for about six months. “I wish I could go in for another session,” Levy says, “like a booster.”

Despite such glowing testimonials, some researchers worry about the potential for serious psychic damage if these compounds are used by hundreds of therapists on thousands of patients, instead of by a small cadre of dedicated scientists testing carefully screened volunteers in tightly controlled situations. “The idea of turning [these drugs] loose makes me uncomfortable,” says University of Utah pharmacologist Glen Hanson, who is also director of the Utah Addiction Center there. “Before we make them available by prescription, there needs to be compelling evidence that they’re unique and that a large population would derive substantial benefit.”

Eventually, though, this research may lead to more precisely targeted therapeutics for the disorders psychedelics seem to help, such as OCD and other compulsive ills, like bulimia and anorexia. In animal studies, repeated dosages of psilocybin diminish the number of 2A serotonin receptors, which dampens their expression. This is a process known as downregulation.

“We suspect that physiologically, this is what happened in the OCD study—that psilocybin downregulates the activity of these receptors,” says Franz X. Vollenweider, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist at the Psychiatric University Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland, who conducted many of the imaging studies and has done psychedelic research for more than a decade. “We’ve done a lot of basic research,” he adds. “Now we want to use the tools we’ve developed to see what is going on in real patients. If we could convincingly demonstrate hallucinogens alter these receptors, then we can find other compounds that have similar mechanisms but are less frightening.”

Will these studies finally open the door to acceptance? David Nichols says psychedelics researchers keep a low profile “because everyone lives in fear that some administrator will kill their project.” Roland Griffiths of Johns Hopkins, for example, who has been doing pharmacological research for more than three decades, never had a project scrutinized as thoroughly by his institution’s review board and the FDA as his 2006 psilocybin study was. Throughout the study he worried that negative publicity might halt the research.

Charles Grob is more hopeful. “Sure, it’s been Sisyphean because of the cultural stigmas, and it has taken years to go even little baby steps,” he says. “But people are making dramatic progress working with the hardest cases. We’re on the threshold of opening up an exciting new field.”

Under the influence of MDMA, she was able to let go of the blockage that had stunted her emotionally. “The drug opened the door and removed that fear of feeling,” she says. “I never cried about those experiences before, but now I can and I welcome it. I no longer feel like I’m holding back the Red Sea.”

Success stories like these explain why psychedelics never lost their appeal for Grob and a handful of other academic scientists. Despite their promise, however, it is still difficult to get such studies off the ground. Psychedelics are classified as Schedule 1 drugs by the Drug Enforcement Administration, which outlaws their use outside a research setting. Exceptions are made for Native American church­goers, who are allowed by law to use peyote in prayer meetings, and members of a branch of a Brazilian-based church in Santa Fe, New Mexico, who have won court battles for the right to use the hallucinogenic tea ayahuasca in their religious rituals. http://louis5j5sheehan.blogspot.com

In the current climate, the main source of funding for studies of hallucinogens are two private philanthropies: the Heffter Research Institute in Santa Fe, which was founded in 1993 by academics and mental health professionals to finance scholarly research, and MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), which has dispensed more than $10 million since it was launched in 1986 by Rick Doblin, a drug reform activist in Boston with a Harvard University Ph.D. in public policy.

But it is not just social taboos that have scared off government funders and pharmaceutical companies. Critics worry that this research will legitimize reckless recreational use, especially among impressionable young adults. “That danger needs to be considered before we open a Pandora’s box,” says Glen Hanson, a pharmacologist at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and former acting director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “So much emotion is tied up with this research that it often gets in the way of critically analyzing the risks.”

Still, mainstream psychiatrists like Herbert Kleber, director of the Division on Substance Abuse at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, hope these experiments will chip away at institutional resistance. “They have therapeutic potential for crippling mental maladies, especially for OCD, PTSD, and drug and alcohol addictions, which have such a high relapse rate,” says Kleber, a former deputy director for the Office of National Drug Control Policy at the White House. “These are not easy drugs to work with, and some of the side effects are unpredictable. But they are all absolutely worthy of research.”

With his salty beard, wire-frame glasses, khaki pants, tie, and sport jacket, Charles Grob, a 57-year-old professor of psychiatry, doesn’t look anything like a wild-eyed rebel of the ’60s. He squeezes in psychedelic research on weekends because his workdays are filled overseeing a large clinical program that handles 400 to 500 patients a year and supervising the child psychiatry fellows, residents, interns, psychology postdocs, and social workers in training who rotate through his department at UCLA.

Grob’s fascination with the medicinal powers of hallucinogens began in 1972, when he was babysitting dream-research experiments at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, where his father, David Grob, was chief of medicine. Having dropped out of college and with little to do but read, he dug into the library of his psychologist boss, Stanley Krippner, and was astonished to learn that after World War II scientists were achieving what seemed like miracle cures by treating once-intractable mental ills with psychedelics such as LSD. “They were at the cutting edge of psychiatric research,” Grob says.

While peyote and other plant hallucinogens had been used in shamanistic rites for centuries, the modern era of hallucinogenic research began in April 1943. At Sandoz Laboratories in Basel, Switzerland, chemist Albert Hofmann accidentally dosed himself with LSD, a rye ergot fungus he had been working with, and suddenly saw the world through kaleidoscope eyes.

That first acid trip sparked an explosion in experimentation by psychiatrists, intellectuals, artists, spiritual seekers, and even Nobel Prize–winning scientists including physicist Richard Feynman and Francis Crick, who reportedly admitted before he died in 2004 that he had visualized the double-helix structure of DNA while under the influence of LSD. In the heady postwar years, hundreds of promising studies were conducted in the United States, Canada, and Europe on the use of LSD and other psychedelics, like peyote, to treat such psychiatric maladies as schizophrenia, autism, drug addiction, alcoholism, and chronic depression. “People don’t realize today how valuable these studies were and how enthusiastic the reception was within psychiatry, which was then locked in a rigid Freudian orthodoxy,” Grob says. “Investigators were getting very rapid, positive, and transformative changes in patients.”

By the early 1960s more than 1,000 studies on LSD and other hallucinogens discussing the experiences of 40,000 patients had been published in reputable medical journals. “It was a medicine of remarkable power,” Stanislav Grof says. The Czech-born psychiatrist conducted dozens of government-sanctioned LSD experiments in the ’50s, ’60s, and early ’70s on heroin addicts, alcoholics, and terminal cancer patients in his native Prague and later at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, a mental health facility in Catonsville, Maryland, where he was chief of psychiatric research.

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“The results were quite impressive, particularly in some of those categories that are very resistant to treatment, such as heroin addiction,” recalls Grof, who is now 76. “It could also frequently relieve pain, even pain that didn’t respond to narcotics. I found the studies with cancer patients to be the most moving, to see how their attitudes toward death changed.”

During the 1950s and early ’60s, research in Canada by psychiatrists Abram Hoffer and Humphry Osmond using mescaline and LSD on patients with severe alcohol addictions became the stuff of legend (pdf). “Alcoholics Anonymous believed many alcoholics don’t do well until they become deeply motivated by ‘hitting bottom,’” says Hoffer, who at 90 still sees patients. “We thought we could use a whip to frighten alcoholics and drive them away from a desire to drink by giving them a bad trip. After giving it to five patients, we realized that instead of hitting bottom, they were having a beneficial, pleasurable experience. It opened their minds, they developed some insights, and they began to see things they never had seen before,” which made them more receptive to psychotherapy.

This prompted Osmond to coin the term psychedelic (from the Greek, meaning “mind manifesting”) to describe the drugs’ capacity for mental enrichment. When combined with talk therapy, just one or two daylong LSD sessions blunted the desire to drink, even in alcoholics written off as hopeless. Psychedelics became part of treatment in Saskatchewan’s five treatment centers and were administered in 100- to 800-microgram doses—many times the strength of a street dose and potent enough to conjure up visions. In follow-ups two and three years later, researchers found that more than half the patients—and, in some instances, up to 90 percent—remained sober, according to Erika Dyck, a medical historian at the University of Alberta in Edmonton and author of an upcoming book on psychedelic psychiatry. Many patients said the sessions saved their lives.

But these potent potions soon became a symbol of the dark side of the ’60s counterculture. Unhinged people on bad acid trips who had taken bootleg or adulterated street drugs began showing up in emergency rooms in the throes of severe panic attacks or psychotic breakdowns. Psychedelics, and LSD in particular, were held responsible for suicides, permanent brain damage, and cult thrill killings. In response to the hysteria, Sandoz stopped supplying researchers with LSD in 1965; a year later the drug was outlawed in the United States, and by 1972 legitimate scientific research had ground to a halt.

Lack of scientific standards in many of the early studies compounded the problem. Often the reports were based on anecdotal evidence, or the studies failed to give any participants dummy pills as a basis for comparison. Nor were the tests blinded. In a blinded test, researchers don’t know whether they are giving patients the drug being tested or fake medicine. That is an important control; other­wise, personal biases and expectations can muddy test results.

At the time, though, Charles Grob thought the setbacks were only temporary. After hearing a lecture by Grof in the 1970s about his studies with the terminally ill, he decided that pursuing this line of research was what he wanted to do with his life. “His research was inspiring,” Grob recalls. “The hospice movement hadn’t occurred yet, and these patients were often pushed off into a corner of a sterile hospital. But when I told my father, he said no one would listen to me unless I had credentials.”

Grob headed back to college, earned his medical degree in 1979, and, after completing a child psychiatry fellowship, began teaching at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1984. “Almost overnight, the field had gone into deep hibernation,” he recalls. Still, he never gave up on the drugs’ tantalizing potential. When UCLA wooed him away from the University of California at Irvine in 1993, where he was teaching and practicing after leaving Johns Hopkins, he told his future boss about his secret passion. “I hope I’m not too crazy for you,” Grob told him.

The research climate was changing once again. In 1990 Rick Strassman, a psychiatrist at the University of New Mexico in Albu­querque, got federal clearance to do the first psychedelic studies on humans in nearly two decades. Several factors helped pry open the regulatory doors, Strassman says. The countercultural excesses were a dim memory, a new regime at the FDA was more open, the little-known psychedelic he proposed to test—DMT—didn’t have the baggage of LSD, and he was persistent. “It took two years,” Strassman says. “They never said no, so I thought until they did, I would continue working on getting approval.”

Over the next five years, he injected 65 healthy adult volunteers with DMT (dimethyltryptamine), a powerful hallucinogen derived from plants that induces a trancelike state. Many of the subjects, all of whom had taken psychedelics before, reported having out-of-body and near-death experiences and felt the sessions were among the most intense episodes of their lives.

Not long after, Grob witnessed the salutary effects of psychedelics when he was invited by a colleague to do a privately funded investigation of the emotional health of people who regularly ingested these substances as part of their religion. In the summer of 1993, he traveled to Manaus, Brazil, a major port city in the Amazon rain forest, to study members of the Centro Espirita Beneficente União do Vegetal (UDV) church. Founded in Brazil in 1961, the 8,000-member religion mixes traditional Christianity with indigenous beliefs. Central to the UDV rituals is drinking ayahuasca, a tea brewed from two plants that grow in the Amazon basin. One contains DMT; the other contains an alkaloid that prevents DMT from being degraded in the stomach. Grob did a psychiatric and neuropsychological inventory comparing 15 long-term users of ayahuasca with 15 matched controls and found the church members were physiologically and psychologically healthier. They were more cheerful, confident, relaxed, even-tempered, and orderly and scored better on memory and concentration tests—and there was no evidence of deterioration of their personalities or their mental acuity.

So much emotion is tied up with this research that it often gets in the way of critically analyzing the risks.

When Grob quizzed them about their personal lives, many UDV members described themselves as angry, impulsive reprobates hell-bent on self-destruction before they entered the church. Some had unsavory histories of violence and spousal abuse and were severely alcoholic or addicted to drugs. “I was amazed because these were responsible, high-functioning pillars of the community,” Grob recalls. “They all unequivocally credited ayahuasca, when taken in the controlled setting of the church, as the catalyst for their evolution into upstanding citizens.”

Emboldened by Strassman’s success, Grob applied to the FDA for permission to test MDMA on dying cancer patients. The agency insisted that safety studies be completed first on 18 healthy volunteers to ensure that the drug didn’t trigger damaging side effects. In 1994 he administered the first dose of MDMA to a test subject. But after completing the pilot study, he abandoned the drug in favor of the less controversial psilocybin. After Grob made the switch, the FDA gave him the go-ahead, and he recruited his first terminal cancer patient in 2004.

But the real turning point was a 2006 Johns Hopkins study using psilocybin in 36 healthy adults who were spiritually inclined but had never done psychedelics. They all received both psilocybin and an amphetamine-like compound (Ritalin), which has some psychoactive effects, such as increasing heart rate and increasing concentration. Some received psilocybin first; others received Ritalin first. In follow-up interviews two months later, four out of five said that the psilocybin experience had improved their well-being and satisfaction with life, about 70 percent rated the experience as among the most spiritually significant events of their lives, and nearly 70 percent called it one of the most personally meaningful events, comparable to the birth of a first child or the death of a parent. These beneficial effects persisted more than a year, when the volunteers were interviewed again.

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“Many of these people had a genuine mystical experience, which was transformative in a profound way,” says Roland Griffiths, a behavioral psychopharmacologist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the study’s lead investigator. Especially significant was the experiment’s rigorous design, which proved that this type of research can be safely done under scientifically standardized conditions. Perhaps even more important, Herbert Kleber says, is that Griffiths is new to the field and “not a true believer.”

What are the drugs doing to create such powerful effects? At the chemical level, psilocybin, LSD, and DMT—which are classified as tryptamines—are structurally similar to serotonin, a powerful chemical messenger that expedites the transmission of nerve signals in the brain. Tryptamines work by mimicking the action of serotonin, which is responsible for controlling an array of functions, including mood, sexual desires, sleep cycles, memory, and appetite. MDMA is a phenethylamine; it taps into the neuronal reservoirs of the key brain chemicals serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine (adrenaline), boosting their levels in the brain. Mescaline, although it is classified as a phenethylamine, works more like LSD or DMT.

While no one knows why psychedelics exert powerful positive effects or why they transform perceptions, progress in brain imaging has allowed researchers to discover where these drugs act in the brain. Extensive animal studies and PET scans on humans reveal that tryptamines such as psilocybin stimulate an array of brain structures: the prefrontal cortex, which is the center of executive functioning; limbic regions such as the amygdala that govern our emotional life and the formation of memories; the striatum, which plays a role in cognitive functions; and the thalamus.

Scientists suspect that one of the key areas especially affected is the thalamus, a walnut-size structure at the base of the brain that is the gateway for sensory information—taste, touch, vision, and hearing. The thalamus normally acts as a filter, winnowing out extraneous sensory information before relaying data to the cerebral cortex, the seat of memory, attention, language, and consciousness. Under psychedelics, the sensory overload may overwhelm the thalamus, leading to delusions, hallucinations, thought disturbances, feelings of persecution, and loss of coherent ego experiences.

“The cortex basically takes all the information coming in and synthesizes it into reality,” says David E. Nichols, a professor of medicinal chemistry at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, who has done animal research on hallucinogens. “When you alter that circuitry, you’re essentially changing your perception of reality.”

That’s why scientists stress the importance of taking these powerful substances in a pleasant and well-supervised environment, rather than in the uncontrolled settings of recreational drug use. Psychedelics amplify whatever is going on around you and within you, Nichols says. “Taken in haste, without proper regard for their effects and in chaotic conditions, the effects can be really awful and frightening. But with the proper preparation, in a proper setting, with the right controls, the experience can be wonderful.”

Annie Levy, a participant in Grob’s study, agrees. The 54-year-old neuropsychologist underwent her psilocybin session at UCLA last May, shortly after her ovarian cancer had come roaring back in spite of two rounds of intensive chemotherapy. Overwhelmed by dread, Levy says she was “plagued by obsessive thoughts that I would suffer horribly while going through the dying process.”

A few days before her treatment, Levy says, “I had felt somewhat anxious about participating in the study, but meeting the treatment team helped calm my fears.” And once the psychedelic took hold, her despair disappeared. She was able to come to terms with her eventual death, concentrate on all the joy in her life, and stop ruminating about all the awful things that might happen in the future. The drug’s influence endured for about six months. “I wish I could go in for another session,” Levy says, “like a booster.”

Despite such glowing testimonials, some researchers worry about the potential for serious psychic damage if these compounds are used by hundreds of therapists on thousands of patients, instead of by a small cadre of dedicated scientists testing carefully screened volunteers in tightly controlled situations. “The idea of turning [these drugs] loose makes me uncomfortable,” says University of Utah pharmacologist Glen Hanson, who is also director of the Utah Addiction Center there. “Before we make them available by prescription, there needs to be compelling evidence that they’re unique and that a large population would derive substantial benefit.”

Eventually, though, this research may lead to more precisely targeted therapeutics for the disorders psychedelics seem to help, such as OCD and other compulsive ills, like bulimia and anorexia. In animal studies, repeated dosages of psilocybin diminish the number of 2A serotonin receptors, which dampens their expression. This is a process known as downregulation.

“We suspect that physiologically, this is what happened in the OCD study—that psilocybin downregulates the activity of these receptors,” says Franz X. Vollenweider, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist at the Psychiatric University Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland, who conducted many of the imaging studies and has done psychedelic research for more than a decade. “We’ve done a lot of basic research,” he adds. “Now we want to use the tools we’ve developed to see what is going on in real patients. If we could convincingly demonstrate hallucinogens alter these receptors, then we can find other compounds that have similar mechanisms but are less frightening.”

Will these studies finally open the door to acceptance? David Nichols says psychedelics researchers keep a low profile “because everyone lives in fear that some administrator will kill their project.” Roland Griffiths of Johns Hopkins, for example, who has been doing pharmacological research for more than three decades, never had a project scrutinized as thoroughly by his institution’s review board and the FDA as his 2006 psilocybin study was. Throughout the study he worried that negative publicity might halt the research.

Charles Grob is more hopeful. “Sure, it’s been Sisyphean because of the cultural stigmas, and it has taken years to go even little baby steps,” he says. “But people are making dramatic progress working with the hardest cases. We’re on the threshold of opening up an exciting new field.”

nomads

June 17, 2008

ABOUT one in 20 children (those under 18) have a group of symptoms that has come to be known as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). About 60% of them carry those symptoms into adulthood. For what is, at root, a genetic phenomenon, that is a lot—yet many studies have shown that ADHD is indeed genetic and not, as was once suspected, the result of poor parenting. It is associated with particular variants of receptor molecules for neurotransmitters in the brain. A neurotransmitter is a chemical that carries messages between nerve cells and, in the case of ADHD, that chemical is often dopamine, which controls feelings of reward and pleasure. The suggestion is that people with ADHD are receiving positive neurological feedback for inappropriate behaviour. The surprise is that the variant receptors are still there. Natural selection might have been expected to purge them from the population unless they have some compensating benefit.

Of course, this analysis turns on the definition of “inappropriate”. The main symptom of ADHD is impulsiveness. Sufferers have trouble concentrating on any task unless they receive constant feedback, stimulation and reward. They thus tend to flit from activity to activity. Adults with ADHD tend to perform poorly in modern society and are prone to addictive and compulsive behaviour. But might such people do well in different circumstances?

One hypothesis is that the behaviour associated with ADHD helps people, such as hunter-gatherers and pastoral nomads, who lead a peripatetic life. Since today’s sedentary city dwellers are recently descended from such people, natural selection may not have had time to purge the genes that cause it.

Dan Eisenberg, of Northwestern University in Illinois, and his colleagues decided to test this by studying the Ariaal, a group of pastoral nomads who live in Kenya. The receptor Mr Eisenberg looked at was the 7R variant of a protein called DRD4. Previous work has shown that this variant is associated with novelty-seeking, food- and drug-cravings, and ADHD.

The team looked for 7R in two groups of Ariaal. One was still pastoral and nomadic. The other had recently settled down. As they report in this week’s BMC Evolutionary Biology, they found that about a fifth of the population of both groups had the 7R version of DRD4. However, the consequences of this were very different. Among the nomads, who wander around northern Kenya herding cattle, camels, sheep and goats, those with 7R were better nourished than those without. The opposite was true of their settled relations: those with 7R were worse nourished than those without it.

How 7R causes this is not yet known. It may stem from behavioural differences or it may be that different versions of DRD4 have different effects on the way the body processes food. Nevertheless, this discovery fits past findings that 7R and a set of similar variants of DRD4, known collectively as “long alleles”, are more common in migratory populations.

One suggestion is that long-distance migration selects for long alleles (see chart) because they reward exploratory behaviour. This might be an advantage in migratory societies because it encourages people to hunt down resources when they constantly move through unfamiliar surroundings.

As for the Ariaal, there remains the question of why 7R—although it is apparently beneficial to a nomadic way of life—is found in only a fifth of the population. One possibility is that its effects are beneficial only when they are not universal, and some sort of equilibrium between variants emerges. A second is that the advantage is gained when 7R exists along with another version of DRD4 (the genes for the two variants having come from different parents). Unfortunately, the way Mr Eisenberg collected the data does not allow these hypotheses to be tested. http://louis-j-sheehaN.NET

Either way, his research raises the question of whether people suffering from ADHD and conditions related to it, such as addiction, are misfits coping with a genetic legacy that was useful in the evolutionary past, but is now damaging. As society continues to diverge from that evolutionary past, the economic and social consequences of being such a misfit may become increasingly important. http://louis-j-sheehan.com

test

June 16, 2008

test

predictions

June 9, 2008

When Sen. Ted Kennedy’s diagnosis of brain cancer was announced, it set off a morbid, sometimes irresponsible, countdown.

Reporters wanted to know how long he could live with his tumor, known as a glioma. Doctors, going by the limited information available from Sen. Kennedy’s doctors, responded with answers that were all over the map.

Some doctors, not hearing any mention of surgery as an option, said Sen. Kennedy may have just six months. But the senator underwent surgery at Duke this week. Others cited stats for the most-severe type of glioma, which kills half of patients within 15 months — or is it 12? Still others optimistically shared typical survival rates for a less-extreme form of the condition: three to five years.

When it comes to answering the most enduring question about a life — when it ends — even the best scientific studies of some of the more common medical cases points to one conclusion: We don’t really know.

“It is lies, damned lies and statistics,” says Lynne Taylor, director of neuro-oncology at the Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle. “What everyone cares about is what’s going to happen to Ted Kennedy, and that’s the one thing statistics can’t tell.”

Even if the media’s medical experts could draw on the same information as Sen. Kennedy’s doctors, it would be hard to predict survival time. “Most of the numbers are based on all comers,” says Jeffrey Raizer, director of Northwestern University’s medical neuro-oncology program.

Age — Sen. Kennedy is 76 years old — and functional impairment, as measured by the Karnofsky Performance Status score, have a big impact on the prognosis. An otherwise healthy person his age might do as well as a typical 40-year-old. “You have to treat the individual, not the statistic,” Dr. Raizer says. http://louis-j-sheehaN.NET

Also, life-expectancy data for such patients are dated. “True life expectancy with best treatment is constantly changing,” says Jonathan A. Friedman, a neurosurgeon and director of the Texas Brain and Spine Institute. “Measurement and reporting of this will always lag behind reality.”

Some news articles say glioma patients typically live 12 months from diagnosis; others bump the figure to 15 months because a more-recent study showed promise. The news media add to the confusion by treating median survival times like death sentences. Saying most such patients are given a certain amount of time to live implies there is no chance to live longer. Yet half of patients outlive those estimates, says Ellen Fox, a health-care ethicist for the Veterans Health Administration.

On either side of the midpoint, survival times can vary widely. A 2005 study of radiotherapy and a drug called temozolomide found that 27% of patients lived more than two years and nearly 20% lived past three years — more than twice the typical survival time.

On the other hand, we hear about the outliers, those who inspire hope with their prolonged survival despite doctors’ grim forecasts. But these are exceptions. Doctors struggle to translate survival statistics for the news media, and do far worse when trying to apply these stats specifically to their patients.

The error is usually on the side of overoptimism, in part because doctors tend to be confident in their abilities and hopeful for their patients. http://louis-j-sheehan.com
Doctors overestimated dying patients’ survival by a factor of 5.3, Harvard Medical School professor Nicholas Christakis found in a study of terminally ill patients referred to hospice care who had, on average, about a month to live.

In a study of Dutch nursing homes, half of patients expected to have four to six weeks to live had died by the end of the third week. “Doctors simply overlook the signs of nearing death,” says study co-author Hella Brandt of the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research.

Predictions of death fall short because of twin failures of science and communication. The science of prognosis is poorly understood and inadequately taught. On surveys, most physicians say they weren’t adequately trained in prognosis, Dr. Christakis says.

The pain and difficulty of communicating the prediction exacerbates the error. “Research in this area shows that most people want a broad idea of what to expect, but not all want precise details regarding statistics,” says Josephine Clayton, of the University of Sydney.

Many patients never ask even for the broad outline, out of fear of the answer. Their doctors, in turn, also fear this moment. When estimating life expectancy for patients who, it turned out, had about a month to live, doctors tacked 15 days onto their private predictions, which were already overly optimistic, according to a separate study by Dr. Christakis and Dr. Elizabeth Lamont.

And patients sometimes tack on still more time, as demonstrated by a Duke University study published this week showing that patients with heart failure significantly overestimate their life expectancy. Only one-third of them spoke to their clinicians about a prognosis, and that didn’t help their forecasts.

The implications go beyond any emotional consequences of dying patients thinking they have more time to live. Patients and doctors expecting a longer survival time may agree on more-invasive treatment, adding the burden of side effects and complications to patients in their final days, and keeping them in hospitals.

Not every study shows a tendency toward optimism. A study from an Ireland hospice this year found that senior clinical staff tended to underestimate survival. But all studies agree that the accuracy rate is alarmingly low: Fewer than half of predictions are within 33% of the correct survival time.

Feedback and quality control could help hone survival estimates. Hospital doctors could remove some of the statistical noise by averaging predictions from all members of their team, Dr. Christakis suggests. The natural competitiveness of doctors might spur them to track their accuracy rates and adjust accordingly for future patients.

For all their predictive failings, doctors generally can discriminate between cases. One patient predicted to live longer than another usually does.

Oncologist Martin Stockler from the University of Sydney found physicians do better predicting big-picture statistics. If you ask how long 10% of similar patients — or 90% or 50% — were likely to survive, they give more-accurate predictions.

Dr. Taylor improved her accuracy after comparing her estimates for past patients with their actual survival times, and realizing she had been too optimistic. “Your relationship with the patient is you only want the best for them,” she says, “and you only want to give them hope.”

paperclip Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

June 7, 2008

Operation Paperclip (also credited as Project Paperclip) was the code name under which the U.S. intelligence and military services extracted German scientists from Nazi Germany, during and after the final stages of World War II. In 1945 the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency was established and given direct responsibility for Operation Paperclip.  Louis J. Sheehan

http://louis-j-sheehaN.NET