New Rule: Stop pretending your drugs are morally superior to my drugs because you get yours at a store. This week, they released the autopsy report on Anna Nicole Smith and the cause of death was what I always thought it was: mad cow. No, it turns out she had nine different prescription drugs in her—which, in the medical field, is known as the full Limbaugh. They opened her up and a Walgreens jumped out. Antidepressants, anti-anxiety pills, sleeping pills, sedatives, Valium, methadone—this woman was killed by her doctor, who is a glorified bartender. I’m not going to say his name, but only because (a) I don’t want to get sued and (b) my back is killing me.This month marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of a famous government report. I was sixteen in 1972 and I remember how excited we were when Nixon’s much ballyhooed National Commission on Drug Abuse came out and said pot should be legalized. It was a moment of great hope for common sense—and then, just like Bush did with the Iraq Study Group, Nixon took the report and threw it in the garbage and from there the ’70s went right into disco and colored underpants.This week in American Scientist, a magazine George Bush wouldn’t read if he got food poisoning in Mexico and it was the only thing he could reach from the toilet, described a study done in England that measured the lethality of various drugs and found tobacco and alcohol far worse than pot, LSD, or Ecstasy—which pretty much mirrors my own experiments in this same area. The Beatles took LSD and wrote Sgt. Pepper—Anna Nicole Smith took legal drugs and couldn’t remember the number for nine-one-one.I wish I had more time to go into the fact that the drug war has always been about keeping black men from voting by finding out what they’re addicted to and making it illegal—it’s a miracle our government hasn’t outlawed fat white women yet—but I leave with one request: Would someone please just make a bumper sticker that says, I’m a stoner and I vote.
Bill Maher
Psychologists have devised some ingenious ways to help unpack the human now. Consider how we run those jerky movie frames together into a smooth and continuous stream. This is known as the phi phenomenon. The essence of phi shows up in experiments in a darkened room where two small spots are briefly lit in quick succession, at slightly separated locations. What the subjects report seeing is not a succession of spots, but a single spot moving continuously back and forth. Typically, the spots are illuminated for 150 milliseconds separated by an interval of fifty milliseconds. Evidently the brain somehow fills in the fifty-millisecond gap. Presumably this hallucination or embellishment occurs after the event, because until the second light flashes the subject cannot know the light is supposed to move. This hints that the human now is not simultaneous with the visual stimulus, but a bit delayed, allowing time for the brain to reconstruct a plausible fiction of what has happened a few milliseconds before.In a fascinating refinement of the experiment, the first spot is colored red, the second green. This clearly presents the brain with a problem. How will it join together the two discontinuous experiences—red spot, green spot—smoothly? By blending the colors seamlessly into one another? Or something else? In fact, subjects report seeing the spot change color abruptly in the middle of the imagined trajectory and are even able to indicate exactly where using a pointer. This result leaves us wondering how the subject can apparently experience the correct color sensation before the green spot lights up. Is it a type of precognition? Commenting on this eerie phenomenon, the philosopher Nelson Goodman wrote suggestively: The intervening motion is produced retrospectively, built only after the second flash occurs and projected backwards in time. In his book Consciousness Explained, philosopher Daniel Dennett points out that the illusion of color switch cannot actually be created by the brain until after the green spot appears. But if the second spot is already 'in conscious experience,' wouldn't it be too late to interpose the illusory content between the conscious experience of the red spot and the conscious experience of the green spot?'s Unfinished Revolution
Paul Davies
Henry, there’s something I would like to tell you, for what it’s worth, something I wish I had been told years ago. You’ve been a consultant for a long time and you’ve dealt a great deal with top secret information. But you’re about to receive a whole slew of special clearances, maybe fifteen or twenty of them, that are higher than top secret.I’ve had a number of these myself and I’ve known other people who have just acquired them and I have a pretty good sense of what the effects of receiving these clearances are on a person who didn’t previously know they even existed. And the effects of reading the information that they will make available to you.First, you’ll be exhilarated by some of this new information and by having it all—so much! incredible!—suddenly available to you. But second, almost as fast, you will feel like a fool for having studied, written, talked about these subjects, criticized and analyzed decisions made by presidents for years without having known of the existence of all this information, which presidents and others had and you didn’t and which must have influenced their decisions in ways you couldn’t even guess. In particular, you’ll feel foolish for having literally rubbed shoulders for over a decade with some officials and consultants who did have access to all this information you didn’t know about and didn’t know they had and you’ll be stunned that they kept that secret from you so well.You will feel like a fool and that will last for about two weeks. Then, after you’ve started reading all this daily intelligence input and become used to using what amounts to whole libraries of hidden information, which is much more closely held than mere top secret data, you will forget there ever was a time when you didn’t have it and you’ll be aware only of the fact that you have it now and most others don’t … and that all those other people are fools.Over a longer period of time—not too long, but a matter of two or three years—you’ll eventually become aware of the limitations of this information. There is a great deal that it doesn’t tell you, it’s often inaccurate and it can lead you astray just as much as the New York Times can. But that takes a while to learn.In the meantime it will have become very hard for you to learn from anybody who doesn’t have these clearances. Because you’ll be thinking as you listen to them: What would this man be telling me if he knew what I know? Would he be giving me the same advice, or would it totally change his predictions and recommendations? And that mental exercise is so torturous that after a while you give it up and just stop listening. I’ve seen this with my superiors, my colleagues … and with myself.You will deal with a person who doesn’t have those clearances only from the point of view of what you want him to believe and what impression you want him to go away with, since you’ll have to lie carefully to him about what you know. In effect, you will have to manipulate him. You’ll give up trying to assess what he has to say. The danger is, you’ll become something like a moron. You’ll become incapable of learning from most people in the world, no matter how much experience they may have in their particular areas that may be much greater than yours.'s Shadow: The Long Reach of America's Most Controversial Statesman
Greg Grandin