It is astounding to me, and achingly sad, that with eighty thousand people on the waiting list for donated hearts and livers and kidneys, with sixteen a day dying there on that list, that more then half of the people in the position H's family was in will say no, will choose to burn those organs or let them rot. We abide the surgeon's scalpel to save our own lives, out loved ones' lives, but not to save a stranger's life. H has no heart, but heartless is the last thing you'd call her.
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It would be especially comforting to believe that I have the answer to the question, What happens when we die? Does the light just go out and that's that-the million-year nap? Or will some part of my personality, my me-ness, persist? What will that feel like? What will I do all day? Is there a place to plug in my laptop?
Here's the other thing I think about. It makes little sense to try to control what happens to your remains when you are no longer around to reap the joys or benefits of that control. People who make elaborate requests concerning disposition of their bodies are probably people who have trouble with the concept of not existing. [... ] I imagine it is a symptom of the fear, the dread, of being gone, of the refusal to accept that you no longer control, or even participate in, anything that happens on earth. I spoke about this with funeral director Kevin McCabe, who believes that decisions concerning the disposition of a body should be mad by the survivors, not the dead. "It's non of their business what happens to them whey the die, " he said to me. While I wouldn't go that far, I do understand what he was getting at: that the survivors shouldn't have to do something they're uncomfortable with or ethically opposed to. Mourning and moving on are hard enough. Why add to the burden? If someone wants to arrange a balloon launch of the deceased's ashes into inner space, that's fine. But if it is burdensome or troubling for any reason, then perhaps they shouldn't have to.
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I am very much out of my element here. There are moments, listening to the conversations going on around me, when I feel I am going to lose my mind. Earlier today, I heard someone say the words, "I felt at one with the divine source of creation." Mary Roach on a conducted tour of Hades. I had to fight the urge to push back my chair and start screaming: STAND BACK! ALL OF YOU! I'VE GOT AN ARTHUR FINDLAY BOX CUTTER! Instead, I quietly excused myself and went to the bar, to commune with spirits I know how to relate to.
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I walk up and down the rows. The heads look like rubber halloween masks. They also look like human heads, but my brain has no precedent for human heads on tables or in roasting pans or anywhere other than on top of a human bodies, and so I think it has chosen to interpret the sight in a more comforting manner. - Here we are at the rubber mask factory. Look at the nice men and woman working on the masks.
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The point is that no matter what you choose to do with your body when you die, it won't, ultimately, be very appealing. If you are inclined to donate yourself to science, you should not let images of dissection or dismemberment put you off. They are no more or less gruesome, in my opinion, than ordinary decay or the sewing shut of your jaws via your nostrils for a funeral viewing.
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There, just beyond his open palm, was our mother's face. I wasn't expecting it. We hadn't requested a viewing, and the memorial service was closed-coffin. We got it anyway. They'd shampooed and waved her hair and made up her face. They'd done a great job, but I felt taken, as if we'd asked for the basic carwash and they'd gone ahead and detailed her. Hey, I wanted to say, we didn't order this. But of course I said nothing. Death makes us helplessly polite.
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It's possible that the reason I've never experienced a ghostly presence is that my temporal lobes aren't wired for it. It could well be that the main difference between skeptics (Susan Blackmore notwithstanding) and believers is the neural structure they were born with. But the question still remains: Are these people whose EMF-influenced brains alert them to 'presences' picking up something real that the rest of us can't pick up, or are they hallucinating? Here again, we must end with the Big Shrug, a statue of which is being erected on the lawn outside my office.
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During World War II, when combat rations were tinned, meat hashes were a common entree because they worked well with the filling machines. 'But the men wanted something they could chew, something into which they could 'sink their teeth,'' wrote food scientist Samuel Lepkovsky in a 1964 paper making the case against a liquid diet for the Gemini astronauts. He summed up the soldiers' take on potted meat: 'We could undoubtedly survive on these rations a lot longer than we'd care to live.' (NASA went ahead and tested an all-milkshake meal plan on groups of college students living in a simulated space capsule at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in 1964. A significant portion of it ended up beneath the floorboards.)
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With the rise of classical Greece, the soul debate evolved into the more familiar heart-versus-brain, the liver having been demoted to an accessory role. We are fortunate that this is so, for we would otherwise have been faced with Celine Dion singing "My Liver Belongs to You" and movie houses playing The Liver Is a Lonely Hunter. Every Spanish love song that contains the word corazon, which is all of them, would contain the somewhat less lilting higado, and bumper stickers would proclaim, "I [liver symbol] my Pekingese.
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While he attends to his rats, Persinger gives me the lowdown on the haunt theory. Why would a certain type of electromagnetic field make one hear things or sense a presence? What's the mechanism? The answer hinges on the fact that exposure to electromagnetic fields lowers melatonin levels. Melatonin, he explains, is an anti-convulsive; if you have less of it in your system, your brain -in particular, your right temporal lobe- will be more prone to tiny epileptic-esque microseizures and the subtle hallucinations these seizures can cause.
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he was doing a breath hydrogen test. If you know the amount of hydrogen someone is exhaling orally, it's a simple matter to extrapolate the amount they're exhaling rectally. This is because a fixed percentage of hydrogen produced in the colon is absorbed into the blood and, and when it reaches the lungs, exhaled. The breath hydrogen test has given flatus researchers a simple, consistent measure of gas production that does not require the subject to fart into a balloon.
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One IGHS member said that, yup, she could hear it, too. Then again, during a dinner conversation earlier in the trip, this same woman heard 'Siegfried and Roy' as 'Sigmund Freud.' The resulting image-Sigmund Freud with flowing hair and tigers and too much men's makeup-haunts me to this day.
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There is her heart. I've never seen one beating.I had no idea they moved so much. You put your hand on your heart and you picture something pulsing slightly but basically still, like a hand on a desktop tapping Morse code. This things is going wild in there. It's a mixing-machine part, a stoat squirming in its burrow, an alien life form that's just won a Pontiac on The Price Is Right. If you were looking for the home of the human body's animating spirit, I could imagine believing it to be here, for the simple reason that it is the human body's most animated organ.
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As when astronaut Mike Mulhane was asked by a NASA psychiatrist what epitaph he'd like to have on his gravestone, Mulhane answered, "A loving husband and devoted father, " though in reality, he jokes in "Riding Rockets, " "I would have sold my wife and children into slavery for a ride into space.
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Here is the secret to surviving one of these [airplane] crashes: Be male. In a 1970 Civil Aeromedical institute study of three crashes involving emergency evacuations, the most prominent factor influencing survival was gender (followed closely by proximity to exit). Adult males were by far the most likely to get out alive. Why? Presumably because they pushed everyone else out of the way.
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One young woman's tribute describes unwrapping her cadaver's hands and being brought up short by the realization that the nails were painted pink. "The pictures in the anatomy atlas did not show nail polish", she wrote. "Did you choose the color? Did you think that I would see it? I wanted to tell you about the inside of your hands. I want you to know you are always there when I see patients. When I palpate an abdomen, yours are the organs I imagine. When I listen to a heart, I recall holding your heart.
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Sharing a room with a cadaver is only mildly different from being in a room alone. They are the same sort of company as people across from you on subways or in airport lounges, there but not there. Your eyes keep going back to them, for lack of anything more interesting to look at, and then you feel bad for staring.
I very much was inspired by Bill Bryson. He does cover science, but more often, it's a mixture of science and travel, and whatever he happens to be writing about - Shakespeare, Australia, the United Kingdom, or when he covers science in 'A Short History Of Nearly Everything' - he has an incredible ability to be both entertaining and enlightening.
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The terms "idiot" and "lunatic" were acceptable diagnostic terms in England up until 1959. "Imbecile" and "feeble-minded person" were, likewise, listed as official categories in the 1913 Mental Deficiency Act. England has always lagged a bit behind in discarding outdated terms for the disadvantaged. When I was there in 1980, it was still possible to shop for used clothing at the local Spastic Shop. That is, compared to the United States, where it takes, oh, about twenty-five minutes for a diagnostic euphemism to become a conversational faux pas.
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The nobility of the human spirit grows harder for me to believe in. War, zealotry, greed, malls, narcissism. I see a backhanded nobility in excessive, impractical outlays of cash prompted by nothing loftier than a species joining hands and saying "I bet we can do this." Yes, the money could be better spent on Earth. But would it? Since when has money saved by government red-lining been spent on education and cancer research? It is always squandered. Let's squander some on Mars. Let's go out and play.
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I used to do my best thinking while staring out airplane windows. The seat-back video system put a stop to that. Now I sit and watch old' Friends' and 'Everybody Loves Raymond' episodes. Walking is good, but here again, technology has interfered. I like to listen to iTunes while I walk home. I guess I don't think anymore.
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When I was 16, I had a job on the cleaning crew at a local hospital. I wore a pink uniform and cleaned bathrooms and buffed the hallway linoleum. Oddly, I don't recall hating the job. I recall getting choked up at the end of the summer when I went to turn in my uniform and say goodbye to the ladies.
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In terms of sustainability and what we eat and what its footprint is on the environment and the consequences of eating one thing versus another, obviously it makes a lot of sense to be eating insects. They're incredibly plentiful. They've got a very short turnover rate. You could be eating termites.
We exist in this weirdly schizo culture, where sex is everywhere in the media, and yet, at the same time, you don't sit down and have a conversation about what you did in bed last night with your friends. Despite the ubiquity of sex, it's still a taboo when it comes to day-to-day conversation.
Saliva has antibacterial properties. It also has things called nerve growth factor, skin growth factor, histatins which help with wound closure. So when you see an animal licking a wound or even a mom kissing a child's boo-boo, there's some, there's some good science behind why one might do this.
When I was a kid, I hated everything. I was really skinny, and I'd have a milkshake with an egg in it. Growing up, I ate, like, five different foods. I was not an adventurous eater. But as soon as I left home, that all changed and from that point on, I've been a pretty enthusiastic eater of new and strange food.
Weightlessness was unbelievable. It's physical euphoria: Nothing about you has any weight. You don't realize that you are weighed down all the time by yourself, and your organs, and your head. Your arms weigh down your shoulders. In space simulation, you get to fly like Superman! You're hanging in the air! It's the coolest thing.
My husband recently made me try on a bikini. A bikini is not so much a garment as a cloth-based reminder that your parts have been migrating all these years. My waist, I realized that day in the dressing room, has completely disappeared beneath my rib cage, which now rests directly on my hips. I'm exhibiting continental drift in reverse.
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Dead people never seem to address the obvious - the things you'd think they'd be bursting to talk about, and the things all of us not-yet-dead are madly curious about. Such as: 'Hey, where are you now? What do you do all day? What's it feel like being dead? Can you see me? Even when I'm on the toilet? Would you cut that out?'
To keep your he-man jaw muscles from smashing your precious teeth, the only set you have, the body evolved an automated braking system faster and more sophisticated than anything on a Lexus. The jaw knows its own strength. The faster and more recklessly you close your mouth, the less force the muscles are willing to apply.