Saturday, November 20


We have grown arrogant in our bubble of modern, American life. I am only three and four generations removed from a time when couples could expect to lose a third of their children before they reached maturity, and husbands could expect to lose a wife or two in childbirth. A day when typhoid, diphtheria, scarlet fever and malaria epidemics swept through housing complexes in city and rural communities with the same, grim toll.

We forget this.

I am of the generation of school children who received polio vaccinations one by one in the school nurse’s office. Our generation had family members and neighbors and people we knew who got polio; seeing kids with leg braces and corrective orthotics was not all that uncommon.

We forget this.

My own children have been very healthy. They have benefitted from the very best of Western medicine and technology. And, because the vast majority of our society was similarly protected by an impressive infrastructure which regulated safety and health standards from fluoridated city water to fire-resistant pajamas, we have lived a long time in a predominately stable environment.

But, we forget this, too.

It’s not that we don’t have issues. Cancer devastates, and plaques and neurofibrillary tangles high-jack mental acuity and fill nursing homes with vacant faces; lost lives still among the living. We are struggling with a virulent array of aggressive addictions and sexually-transmitted diseases which corrupt virtually every aspect of American life; everyone knows someone who has been hurt or families who have been decimated by these.

But what happens when a marginal infrastructure is toppled virtually over-night? When the matrix of social stability is just too fragile, too impoverished, too compromised to prevent absolute catastrophe?

Cholera happens.

I thought I knew about cholera, at least as much as can be casually understood. One reference in particular is special. In 1849, my Great Great Grandfather was on board a ship bound for one of the busiest immigration ports of the era; New Orleans. A convert to Mormonism, he was on his way to “Zion”. The voyage from Liverpool was difficult, but not uncommonly so, until the vessel was becalmed off the Florida Keys. For 21 days the sails hung flaccidly. Resources intended for a 26 day journey were severely compromised. Cholera erupted. Within hours the groans and agony of the dying filled the miserable hold.

Benjamin Peel, much to the terror of his young wife Nancy Turnbull, bravely attended to afflicted fellow passengers without thought for his own safety. Thirteen adults and fifteen children died in short order. Mercifully for many, death came within only two hours from the onset of illness. It is part of our cherished family lore that Benjamin and Nancy Peel were miraculously spared.

But then Haiti had an earthquake. The world family focused attention on her plight. Funding, specialists, relief workers and supplies have been invested in a broken place crushed by too many cultural failures long before a natural disaster took center stage. Officials watched anxiously for signs of contagion - a dreaded accompaniment to large scale refugee communal living. A Hurricane dumped further trouble on a miserable situation.

Then, reportedly, sewage from a Nepalese base contaminated the Artibonite River. Nepal is a part of the world where cholera is endemic. Haiti’s National Public Health Laboratory identified the cholera strain now ravaging Haiti as the same type typically found in South Asia. Sweden’s ambassador to Haiti fueled suspicions when he asserted his “diplomatic sources” traced the deadly cholera infection to Nepal. Violence erupted as a result.

How incongruous that U.N. peacekeepers may be the carriers that introduced this paralyzing plague! The waste management company responsible for draining the Nepalese septic tanks has also been accused in the disaster. It is an epidemic. With more than 220 cases a day in just one camp, rising to over 300 - 400 new cases a day, beds needed for cholera victims must increase from 1,900 to 3,000 in the next few days.

In a place that has never seen Cholera before, people are stoning officials who come to collect the bodies of the dead. Families abandon their dead on the streets, too terrified to touch them.

Now I know I know nothing at all about Cholera.

We cannot forget this.

Forgetting is dangerous.
Influxes of immigrant populations from developing countries who by-pass legal methods to enter the country have added a new demographic to social health in America. Wherever populations of immigrants are, so is a rocketing rise in diseases we thought we were done with a long time ago. TB, Hepatitis (all varieties), Typhoid (which can reside happily asymptomatic in a single carrier for years while actively infecting others) and unbelievably - Polio - are all blossoming among stable populations in the U.S. Common Chicken Pox and Measles are actually a serious problem again. The obvious alarm, of course, is that none of these potentially lethal diseases stay loyal to the host population.

An additional factor in our changing public health is the growing number of individuals who believe immunizations are not safe. Research has been very thorough in this regard, and so far aberrant side-effects (of significance) from routine immunizations are so incredibly rare, the numbers simply do not justify this aversion. Celebrities are very successful promoters, and Jenny McCarthy is prominent in the campaign to link immunizations to childhood Autism, for example. The fact remains, however, there is no viable science to her claims. Add this element of vulnerable population vs immunized population now compromised (most of our baby-boomer generation immunizations are expired; we should have a booster dose), and third world country microbial/viral ravages literally have an open door into our American “bubble”.

I am no biologist, and I am no germ-freak, either. All I know is we are a very forgetful society. The rising faction of those who revile against fluoride in city water sources as a toxic assault on the populace have forgotten that only two generations ago, it was accepted as the norm to lose all your teeth before you were 50. Public fluoridation put this appalling standard to a screeching halt. If something as simple as adding fluoride to drinking water has elevated public health so dramatically, yet is so thoroughly forgotten, what's next?

We turn on a tap with confidence. We drink out of any public water fountain without a second thought. We order food at restaurants and shop at warehouse-sized grocery stores, and hardly consider what contagion could lurk in our meal prepared by strangers. We shake hands, hug, touch common surfaces, and breathe common airspace - as we should! This is how Life is conducted.

But all that could change. Any number of instigators could turn our world upside down. It doesn't have to take a long, dysfunctional, suffering history such as Haiti's for it to be here, either. I wonder, how secure is our matrix?

More especially, I wonder if I could have done what my Great Great Grandfather did? I hope so.

Wednesday, November 3

A Case For The Eradication of Black Holes in Public Places

Have you ever intentionally placed something important in a logical and secure place, only to discover later - when you really need it, that it is no longer there? And, subject to an appropriate after-incident inquiry, there is no confession or explanation for the disappearance of said item by anyone in the vicinity? Traditionally this dilemma has been chalked up to human forgetfulness or lack of organizational skills. Yet such excuses are confounded when confronted with the very clear and distinct memory of placing the item exactly where it should be. The case seriously remains for the consideration of physics as the responsible principle.

A black hole is a theoretical entity of infinite spacetime curvature. The massive gravitational collapse of a dying star is presumed to initiate this “event horizon” effect, the so-called “point of no return” where nothing - not even light - is allowed to escape.
As the memory of where the coveted object was placed is not lost, and the placement of everything else that is not being searched for is still very much undisturbed, there is no clinical justification for conveniently assigning incidents like this to the frenzied effects of a forgetful mind. Investigating the extraordinary gravitational and radiatory forces at play ought to clarify the issue once and for all.

We have Einstein to thank for his theory of relativity which is key to understanding where the heck lost items have gone and why. While the likes of Einstein and Schwartzchild in 1916 grappled with metric solutions ( rs = 2GM/c2 = G is the gravitational constant, M is the mass, and c is the speed of light), generations of hard-working Americans are still searching long into the future for lost keys, left shoes, earrings, school book reports and important receipts. Scientific justification eases the discomfiture of losing things at the most inopportune moment somewhat. However, it does not return the missing item which is of course, the ultimate desire.

Examples of diabolical (and selective) physics are many. Statistics reveal 9 out of 10 times a person methodically searches a limited or contained space, such as a purse or backpack or car console, the sought for item is positively and absolutely un-found. It is not there. Vanished. Keep in mind, there is invariably no history of blindness, mental paralysis, sleep-walking nor any other physical impairment in he who searches. Yet, the 10th time an identical search in the identical space is meticulously directed with no variation in either the methodology or search sequence, the item suddenly and inexplicably is found. Acknowledging higher powers of quantum physics, this phenomenon quickly evaporates from the mysterious to the observable. It was never “lost”, but sucked into another dimension by the aforementioned and extremely powerful black hole event horizon effect. The fact that it, and precisely it alone was temporarily sucked into another dimension and later returned unharmed is for now an unexplored avenue of thoughtful consideration.

Similarly befuddling is the “group effort” effect. The searcher, having searched solo in vain, solicits the help of others in looking for the object desired. A detailed description of the same is obtained, and multiple searchers then disperse to look for it.

The rule of “the more the merrier” generally is a safe predictor of happy outcomes. But in the exercise of searching, more often than not the posse returns empty-handed.

What is the reason for this very curious result? Is it really plausible that three or four heads are not better than one? In the end, the original searcher is typically the one who does indeed find and secure the object after all the collaborative effort expended in

searching for it. The quirky nature of black holeness being what it is, intrigue diminishes as time and space bend just enough to surgically target and transport what was formerly safe and secure to that which is utterly and totally gone.

Exploring the ‘why’ of this macabre, obscenely discriminatory and indeed diabolical process (it is never an unimportant specimen that goes AWOL), pleads intelligent analysis as to what the qualifiers for the experience are:

    • Urgency: If time is of the essence, the sucking will begin immediately
    • Strained Resources: The degree to which important things disappear directly corresponds to a struggling bank account
    • Self-Image: If missing the thing will be construed as a dink to one’s moral character or personal work-ethic, sucking will occur
    • Cosmic Justice: The more aggressively a parent advocates personal responsibility and organization of the home environment, the more dramatic will be the disaster of whatever goes missing
    • Ownership: Anything that belongs to someone else, no matter how carefully it is transported or how deliberately it is housed, will be sucked into oblivion before you can say “mc >2
    • The *Jones-Idiot Boomerang Corollary: (*insert searcher’s name here) When the spectacular “return” of the thing hopelessly lost appears as if it had been in plain sight the whole time

In conclusion, nothing less than advanced quantum mechanics demands credit for the unsettling, even maddening search experience the less astronomically aware dismiss as “forgetfulness”. In the name of social sanity, it is only fitting we revitalize NASA and seriously invest in research which will protect us from this exceedingly insidious threat to homeland security.