You’re Not Dead Until You’re Dead

Sometimes people have near-death experiences where they “die” for a while before being resuscitation. They are in some sort of accident or incident and are pronounced clinically dead, but come back after a few minutes.

Some of these people report seeing white lights, tunnels, gardens, dead loved ones, etc. while others report nothing. The ones who see something often end up becoming more spiritual and hopeful after their experience while the ones who saw nothing often end up becoming depressed and pessimistic, even if they had previously been spiritual.

The problem is that the people who see nothing decide that because they saw nothing when they “died”, it means that there is no after-life or Heaven or reunion with lost loved ones. This is absolutely specious reasoning.

These people are missing the point that they did not die. Why in the world would they be greeted with the post-life welcome basket if they are not dying and going to be resuscitated? Does it not occur to them that God would be smart enough to know if they are actually staying dead or not or do they think that they were supposed to die, but the doctors defeated fate/God and snatched them back?

Of course this raises the question of why some people do see things when they have a near-death experience. This is likely caused by differences in the nature of the near-death experience. Some people who are pronounced clinically dead have no brain activity while others do. The people who see things are probably not actually seeing post-life imagery, but rather hallucinations caused by a mix of their spiritual beliefs and their brain suffering anoxia.

The fact is that near-death experiences prove nothing about the existence or lack thereof of an after-life. Whether or not there is an after-life (at this point) is only knowable for sure by those who actually die, and stay dead, not by anyone who comes back, which of course, means that the living continue to have no definitive way of knowing either way.

Tips for Enjoying Food More

Before eating, you should always do two things:

  • Blow your nose
  • Wash your hands

It is obvious why you should always wash your hands before eating (though many still choose not to for some reason). But why should you blow your nose before eating?

Our sense of smell is closely linked to not only memory, but also our sense of taste. You can observe this by holding your nose while eating something. You will notice that the food loses most of its flavor and becomes quite bland. (You can use this “trick” to make eating undesirable foods or medications more palatable.) It turns out that we need to actually smell what we eat in order to fully (actually?) taste it. As such, if your nose is full of dust and dirt, you will not be able to smell as much of the food, and so you will not savor it as much as you can with a clear, empty nose that can inhale more odor molecules from the food. Of course, make sure to wash your hands after blowing your nose.

Evolution Doesn’t Work Like That

Most people have heard of evolution. Some accept it, some reject it, but either way, most don’t actually understand it. There is a perception that evolution means that all life will, with enough time, morph into some sort of “higher form”. For example, many people think that eventually humans will evolve to fly or ants will evolve to be monkeys and then humans. However, that is not how evolution works.

For starters, the idea of all “lower lifeforms” evolving into humans is flawed. It implies a sort of vertical hierarchy of taxonomy in which all life is sorted by its perceived superiority to ones below it (often with humans at the top). This is absurd; there is no such thing as one form of life being superior to another. If it were true, then should not birds be higher than humans since they can fly? Should not fish be higher than humans since they can live underwater? The fact is that each creature evolves to do well in its own environment, not reach a theoretical point of perfection.

Another problem with most people’s conception of evolution is that over time, they will become more and more advanced. Evolution is not an intelligent mad-scientist doing genetic experiments. It does not require creatures to become “better and better”; instead it only requires creatures to become good enough to survive long enough to pass on their genes. That is, if a giraffe is able to eat the leaves at the top of the tree to stave off starvation by having a slightly longer neck, then that is sufficient; it need not grow wings. If a fish is able to avoid being eaten by swimming faster, then that is good enough; it does not need to grow legs and take to land. It is like the old saying: I don’t need to run faster than the lion, I only need to run faster than you.

Just like how scientists prefer the term climate change to global warming because it makes it easier to avoid confusion, it is easier for people to avoid confusion by avoiding the term evolution which implies necessary change, and instead use natural selection which makes it more clear what is happening: creatures that are better able to survive can pass on their genes.

Parallel Universes Don’t Provide Every Possibility

The idea of parallel universe is certainly an amusing one. Not only does it provide a rich and fertile field for storytelling, but it is alluring to wonder about what one’s life might be like under different circumstances (the whimsical “what-if crystal ball”). However, there is a misconception on what parallel universes would actually be like.

People think that the idea of parallel universes means that every possible outcome could exist. This is (theoretically) true, but to a limit. What is not true is that in a parallel universe you are the opposite gender, or that there is a universe in which people are dogs and dogs are people, or you are blue, or a chair, etc.

The idea of parallel universes comes from the idea that for every decision, there would be two or more possible choices. More technically, it means that for every atom (or even sub-atomic particle), it can take on a different position or spin than what it did take in this one. While that means a countless number of parallel universes, it does not mean that in one universe, dogs evolved to be people and keep humans as pets or that you are 10′ tall and green since there is no combination of actual changes that could have lead to that.

In fact, while it is generally accepted that the number of parallel universes would be infinite, it may actually be finite. For one thing, there are not an infinite number of particles, so that is one limit. If the universe turns out to not be infinite in size, then that also puts a limit to the number of possible different permutations (configurations of particles). Finally, there is a practical limit to the number of infinitesimal changes to position or spin that a particle can take. For example, an atom could move 1m, or 1cm, or 1mm, or 1µm, or 1nm and so on; however there is a physical limit to how small a unit of distance it can move (at least as far as we currently understand). As such, there could be a practical limit to the number of different universes that can exist (though it would still be unfathomably large).

It might be better to add the term possible to the term parallel universes. When discussing fantasy ideas of worlds where everything is upside-down or underwater and such, it would be more appropriate to use the term alternate reality instead.

Armageddon 2012… or not.

It never ceases to amaze that a giant fabrication that is based on the tiniest sliver of truth can spread like wildfire, masquerading as fact. That many people are wondering if the world will end in December 2012 as “the Mayans predicted” is a great example of this. A lot of people think that the Mayans had predicted that the world would end in December 2012 which is why their calendar “ends” at that point. They hear something about this, then go online and look it up or see something on a sci-fi show about doomsday on the History channel that mentions some small factual detail, then they tell everyone they know about how the end is coming.

The fact is, that the Mayans never predicted that the world would end in 2012, nor did they even predict great change as some people like to “correct”. For that matter, their calendar does not actually “end” at that point either. And even if it did, so what? Do you expect them to have created an infinitely long calendar? We have to buy a new calendar every single year. Do people run around screaming that the world will end on January 1 of every year just because the calendar has run out? Of course not!

If you do a little research on the Mayan calendar, you will see that they do not use the same breakdown of time that we do. Where we use 7-day weeks, 30(-ish)-day months, 12-month years, 10-year decades, 100-year centuries, and 1,000-year millennia; the Mayans break their long period of time into smaller and smaller blocks where each block is 20 (for the most part). That is, 20 k’in in a winal, 18 winal in a tun, 20 tun in a ka’tun, 20 ka’tun in a b’ak’tun, 20 b’ak’tun in a pictun and so on (there are only 18 winal in a tun so that a year/tun is 360 days/k’in). The current date (March 24, 2012) is represented in the Mayan calendar as On December 21, 2012, it will be What’s so special about that? That’s like saying January 1, 2013 or 00:00am or 100,000 miles on the odometer. So the calendar rolled over; whoopdie-freakin’ doo!

Why then do people think that the world will end or pedants think that the Mayans predicted “great change”? Because there is a single, vague mention in a few surviving scraps of Mayan mythology at Tortuguero about how the current incarnation of the world was created on August 11, 3114 B.C., or People have taken this to mean that once the clock hits again, the world will once again be destroyed and a new one created in its place just as it was when the dinosaurs were wiped out and a new world grew from the ashes. This of course is ludicrous.

An apt analogy that most people are likely to understand would be one from the Bible. According to the Bible, God created the Earth and such, then x-number of years  later (let’s say 1,000), there was a great flood which wiped out most of the world. The survivors of the flood started life over, and likely marked time relative to the flood (e.g., years BF /AF)  just as Christians now mark time relative to when Jesus was (supposedly) born (BC /AD) or Muslims mark time as relative to when Muhammad went to Medina (BH / AH). Imagine how ridiculous it would be if you came along and said, hey, the flood destroyed the world and created a new one 999 years ago, so look out! because the world is going to end next year!!! The original survivors of the flood would likely roll their eyes at you.

The Mayans did not predict the end of the world on December 21, 2012, nor did they predict great change. They only thing they predicted was that they would need to turn the page on the calendar and maybe get some fireworks to celebrate their equivalent of Y2K.

Zombies are Real

On the Discovery Channel, Ziya Tong concluded a segment of Ziyology about zombies by stating that it is unlikely for humans to become ‘zombified’. That is not correct. The truth is that by standard definitions of the term “zombie”, there are already plenty of zombies in our society and more and more people are becoming zombified all the time (in fact Maria Shriver was part of a Larry King special in which it was called a full on epidemic). The infecting agent in this case: beta-amyloid plaque.

A person with Alzheimer’s disease is in every way a zombie. In fact, the only missing aspect of the traditional monster is the aggressiveness, which can easily be filled in by the addition of rabies (witness Cujo).

So there you have it; a zombie is nothing more than a person who is afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease (progressive) who contracts rabies. Since a zombie is a mindless, uncommunicative creature who is violent and driven by nothing more than the basest instincts, these two diseases can (and probably have somewhere, sometime) create real-life zombies.

No Evidence of Time Travel, Still Possible? Maybe

It occurred to me yesterday that I obviously will never acquire the ability to time travel (at least into the past) since I have no evidence of it. After all, if I ever do acquire the ability, then it does not matter at what point I do so (age 30, 60, 100, etc.) since whenever it does happen, I can always go back to any point in the past. The reasoning is that if I do acquire the ability to go back (presumably to help myself make my—uh, our—life better, fix a mistake, etc.), then I would have done so and would know it. It does not matter if it happens tomorrow or 50 years from now; either way if I go back to my past then it has the same effect. Yet, I have never been visited by myself and so I clearly do not ever acquire the ability in my lifetime.

However, that reasoning falls apart because there is no guarantee that if I did acquire the ability, that I would come back to this point or any previous point in my life. It is entirely possible that for example, in 10 years I get the ability and then I come back in time tomorrow morning. Just because I have up until now, never been visited by my future self, does not mean that I do not ever acquire the ability, since I did not need to come back this far. Tomorrow morning however is a different story, something may happen tomorrow morning which requires my intervention and so I will be visited by myself and thus know for sure that I do eventually come across the time-travel technology.

The point is that while there is no current evidence to support the idea that I will ever be able to travel back in time, it does not rule out the possibility since I may just not need to come back this far. This is truly the definition of “you never know what the future holds”, since for all I know, tomorrow I may be visited by myself from the future. It’s impossible to completely rule that out without entirely disproving the possibility of time travel altogether.