Tuesday, May 31, 2022

That Time a Teenager Built a Nuclear Reactor in His Backyard

June 26, 1995 is a day the residents of Golf Manor, Michigan will never forget. On that day, hazmat-suited agents of the Environmental Protection Agency descended upon the quiet suburb and began systematically dismantling the garden potting shed of one Patty Hahn. When interviewed about the incident, most residents believed there had been some kind of chemical spill. But the truth is far stranger, for the cleanup was prompted by Patty Hahn’s son David, who at the age of 17 had tried to build his own working nuclear reactor. This is the bizarre tale of the Radioactive Boy Scout.

David Charles Hahn was born on October 30, 1976, in Royal Oak, Michigan to Ken and Patty Hahn. His parents divorced when he was very young and for most of his childhood he spent his weeks with his father, a GM automotive engineer, and his weekends with his mother and her boyfriend Michael Polasek, a GM forklift driver. Despite being constantly shuffled between households, David’s early childhood was relatively normal. He joined the Boy Scouts, played baseball, and spent hours playing with his friends, though he remained a relatively shy and withdrawn child. An indifferent student and a terrible speller, he fell behind in school, nearly failing his state math and writing exams. But according to his science teacher Ken Gherardini, David was fascinated with chemistry and could be an extremely bright student when the class aligned with his interests:

“His dream in life was to collect a sample of every element on the periodic table. I don’t know about you, but my dream at that age was to buy a car.”

A major turning point in his life came when his stepmother, Kathy Missig, gave him a copy of The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments. Published in 1960, the book was a monument to mid-century scientific enthusiasm, filled with passages proclaiming how chemistry can uplift humanity and create a brighter tomorrow. It also contained experiments that would be unthinkable in a modern children’s textbook, such as how to make chloroform and nitroglycerine. The book was a revelation, promising David an escape from the trauma of divorce and life as a teenager. He set up a chemical laboratory in his bedroom, stocking it with beakers, flasks, bunsen burners and other equipment both purchased and homemade. Soon the house was plagued with frequent explosions, chemical spills, and clouds of toxic gases, much to his parents’ growing concern. After one incident where a sample of phosphorus exploded in David’s face, resulting in him being rushed to the emergency room to have shrapnel extracted from his eyes, Patty and Michael banished David’s laboratory to the backyard potting shed. This suited David just fine, as it allowed him to carry out his experiments in greater privacy.

Though David’s parents were secretly proud of his industriousness, their limited education prevented them from comprehending his experiments, and they remained wary and distant. To his staunchly blue-collar father, David’s chemical dabblings were merely a cry for an attention and represented a lack of discipline and direction. He thus attempted to steer his son towards a more traditional goal: achieving the rank of Eagle Scout. But if Ken Hahn thought this would curb David’s scientific enthusiasm, he was to be proven spectacularly wrong, for David managed to find a way to indulge his real passions by pursing the Atomic Energy Merit Badge. He contacted Government nuclear agencies for information, drew diagrams explaining nuclear fission, visited a hospital radiology lab to learn about x-rays and nuclear medicine, and built a scale model of a nuclear reactor from tin cans and drinking straws. But David still wasn’t satisfied; soon after earning his badge on May 10, 1991, he made the fateful decision to try and build a working breeder reactor.

Breeder reactors are designed to produce more nuclear fuel than they consume. This is typically done by surrounding the core in a blanket of “fertile” non-fissile material, which is converted to fissile isotopes as by absorbing neutrons from the nuclear reaction. For example, non-fissile Uranium-238 can be converted to Plutonium-239, and Thorium-232 to Uranium-233. None of these isotopes were readily available, so posing as a high school physics teacher, David contacted various private companies and Government departments looking for information. From Donald Erb, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s director of isotope production and distribution, David learned how certain radioisotopes could be generated by bombarding ordinary elements with neutrons, and how to construct a working neutron source.

The first thing David needed was a source of Alpha particles. Knowing that smoke detectors contained the isotope Americium-241, Hahn contacted a fire safety company and convinced them to sell him 100 broken detectors at $1 each. He also attempted to steal smoke detectors from the scout summer camp, an act which got him thrown out of the camp. After cracking open the detectors and extracting the radioactive sources, Hahn used a blowtorch to melt them into one large lump. This he placed in a hollow block of lead with a small pinhole to let out the Alpha particles. In front of this hole he placed a piece of Aluminium to convert the Alpha particles into neutrons, and in front of this a block of paraffin wax to convert the neutrons into electrons. When the steady crackling of his mail-order Geiger counter confirmed that the source was working, Hahn set off in search of fertile material to convert into fissile radioisotopes.

At first he tried to obtain Uranium, searching the shores of Lake Michigan with his Geiger counter. But when this turned up only a trunkful of pitchblende, an oily-black Uranium ore, David, posing once again as a high school teacher, contacted a Czechoslovakian firm specializing in university sales and managed to obtain some samples of Uranium dioxide. He attempted to purify this oxide by mixing it homemade nitric acid and passing it through a coffee filter, but this yielded only unusable black sludge. David thus switched to Thorium, which he knew was found in cloth gas-lantern mantles. After buying as many mantles as he could find in sporting goods stores, David used a blowtorch to turn them into ash. He then bought $1000 worth of Lithium batteries, extracted the Lithium, and wrapped it and the Thorium ash in tinfoil before heating it with the blowtorch. This caused the Lithium and the Thorium to switch places, purifying the Thorium to a level 9000 times higher than found in nature. David then placed his Thorium and Uranium in front of his neutron source and waited, monitoring the radiation every day with his Geiger counter.

Unfortunately, neither sample showed any increase in activity, so after consulting once again with Donald Erb at the NRC, David set out in search of a stronger Alpha particle source: radium paint from old luminous clock dials. He scoured second-hand stores for old clocks, scraping the glowing green paint into pill bottles, then purified the radium using nitric acid before using it to replace the Americium in his neutron source. To further increase the neutron yield, at Donald Erb’s suggestion he replaced the aluminium with beryllium, which a friend of his swiped from his school’s chemistry lab. This time the neutron source finally yielded results, with the activity of the Thorium and Uranium steadily rising day by day. Having successfully transmuted elements, David was now ready to build his breeder reactor.

David Hahn’s reactor was as crude as his other creations, consisting of small tinfoil-wrapped cubes of radium paint, americium, and thorium ash duct-taped into an assembly around the size of a shoe box. While this device could never have achieved criticality and sustained a chain reaction, it did produce a lot of radiation – so much in fact, that Hahn could detect it all the way down the street Having read that real reactors use cobalt control rods to moderate the reaction, Hahn purchased cobalt drill bits and inserted them into his assembly. When this had no effect, David realized that he had too much radioactive material in the shed and partially disassembled the reactor, placing it and much of his other equipment in the trunk of his car. Unfortunately, it was this decision that would lead to his eventual discovery.

At 2:40 AM on August 31, 1994, the Clinton Township police received a tip about a young man stealing tires from a vehicle, and arrived to find David Hahn waiting in his car. Unconvinced by Hahn’s explanation that he was just waiting for a friend, the officers decided to search the vehicle. In the trunk they discovered an assortment of mysterious-looking objects, including a toolbox sealed with tape, fifty tinfoil cubes filled with grey powder, and assorted bottles of chemicals. Fearing that they had found a bomb, the officers impounded the vehicle and brought Hahn into the police station for questioning. David was uncooperative, refusing to speak about the contents of his trunk or reveal the location of his potting shed laboratory until the police brought in a radiological expert from the Department of Public Health to question him. Based on Hahn’s confession, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency launched an investigation, descending on the Hahn household to inspect the potting shed. What they found shocked them: nearly every object in the shed was emitting radiation over 1000 times higher than ordinary background levels. Little did they know that Patty Hahn, fearing that the radiation would cause her to lose her house, had actually thrown most of David’s equipment in the trash. Following their inspection, the EPA declared the shed a Superfund cleanup site.

On June 26, 1995 – nearly a year after David Hahn’s arrest – EPA officials descended upon the Hahn residence, dismantled the potting shed, and packed it and the soil beneath it into 39 barrels, which were transported to a low-level nuclear waste facility in Utah. The cleanup took three days and cost $60,000. The EPA encouraged David to be evaluated for radioactive exposure at the nearby Enrico Fermi nuclear power plant, but he refused, apparently frightened by what he might discover.

Following the cleanup, David Hahn fell into a deep depression. Not only had several years of work and his life’s purpose been destroyed, but his classmates had began to tease him, calling him “radioactive boy.” His scout leaders even attempted to revoke his Eagle Scout status for endangering the community. Worse still, his parents had grown weary of his lack of direction and demanded that he enrol in college. David majored in metallurgy at Macomb Community College but skipped many of his classes, forcing his parents to issue an ultimatum: join the military or get out. David chose the navy, and after completing boot camp was stationed aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier U.S.S. Enterprise. Unfortunately for David’s nuclear ambitions, as a regular seaman his shipboard duties were purely menial and he was never allowed anywhere near the carrier’s eight reactors. However, he remained optimistic, stating to journalist Ken Silverstein in 1998:

“I wanted to make a scratch in life. I’ve still got time. I don’t believe I took more than five years off of my life.”

But while he might have been right, the years ahead were likely not what he had imagined. After a four-year tour in the Navy David joined the Marines, reaching the rank of Lance Corporal before being honourably discharged on medical grounds. After this, he fell into a spiral of depression, alcoholism and drug abuse, and soon returned to old habits. In April 2007 the FBI received a tip that David Hahn was in possession of another neutron source. While they determined he not an imminent terrorist threat, they did perform a personal interview, during which David’s deteriorated mental state became frighteningly apparent. While in the navy David had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, but was not taking his prescribed medication. He was abusing cocaine heavily and had become paranoid of people he claimed had the ability to “shock his genitals with his mind.” He had also gone back to collecting radium and americium in an attempt to build another reactor. In August of that year, David was arrested and charged with larceny after trying to steal smoke detectors from his apartment building. He plead guilty and served 90 days in prison, then fell once again into obscurity. Then, on September 27, 2016, David Hahn was found dead in his apartment, the victim of an accidental overdose of alcohol and fentanyl. He was 39 years old.

The story of David Hahn is a tragedy of missed opportunity. Though not a good student in the conventional sense, he was nonetheless extremely bright and highly resourceful, and lacked only the proper guidance to turn his scientific interests into a successful career. At the age of only 17 David Hahn had purified radioisotopes and built a working neutron source; with the right mentorship and direction, who knows what else he might have accomplished?

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy our new popular podcast, The BrainFood Show (iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, Feed), as well as:

Expand for References

Silverstein, Ken, The Radioactive Boy Scout, Harper’s Magazine, November 1998, https://ift.tt/E8vxARp

Rauschenberger, Tim, The Nuclear Merit Badge, The Christian Science Monitor, March 16, 2004, https://ift.tt/nzQCI0e

Man Dubbed ‘Radioactive Boy Scout’ Pleads Guilty, Detroit Free Press, August 27, 2007, https://ift.tt/xs08DQI

The post That Time a Teenager Built a Nuclear Reactor in His Backyard appeared first on Today I Found Out.

from Today I Found Out
by Gilles Messier - May 31, 2022 at 02:43AM
Article provided by the producers of one of our Favorite YouTube Channels!

Canada’s Extremely Bizarre Engineering Rituals and the Fascinating Way They Came to Be

“I, Simon Whistler, in the presence of these my betters and my equals in my Calling, bind myself upon my Honour and Cold Iron, that, of the best of my knowledge and power, I will not henceforward suffer or pass, or be privy to the passing of, Bad Workmanship or Faulty Material in aught that concerns my works before mankind as an engineer, or in my dealings with my own Soul before my Maker.”

Thus begins the Obligation of the Ritual of the Calling of the Engineer. With these words, Canadian engineering graduates affirm their commitment to the moral and ethical standards of engineering. Then, in a private ceremony steeped in Masonic ritual, they are presented with the unique and storied symbol of their profession: the Iron Ring.

As you might have gathered, Canada handles the profession of engineering rather differently than most countries. Unlike in many places, where mechanics, technicians, and other tradespeople are often referred to as “engineers,” in Canada the use of the title Professional Engineer or “P.Eng” is highly regulated and reserved for those engaging in:

“…any act of planning, designing, composing, evaluating, advising, reporting, directing or supervising, or managing of any of the foregoing, that requires the application of engineering principles and that concerns the safeguarding of life, health, property, economic interests, the public welfare or the environment.”

In order to be designated a Professional Engineer, an individual must graduate from a four-year engineering program at an accredited university, work in the profession for at least four years under the supervision of a Professional Engineer, and complete a Professional Practice Exam. Qualifying applicants are then presented with a certificate and a personalized rubber stamp or “seal” with which to approve and sign off on engineering drawings. But like a medical license, a P.Eng designation comes with significant responsibility, and failure uphold the moral and ethical standards of the profession -either through negligence or deliberate fraud – can result in severe disciplinary action, including revocation of one’s P.Eng status, fines, or even legal prosecution and imprisonment. Those falsely using the title “Professional Engineer” without actually holding P.Eng status are also subject to prosecution. All this is administered by 13 provincial and territorial Engineering Associations. In Canada, Engineering is a “self-regulating” profession, with each province and territory passing an Engineering Act creating a local Engineering Association and empowering it to administer the licensing, regulation, and disciplining of Professional Engineers.

The need for such strict control of the engineering profession was informed, as is much regulation, by a terrible tragedy. The Quebec Bridge crosses the St. Lawrence river at St. Foy, around 7 kilometres west of Quebec City. At 549 metres long, it remains the longest cantilever bridge in the world. Though the site of the bridge had been chosen as early as 1852, construction did not get underway until 1900. The project was a collaboration between the Canadian Government, the Quebec Bridge Company, and the Phoenix Bridge Company, who appointed Edward Hoare as chief engineer, Theodore Cooper as consulting engineer, and P.L. Szlapka as design engineer. Though all three men had excellent reputations and were considered highly competent, shortly after construction began serious problems with the bridge began to appear, with beams bending and buckling in unexpected ways. The site supervisor, Norman McClure, attempted to warn Hoare and Cooper of the danger, only for Cooper to assure him that the problem was minor and that the beams must have been bent prior to installation. Though at McClure’s continued urging Cooper and Szlapka would make nominal efforts to correct the bridge’s design, on August 29, 1907 the unfinished span collapsed and plunged into the icy river below, sending 75 workers to their deaths. It was the single worst bridge construction disaster in history.

The Royal Commission appointed to investigate the disaster uncovered a number of disturbing errors in judgement which ultimately lead to the collapse. Though Chief Engineer Hoare had a reputation for integrity and good judgement, like many engineers at the time he was not formally educated and had acquired his engineering skills through apprenticeships and practical experience. He had also never supervised the construction of a bridge over 100 metres in length. The Commission judged Hoare technically incompetent to supervise such a massive project and his appointment as Chief Engineer to have been a mistake. However, Hoare’s actual contribution to the disaster was minimal, as the entire project was in fact under the direct control of Cooper, and it was on his actions and those of design engineer Szlapka that the Commission placed the bulk of the blame. As originally designed, the bridge had an unsupported span of 488 metres, but shortly into the project Cooper ordered the piers moved closer to the shore, increasing the span to 549 metres. Such a change should have prompted a recalculation of structural stresses and a revision of the design, but despite criticism from other engineers Cooper refused to do so. Similarly, when he and Szlapka added additional girders to correct the bending and buckling encountered during construction, standard procedure would have been to recalculate the “dead load” or unloaded weight of the bridge. But again Cooper failed to revise his calculations, and continued to use the original dead load figure even though the bridge was now much heavier than before. Finally, Cooper refused to actually visit the construction site and communicated with site supervisors only by letter and telegram, leading to miscommunications and an unauthorized resumption of work which eventually resulted in the fatal collapse.

Despite being blamed for the disaster, Cooper and Szlapka escaped formal disciplinary action, and after two years construction on the Quebec Bridge resumed – though under the supervision of a new engineering team. Progress was slow due to budget issues and the outbreak of the First World War, and on September 11, 1916 disaster struck again when the central span broke loose while being lifted into place, sending 13 more workers plunging to their deaths. The Quebec Bridge was finally completed and opened to traffic on December 3, 1919, its construction having consumed two decades, $23 million (about $350 million today), and 88 lives.

The Quebec Bridge disaster was a wake-up call for the engineering profession, gravely illustrating the dangers of technical incompetence and unethical behaviour as engineering projects became more and more ambitious and larger in scale. In 1919, the year of the bridge’s completion, the Engineering Institute of Canada – formerly the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers – passed a model Engineering Act mandating the licensing and regulation of engineers in Canada. The following year the act was adopted by all but three provinces and territories, though the rest would soon follow, with Prince Edward Island being the last to pass engineering legislation in 1955. In addition to ensuring public safety and preventing future disasters, these acts also sought to improve the societal standing of engineers, who had helped open up the country and develop its natural resources but had not, many felt, received the recognition they deserved. The establishment of formal governing bodies would, it was hoped, confer upon engineers the same respected status enjoyed by doctors and lawyers.

At the same time, many felt that the engineering profession needed its own set of traditions and symbols to bind its members closer together and remind them of their moral and ethical obligations to society and the profession. Among these was civil engineer and former Engineering Institute of Canada president Herbert Haultain, who in 1922 along with six other former EIC presidents founded a body known as the Corporation of the Seven Wardens. To create the rituals and symbols of engineering, Hultain turned to British writer Rudyard Kipling, author of The Jungle Book, Kim, The Man Who Would Be King, and other classic works of Victorian and Edwardian literature. Not only did many of Kipling’s works celebrate engineering, but Kipling himself, like many of the Wardens, was also a Freemason, and the rituals he developed were appropriately masonic in flavour. Kipling created both an Obligation for newly-graduated engineers to recite, and a ceremony during which the recitation would take place, known as the Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer. According to Kipling, the purpose of the oath and ritual was:

“…[to direct] the young engineer towards a consciousness of his profession and its significance, and indicating to the older engineer his responsibilities in receiving, welcoming and supporting the young engineers in their beginnings…many young engineers, and even older ones, out struggling in the world, would find it both tonic and refreshing to be obligated.”

The inaugural Ritual was conducted on April 25, 1925 at the University Club of Montreal, with members of the Seven Wardens obligating six new engineers. On May 1, three of these new inductees obligated a further 14 engineers at the University of Toronto, which became the Corporation’s first regional chapter or “camp.”

Today, the Ritual of the Calling of the Engineer continues to be administered by the Corporation of the Seven Wardens, which is currently divided into 27 regional camps. Typically performed in the spring around the time of university graduation, participation in the ritual is closed to all but wardens of the local camp, the student engineer inductees, and licensed professional engineers invited by the Wardens or students. While the ritual is not secret per se, it is, per the Corporation’s charter, private, and participants are discouraged from publicly divulging details of the ceremony. However, the author of this video, who himself graduated as an engineer in Canada, can report that the ritual involves an unusual prop: a full-sized blacksmith’s anvil with lengths of chain trailing from it. The ceremony begins with one of the presiding Wardens lifting a hammer and striking “seven blows on cold iron,” a reference to the original Seven Wardens and Kipling’s 1910 poem Cold Iron. This is followed by a recitation, originally from 2 Esdras in the King James Bible:

And I said, Tell on, my lord. Then said he unto me, Go thy way, weigh me the weight of the fire, or measure me the blast of the wind, or call me again the day that is past.

Then answered I and said, What man is able to do that, that thou shouldest ask such things of me?

In more recent years, however, this has largely been replaced by Kipling’s 1935 poem The Hymn of Breaking Strain:

The careful text-books measure
(Let all who build beware!)
The load, the shock, the pressure
Material can bear.
So when the buckled girder
Lets down the grinding span
The blame of loss, or murder,
Is laid upon the man.
Not on the Stuff-the Man!

The inductees are then made to take hold of the chains trailing from the anvil and recite the Obligation quoted at the start of the video. This was intended by Haultain and the other six Wardens to be the engineering equivalent of doctors’ Hippocratic Oath, though Kipling insisted upon calling it an Obligation rather than an Oath or Pledge.

Finally, the Ritual reaches its climactic point, when the invited professional engineers bestow upon the inductees with the unique symbol of their profession: the Iron Ring. Another Kipling invention, the Iron Ring is a small band of wrought iron or stainless steel with sharp hammered edges, worn on the little finger of an engineer’s dominant or “working” hand. The ring is designed to rub against drawings or computer keyboards as the engineer works, its sharp edges serving as a constant reminder of their solemn obligation to the public and their profession and the dire consequences of sloppy or unprofessional work. While it is commonly claimed that the Iron Rings are made of steel salvaged from the collapsed Quebec Bridge, this is in fact a myth; in reality the rings are made from ordinary commercial-grade steel. However, as a symbol they are unique to the Canadian engineering profession, and can be used to spot a Canadian engineer at a glance. They also make handy bottle-openers.

Neither the Iron Ring nor the Ritual of the Calling of the Engineer are requirements for graduation, nor do they indicate the attainment of Professional Engineer status. Indeed, as the Iron Ring ceremony is conducted upon graduation, the inductees will not yet have attained the 4 years’ practical work experience required to become Professional Engineers. Nonetheless, nearly 100 years after their introduction, these rituals continue to play a central role in Canadian engineering culture, with thousands of new graduates taking the Obligation each year and proudly wearing the Iron Ring. And despite the overtly Masonic overtones of the Ritual of the Calling of the Engineer, the author has assured us that Canadian engineering is not a cult – though of course that’s exactly what a cult member would say…

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy our new popular podcast, The BrainFood Show (iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, Feed), as well as:

Bonus Fact

Considerably less formal and solemn than the Ritual of the Calling of the Engineer is the student tradition of “purpling.” Every year thousands of engineering students across Canada dye themselves head-to-toe purple using an over-the-counter medication called Gentian Violet, typically used for treating topical fungal infections. The colour purple has been associated with engineering since at least 1863, when the Royal Navy introduced a system of colours to differentiate between officers of different sections: red for surgeons, grey for shipwrights, and purple for engineers. This system carried over into the merchant navy, and according to Canadian engineering tradition the practice of purpling originated as a tribute to the engineers on the Titanic, who valiantly chose to stay below and slow the sinking of the ship. However, the exact origins of the student practice have been lost to time. But whatever its origins, despite its popularity purpling comes with certain disadvantages. Not only is Gentian Violet now classified as a possible carcinogen, but it is also an extremely persistent dye. Thus, while purpling is usually carried out during frosh week before the start of classes, its practitioners remain distinctly coloured for weeks afterward, the dye slowly wearing off and leaving telltale purple stains all over campus. But like we said: totally not a cult…

Expand for References

Andrews, Gordon, Canadian Professional Engineering and Geoscience: Practice and Ethics, Thomson Nelson Canada Ltd, 2005

Kipling, Rudyard, The Hymn of Breaking Strain, 1935, https://ift.tt/Yzdu6xE

2 Esdras 4:5-10, https://ift.tt/uqa61Mt

Bateman, Chris, The Secrets of Engineering’s Strange and Mysterious Initiation Ritual, TVO, April 24, 2018, https://ift.tt/Sw813jq

Background: The Calling of an Engineer, The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer, https://ift.tt/25Z6ClN

Anderson, Bill, Why Engineering is Purple, April 16, 2019, https://ift.tt/hMbWsEF

The post Canada’s Extremely Bizarre Engineering Rituals and the Fascinating Way They Came to Be appeared first on Today I Found Out.

from Today I Found Out
by Gilles Messier - May 31, 2022 at 02:39AM
Article provided by the producers of one of our Favorite YouTube Channels!

Is Genuine Multiple Personality Disorder as Depicted in Movies Actually a Thing or a Hollywood Invention?

Looking back at the long and storied history of literature, film, and other narrative art forms, one trend becomes abundantly clear: writers love mental illness. From depression to bipolar disorder to schizophrenia, psychiatric disorders have been used by artists for hundreds of years to heighten drama, make heroes more heroic, villains more villainous, and allow actors to flex their acting chops – sometimes with unfortunate real-world implications. But few disorders have captured the imagination of writers and audiences like Dissociative Identity Disorder or DID – better known as Multiple Personality Disorder. Characterized by the expression of multiple distinct personality types by a single person – often accompanied by amnesia of each expression – DID has been featured in dozens of books and films from 1957’s The Three Faces of Eve and 1973’s Sybil to 1999’s Fight Club, 2009’s United States of Tara, and 2016’s Split. Given the disorder’s ubiquity in popular media, one could be forgiven for thinking that DID is a relatively common affliction, or at least one well-documented in the psychiatric literature. In reality, however, DID remains a poorly-defined, poorly understood, and highly controversial diagnosis, with many psychiatrists questioning whether the disorder even exists at all.

Accounts of people switching between multiple personalities have existed since the dawn of human history, with the phenomenon often being attributed to possession by spirits, demons, muses, and other mystical entities. However, the first medical descriptions of what we would now recognize as Dissociative Identity Disorder would not appear until the late 19th Century, the most famous being the curious case of Louis Vivet. Born in 1863 in Paris, Vivet had a miserable childhood, being frequently beaten and starved by his mother. At age eight Vivet ran away from home to become a vagrant and a  thief, spending most of his childhood in and out of correctional institutions. At age 17, while Vivet was working as a labourer on a vineyard, a venomous snake wound itself around his arm, triggering a hysterical episode and a series of violent convulsions which resulted in him becoming paralyzed below the waist. In 1880, Vivet was transferred to an asylum and trained to become a tailor to support himself. During his stay he continued to suffer frequent epileptic seizures, until around a year later when he suddenly regained the use of his legs. While this in itself was highly unusual, more unusual still was the fact that this miraculous recovery was accompanied by a complete change of personality. While paralyzed, Vivet had been a calm, hardworking, pleasant individual; suddenly, however, he became rude, quarrelsome, and utterly lacking in morals. Stranger still, he no longer seemed to recognize his fellow patients or attending doctors, as though he had become a completely different person altogether. This constant switching back and forth between two distinct personalities would persist for the rest of Vivet’s life, which was spent in and out of asylums being evaluated by increasingly-curious doctors. In 1882, a Doctor Camuset at the psychiatric hospital in Bonneval diagnosed Vivet’s condition as redoublement [“Ruh-doo-bluh-mahn”] or “doubling,” a term recently introduced by French surgeon Étienne Azam in reference to a patient he named “Félida X.” Like Vivet, Félida frequently switched between two distinct personality states – one serious and reserved and one cheerful and easygoing – neither of which appeared aware of the other. The cases of Louis Vivet and Félida X fascinated the medical community and public alike, and are believed to have partially inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic 1886 novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  (As a brief aside here, you might think the “Jekyll” in “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is pronounced such that it rhymes with “freckle,” but you’d be wrong.  According to Stevenson, the name should be pronounced “Jee-kal” as in rhymes with “fecal”.)

In any event, over the next twenty years, dozens more cases of redoublement would appear in the medical literature, with the phenomenon eventually acquiring a new name: Multiple Personality Disorder, or MPD. French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot [“Zhahn Mart-tayn Shar-coh”] classified MPD as a dissociative disorder – linking it with so-called fugue states in which patients black out and wander about completely unaware of their surroundings – while Sigmund Freud made the causal link between MPD and childhood trauma.Yet no sooner had Multiple Personality Disorder appeared in the medical lexicon did it immediately fall out of fashion. In 1908, Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler coined the term schizophrenia to describe a wide spectrum of psychotic and delusional disorders previously referred to as dementia praecox. Schizophrenia in Greek literally means “split brain,” and was intended by Bleuler to convey the process of the mind splitting off from reality. As Bleuler believed the development of multiple personalities to be the result such a split, he classified MPD under the wider schizophrenia umbrella. Unfortunately, this misleading terminology resulted in a popular confusion between DID and schizophrenia that persists to this day. A second major factor in the early abandonment of MPD as a diagnostic category was the revelation that many of Charcot’s alleged MDP patients were in fact frauds putting on an act for attention. Due to these and other factors, diagnoses of MPD all but disappeared from the medical literature for nearly half a century.

Then, in 1957, American psychiatrists Corbett H. Thigpen and Hervey M. Cleckly published The Three Faces of Eve, a non-fiction account of patient Christine Sizemore – referred to in the book as “Eve White” to protect her identity.  Born Christine Costner in 1927 in Edgefield, South Carolina, Sizemore began dissociating at the age of two in response to a series of traumatic incidents, including seeing a man cut in half at the local lumber mill and being physically and sexually abused by her parents. She suffered from large gaps in her memory, finding herself being punished for acts of disobedience she did not remember committing and baffled by school tests she did not remember studying for. Later in life she would often wake up with unexplained hangovers and an unsavoury reputation at local bars. Eventually it emerged that Sizemore’s psyche had fractured into three distinct personalities – the shy, depressed “Eve White”; extroverted, mischievous party girl “Eve Black”; and pleasant, sensible “Jane” – the transition between the three often being signalled by a splitting headache. This fracture was only exacerbated by her first marriage to an abusive man, leading to an incident in which she nearly strangled her young daughter with the cord from a Venetian blind.

In 1951, Sizemore began undergoing therapy with Corbett Thigpen, who noted even more bizarre aspects of her disorder such as the fact that her different personalities possessed entirely different skillsets. For example, some of Sizemore’s personalities knew how to drive while others did not, while at one point Sizemore opened a tailoring shop in Manassas, Virginia because one of her personalities was a skilled seamstress. The three personalities spoke and dressed differently and even had different appetites, with Sizemore at one point gaining a large amount of weight as she attempted to feed three different people within the same body.  But the amnesia so typical of MPD seemed to be strangely asymmetric; while “Eve White” remained unaware of the behaviour and thoughts of her two alters, “Eve Black” knew everything about her host personality and delighted in torturing her. And as the therapy sessions progressed, this internal arrangement began to collapse and shift, with “Eve White” and “Eve Black” eventually disappearing only to be replaced by a rotating cast of new alters, nearly always in groups of three. However, according to The Three Faces of Eve Thigpen eventually managed to dissolve and merge these personalities, and Christine went on to marry electrician Don Sizemore and live a long and happy life, dying in 2016 at the age of 89.

The Three Faces of Eve became an instant bestseller, and in 1957 was adapted into a film of the same name starring Joanne Woodward, who won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Christine Sizemore. But while the book and film did much to revive public awareness of MPD, its impact was dwarfed two decades later by the 1973 book Sybil. Written by journalist Flora Rheta Schrieber, Sybil tells the story of art teacher Sybil Dorsett – real name Shirley Ardell Mason – whose case of Multiple Personality Disorder was even more extreme than Christine Sizemore’s. Born in 1923 in Dodge Center, Minnesota, Mason was heavily abused by her mother, Martha Atkinson, whom Schrieber speculates may have suffered from schizophrenia. According to Sybil, Martha tortured her daughter in particularly sadistic ways, such as sexually violating her with a buttonhook or tying her to a piano and forbidding her from urinating while she played. This trauma resulted in Mason’s psyche fracturing into no fewer than sixteen distinct personalities, including a baby named Ruthie, a writer and painter named Marcia, a French-speaking girl named Vicky, two male handymen named Mike and Sid, a skilled pianist named Vanessa, a strict religious conservative named Clara, and a listless, nearly paralyzed woman named Sybil. In 1954, Mason began seeking treatment from psychiatrist Cornelia B. Wilbur, the two continuing to work together for 11 years. As in the case of Christine Sizemore, Wilbur eventually succeeded in bringing out a stable, confident personality named simply “The Blonde” and merging all the other personalities into her, effectively curing Mason and allowing her to live a happy, normal life.

Like The Three Faces of Eve, Sybil became an immediate bestseller and was adapted into a 1976 TV movie starring Sally Field in the title role and Joanne Woodward from The Three Faces of Eve as Doctor Wilbur. In the wake of the film, which won four Emmy Awards, “Sybil Dorsett” became one of the most famous psychiatric patients in history and popular interest in Multiple Personality Disorder exploded. While MPD had previously been one of the rarest psychiatric diagnoses, with only 26 recorded cases prior to 1976, between 1985 and 1995 more than 40,000 people were diagnosed with the disorder. MPD sufferers began appearing on the talk show circuit, some exhibiting as many as 4,500 distinct personalities. In certain cases these alters extended beyond the human, with certain individuals presenting as ducks, chickens, lobsters, tigers, gorillas, unicorns, and even angels or God.

Meanwhile, the psychiatric field scrambled to keep up with the explosion in MPD diagnoses. At the time, the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Second Edition, or DSM-II, only briefly mentioned the disorder as a subtype of “hysterical neurosis.” But in 1980, thanks to a concerted lobbying effort by therapists, MPD was listed in the DSM-III as its own distinct syndrome, which the DSM-IV later renamed Dissociative Identity Disorder. In 1984 the International Society for the Study of Multiple Personality and Dissociation was founded in Chicago, while in 1988 the dedicated medical journal Dissociation began publication. By 1990 the number of papers published on DID had increased by 6,000 percent since the 1970s.

According to the American Psychiatric Association website, Dissociative Identity Disorder is currently defined by:

  • The existence of two or more distinct identities (or “personality states”). The distinct identities are accompanied by changes in behaviour, memory and thinking. The signs and symptoms may be observed by others or reported by the individual.
  • Ongoing gaps in memory about everyday events, personal information and/or past traumatic events.
  • The symptoms cause significant distress or problems in social, occupational or other areas of functioning.

 As the name suggests, DID is classified among the dissociative disorders, syndromes characterized by normally integrated psychological processes becoming detached from each other and from reality. The other dissociative disorders include dissociative amnesia, in which a person suddenly experiences large gaps in their memory not explainable by normal forgetfulness or other memory disorders; dissociative fugue, in which a person loses awareness of their surroundings and unexpectedly wanders off; depersonalization disorder, in which a person feels detached from their bodies or surroundings, and dissociative identity disorder not otherwise specified, or DID-NOS, a catchall term for dissociative disorders which do not fall into any other category. All dissociative disorders a typically associated with some kind of traumatic trigger – such as childhood physical or sexual abuse in the case of DID. Thus, DID is widely considered to be a kind of defence mechanism, allowing the sufferer to compartmentalize traumatic memories within one or more personalities who are unaware of each other. As Cornelia Wilbur explains in Sybil:

“If you are too scared to face something, then it just makes perfectly good sense to black out. Then you’ll never have to know what you’re scared of.”

But not all may be what it seems. Despite DID’s official recognition by the American Psychiatric Association, the disorder and its diagnosis have long been mired in controversy. Early on in the DID boom of the 80’s and 90s, many psychiatrists noticed that the vast majority of purported sufferers presented almost identically to the most well-publicized DID case – that presented in Sybil – with almost none presenting with the milder symptoms of Christine Sizemore or Louis Vivet. Indeed, the average MPD sufferer was found to be very similar demographically to Shirley Mason – white, female, and around 30 years of age. This has led many to speculate that the extraordinary rise in DID diagnoses following the 1970s was a case of social contagion, with patients modelling their behaviour – intentionally or not – after poplar depictions of the disorder in works like The Three Faces of Eve, Sybil, and talk shows like The Oprah Winfrey Show and Jerry Springer. This is similar to how nearly all accounts of UFOs and alien abductions began following a broadly similar pattern after the release of popular alien-themed works like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Communion in the 1970s and 80s. This explanation is especially plausible given the typically extreme manifestation of the disorder in the most high-profile DID patients. If such dramatic presentations of DID were anywhere near as common as the talk shows claimed, the disorder would be easier to diagnose and far more than 26 cases would have been described prior to the 1970s.

But while the media has played a major role in exaggerating the prevalence of DID, the psychiatric field is equally guilty of muddying the waters. In the 1960s, psychiatrist Herbert Spiegel was asked by Cornelia Wilbur to help refine her diagnosis of Shirley Mason, AKA “Sybil.” In the course of his evaluation, Spiegel discovered to his shock that many of Mason’s alternate personalities had only emerged as a result of Wilbur’s suggestions during therapy. Indeed, Spiegel found Mason to be highly suggestible, while Wilbur’s methods incorporated many techniques commonly used in hypnosis. Much of Mason’s disorder was thus invented during her therapy sessions, with Wilbur and Flora Schrieber, the author of Sybil, even admitting to Spiegel that Mason had to be diagnosed with MPD otherwise their book on the case couldn’t be published. Later investigators uncovered a similar pattern in the case of Christine Sizemore, discovering, for example, that her third personality, “Jane,” only emerged during her therapy sessions with Corbett Thigpen. In his 2012 book The Rape of Eve, psychiatrist Colin Ross describes Thigpen as unethical and exploitative, manipulating Sizemore’s disorder for personal gain:

“At different times he functioned as her psychotherapist, publicist, literary agent, film agent, book editor, contracts negotiator and legal adviser. He attended her husband’s funeral uninvited, was her son’s godfather and engaged in sexual misconduct with her. He arranged for her to have an abortion, and during the procedure she was sterilized without her or her husband’s consent.”

Furthermore, contrary to the narrative described in The Three Faces of Eve, Thigpen did not actually succeed in curing Sizemore of her DID. In fact she continued to dissociate, straining her marriage to the breaking point, for another two decades. It was not until 1974 that psychiatrist Tony Tsitos managed to merge her personalities and allow her to live a normal life.

These revelations in turn led to a major reevaluation of many DID cases, and a disturbing pattern emerged. The boom in DID diagnoses coincided with another major trend in the field of psychiatry: that of recovering repressed childhood memories. Ever since Freud, many psychiatrists have believed that people’s minds are capable of repressing traumatic memories such as childhood sexual abuse, and that through psychoanalysis, hypnosis, and other techniques, these memories can be recovered. This concept gained considerable public attention in the 1980s and 90s when expert testimony from psychiatrists claiming to have recovered their patient’s repressed memories was used to achieve convictions in several high-profile sexual abuse trials. Unfortunately, it was soon discovered that the whole notion of repressed memories is, in fact, a fallacy, and that patients’ supposed recollections of childhood abuse were generally false memories inadvertently planted by their psychiatrists through suggestion. (See our video: Do Repressed Memories Actually Exist for many more details.)

In any event, as DID is classically associated with childhood sexual abuse and other trauma, the clinical triggers of many purported DID sufferers were likewise found to be merely implanted suggestions. The debunking of repressed memories ignited a major scandal within the psychiatric community, with Harvard psychologist Dr. Richard McNally writing:

“The notion that traumatic events can be repressed and later recovered is the most pernicious bit of folklore ever to infect psychology and psychiatry. It has provided the theoretical basis for ‘recovered memory therapy’ — the worst catastrophe to befall the mental health field since the lobotomy era.”

Thus, while DID remains a recognized disorder in the DSM-V, nowadays psychiatrists are much more hesitant and selective in diagnosing it, recognizing that many of the symptoms of DID overlap with other, more common disorders including schizophrenia, ADHD, epilepsy, and conversion disorders; and that the presentation of the disorder is very culturally specific, with many cultures who believe in spirit possession not considering the disorder to be pathological. Based on more recent diagnostic criteria, researchers estimate that DID affects no more than 1.5% of the general population. However, in a 1995 review of DID cases at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, psychiatrist Paul McHugh concluded that nearly all cases showed the “hand of the artisan,” meaning that at least some aspects of the disorder’s presentation is directly influenced by the attending psychiatrist.

The legitimacy of DID as a psychiatric diagnosis has dire real-life consequences, especially in the field of criminal law. In 1977, 22-year-old Billy Milligan was arrested and charged with the rape of three women on the Ohio State University campus. While awaiting trial, Milligan was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder by psychologist Dorothy Turner. During the trial itself, Turner and Milligan’s lawyers testified that one of Milligan’s 10 alternate personalities had been in control during the rapes, and that Milligan himself had no memory of his actions. Based on this testimony, the Judge accepted a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity and Milligan spent 10 years in psychiatric institutions, being released from the Ohio mental health system in 1988. This and other similar cases raised concerns among legal experts that false claims of DID could potentially be used by criminals to deny responsibility and avoid jail time. However, in recent years American courts have generally rejected the admissibility of DID diagnoses as evidence, on the grounds that the scientific evidence fails to meet legal reliability standards and is therefore not useful to either the judge or jury.

Meanwhile, a small but dedicated group of people known as the Multiplicity Community is not only convinced that DID is absolutely a real phenomenon, but is fighting to have it recognized not as a disorder to be cured, but rather an alternate but ultimately healthy state of being. Within this community, bodies containing multiple individuals or personalities are known as a “multiplicity systems”, while those with only one personality are referred to as “singlets.”As presenting all the members of the system in public could potentially cause problems, most multiplicity systems engage in the practice of “fronting,” only presenting a single personality to the world as a singlet would. As the multiplicity system Falah Liang explains:

“We are not openly multiple. All of us disguise our behaviour under one mask, one public persona, in essence appearing non-multiple to the outside eye and to most people we interact with. We’re able to share memories and communicate among ourselves internally, so it’s easy for us. We wear the mask well and look like your standard non-multiple [person], but it can be tiring to wear the mask.”

Many in the Multiplicity Community are wary of the diagnostic label of DID, arguing that it unfairly and unnecessarily pathologizes their state of being, which they view as simply another type of neurodivergence akin to being left-handed or on the autism spectrum. They also dispute the terms “identity” and “personality”, arguing that these imply that members of a multiplicity system are not real, full-fledged individuals but merely fragments of a larger, truer “self” that must be unified through psychotherapy. As multiplicity system Anthony Temple explains:

“Any time that a multiple group lives in fear of the consequences of coming out of the closet, they are being denied their social rights. There should not be one model of reality imposed upon everyone. Society can and should change to accept those who are different, rather than enforcing a single standard of normality and punishing those who don’t fit.”

Meanwhile, many psychiatrists consider the multiplicity community’s claim that DID is a perfectly healthy form of neurodivergence to be counter-productive, discouraging many sufferers from seeking the psychiatric help they desperately need. Thus, between this debate and the aforementioned speculation that most DID sufferers are either frauds, misdiagnosed, or simply being unintentionally manipulated by their psychiatrists, the jury remains very much out on how Dissociative Identity Disorder should be defined or whether it even exists at all.

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy our new popular podcast, The BrainFood Show (iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, Feed), as well as:

Expand for References

Telfer, Tori, Are Multiple Personalities Always a Disorder? VICE, October 5, 2015, https://www.vice.com/en/article/vdxgw9/when-multiple-personalities-are-not-a-disorder-400

Byrne, Peter, The Butler(s) DID It – Dissociative Identity Disorder in Cinema, BMJ Journals, https://mh.bmj.com/content/27/1/26

Weber, Bruce, Chris Costner Sizemore, The Real Patient Behind ‘The Three Faces of Eve’, Dies at 89, The Seattle Times, August 5, 2016, https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/chris-costner-sizemore-the-real-patient-behind-the-three-faces-of-eve-dies-at-89/

Hacking, Ian, Making Up People, London Review of Books, August 17, 2006, https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v28/n16/ian-hacking/making-up-people

Acocella, Joan, Creating Hysteria: Women and Multiple Personality Disorder, New York Times Books, https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/first/a/acocella-hysteria.html

McDonald, Kai, Dissociative Disorders Unclear? Think ‘Rainbows From Pain Blows,’ Current Psychiatry, June 8, 2015, https://web.archive.org/web/20150608082602/http://www.currentpsychiatry.com/fileadmin/cp_archive/pdf/0705/0705CP_Article3.pdf

Gillig, Paulette, Dissociative Identity Disorder: a Controversial Diagnosis, Psychiatry, March 2009, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2719457/

Farrell, Helen, Dissociative Identity Disorder: Medicolegal Challenges, The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, September 2011, http://jaapl.org/content/39/3/402

Faure, Henri et al, The 19th Century Case of Louis Vivet: New Findings and Re-evaluation, Dissociation, June 1997, https://scholarsbank.uoregon.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1794/1825/Diss_10_2_5_OCR_rev.pdf?sequence=4

What Are Dissociative Disorders? American Psychiatric Association, https://ift.tt/RqGUZjp

The post Is Genuine Multiple Personality Disorder as Depicted in Movies Actually a Thing or a Hollywood Invention? appeared first on Today I Found Out.

from Today I Found Out
by Gilles Messier - May 31, 2022 at 02:35AM
Article provided by the producers of one of our Favorite YouTube Channels!

Monday, May 16, 2022

Why Do We Need Oxygen and What Does It Do in the Body?

Jean D. asks: Why do we need oxygen to live?

oxygen-meterTake a deep breath. Now repeat. Do this about 16 times per minute and you usually get all the oxygen your body needs. Every wonder why you need oxygen to survive in the first place?

All life as we know it occurs because of how atoms and molecules interact with each other. All this chemistry needs to happen in a very specific way to allow our bodies to maintain themselves appropriately. Some of those processes will happen consistently- things like metabolizing the foods we eat, making large biologically important molecules (such as proteins for muscles), or moving electrolytes into and out of our cells. Other processes happen only when we need it. Contraction of our muscles for example. No matter the process, it requires energy. Your car uses a battery to get started and an alternator to keep it going. The body’s battery is a molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Oxygen is the alternator, well…. kind of.

Before we can talk about ATP and its make-up, it’s important to understand the oxygen atom and its ravenous appetite for electrons. In fact, oxygen is the second most electronegative element on the planet. The effect is so great that it tends to steal them from almost every other element.

How does this work?

In an oversimplified nutshell, atoms have a positively charged nucleus and negatively charged electrons residing at different energy levels surrounding it. This balance of positive and negative gives the atom structure, as well as a fundamental force it exerts on other atoms around it. The closer the electron is to the nucleus, the greater the “pull” of the positive charge will have on the electron. It’s the amount of “pull” the nucleus exerts on the surrounding electrons that gives an element it’s electronegativity.

oxygen-atomThere are a few factors that make oxygen so electronegative. First, oxygen has eight protons giving off its positive force, and eight surrounding electrons residing at only two different energy levels. This closeness makes the attractive force on the outer shell (valance shell) extremely strong compared to other elements. Second, the six electrons residing in oxygen’s valence shell have only two electrons in the first energy level shielding them from the powerful pull of the nucleus. Third, oxygen’s valence shell can hold eight electrons, not six.

The net result of these three factors is that oxygen’s nucleus isn’t that far from the valence shells of the atoms surrounding it. Thus, the pull from the oxygen atom on the electrons of other atoms’ valence shells can be greater than the pull of their own nucleus. Because of this, oxygen can “steal” those electrons, thereby affecting the structure of those atoms and their associated molecules. This ability, combined with being able to add or subtract two electrons is what gives oxygen it’s extreme electronegativity.

Now, on to ATP.

Adenosine triphosphate is a molecule made up of ribose (sugar), adenine, and three phosphate groups. The phosphate part is the key. The three phosphorous groups are linked by oxygen atoms. There are also oxygen atoms connected to the sides of the phosphorous. Oxygen itself has a net negative charge- since like charges repel each other, the grouping of all that bunched up oxygen will make them want to break away from each other. Combined with its immense electronegativity, there’s a lot of potential energy stored in an ATP molecule.

To release ATP’s energy, you need to break it apart. Cells do this by reacting to enzymes. Those enzymes can break off the end phosphate group and turn it into diphosphate. Continue breaking it down and you get adenosine monophosphate. The entire process releases a lot of energy. For example, one ATP molecule will release 7.3 calories of energy (7.3 kilocalories per mole). That’s enough energy to click your computer mouse about 5 times!

Inside the cell, the release of all that energy can be used to do many things. For example, it can give ribosomes (an organelle within a cell) the ability to make proteins, or can give Golgi bodies the ability to attach carbohydrates and fats to proteins.

You can discharge the energy of ATP (like a battery) by breaking down the phosphate groups. Your cells can also recharge ATP by using energy from foods (glucose) and oxygen. In the end, not only is oxygen essential in the make-up of supplying our cells with an energy source in the form of ATP, it’s also a crucial ingredient in making that energy source. It does this thanks to a handy little organelle called the mitochondria.

Almost every cell in the body has Mitochondria within it, making ATP. The cells doing a lot of work, like the liver or red muscle cells, use a lot of energy and will have more mitochondria then the ones that don’t. For example, mitochondria make up 15-20% of liver cells.

Mitochondria make ATP through a process called oxidative phosphorylation. This process has two components- an electron transport chain, and the movement of ions across a membrane down an electrochemical gradient, known as chemiosmosis. The key ingredient in this process is ever-so electron-hungry oxygen molecule. Without it, the electrons in the chain wouldn’t move and the electron transport chain would stop working, just as if your battery stopped taking a charge.

It all begins with metabolizing sugar molecules. Inside your cells, glucose is converted to pyruvate, an acid. Unfortunately, through a process called glycolysis, the pyruvate made from glucose only releases less than 10% of the total free energy that glucose is offering. Mitochondria finish getting that energy out of glucose by using pyruvate through the previously mentioned oxidative phosphorylation. It does this so efficiently that it can make about 30 molecules of ATP for every molecule of glucose. On the other hand, glycolysis into pyruvate only makes about two molecules of ATP.

Ever run so fast your muscles don’t get enough oxygen (causing the electron transport chain to stop working) and they begin to burn? The build-up of pyruvic acid is one of the things causing the burn (also known as anaerobic metabolism).

The electron transport chain is a collection of proteins and molecules contained within the matrix of mitochondria. Electrons will travel down the chain from less electron hungry molecules, to the molecules that are more electron hungry. Most of the electrons available to this chain come from the molecules NADH (Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) and FADH2 (Flavin adenine dinucleotide).

This all brings us back to oxygen. At the end of this chain sits oxygen. It’s extremely electronegative nature will attract the electrons, giving them somewhere to go. Without this attraction, the electrons will stop flowing and the transport chain ceases to work. The oxygen molecules at the end of the chain will accept the electrons, combine then with protons contained within the matrix, (through the proton gradient that is the chemiosmosis we talked about) and create water (H2O).

The electron transport chain, along with regenerating NADH and FADH2 for further use, create a proton gradient allowing for chemiosmosis. The proton gradient move hydrogen down a protein channel within the membranes of mitochondria called ATP synthase. You can think of ATP synthase like the generator of a hydroelectric dam. The protons are the water and the ATP synthase is the generator creating ATP. Together, the electron transport chain and chemiosmosis, uses oxygen to create the cascade of chemistry that form ATP.

In the end, the oxygen atoms attached to ATP, combined with oxygen atoms allowing for ATP production, make it arguably the single most essential element allowing for complex life. This singular molecule providing all the necessary energy allowing us to move around and flourish.

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy our new popular podcast, The BrainFood Show (iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, Feed), as well as:

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The post Why Do We Need Oxygen and What Does It Do in the Body? appeared first on Today I Found Out.

from Today I Found Out
by Scott - May 16, 2022 at 11:57PM
Article provided by the producers of one of our Favorite YouTube Channels!

Review: Teashop Abu Walad Sandwich Biscuits

These cookies were a clear Golden Oreos knockoff, but the reason for buying them was to finally reviews a snack from Yemen, as we hadn't found one until now, despite doing more than 10,000 reviews. ...

from Taquitos.net Snack Reviews
by May 16, 2022 at 10:39AM

Thursday, May 12, 2022

What Do Scientologists Actually Believe?

Laura A. asks: What exactly do Scientologists believe?

Oh boy, we can already tell that the comment section for this one is going to be a ton of fun, so let’s just get straight to it. The Church of Scientology has a reputation as an infamously secretive and litigious organisation that hides its inner workings far from the prying eyes of the public. As a result, we kind of expected piecing together the church’s beliefs and stance on certain social issues to be a difficult, unforgiving slog. As it turns out, this wasn’t, on the surface, the case and the church is surprisingly forthcoming about both, although some feel there’s a veneer of insincerity in much of their official writings given what often leaks about their leadership to the press. It should also be noted that, as ever with any religion, beyond controversy within the church about specific precepts in terms of the official view verses what is practiced, individuals themselves can also practice the faith in their own unique ways, so saying what exactly the church believes is even more nebulous. Those caveats out of the way, let’s dive into it, shall we? So what do Scientologists believe?

Fortunately for our research the Church of Scientology maintains a fairly strong online presence and has an official website answering common questions members of the public have about their religion and beliefs. According to these sources the church “has no set dogma concerning God” and in theory, is remarkably liberal in its approach to personal morality. How this works in practise is debatable and the reputation of the church’s sometimes alleged draconian rules and strictly hierarchical internal power structure precedes itself. Likewise, noteworthy individuals who’ve spent time with the church and since renounced the religion outright have spoken of how non-conformity is strictly punished.

That said, within Scientology there exists only a singular deity known as the Supreme Being, a nebulous figure of which there is no official description and the religion has no set idea of what constitutes the afterlife. In the words of the church itself: “Scientology seeks to bring one to a new level of spiritual awareness where one can reach his own conclusions concerning the nature of God and what lies beyond this present lifetime.”

To this end Scientology is a rarity amongst religions in that individual followers are free to worship other gods and even celebrate other religious holidays or observe the rules of another holy text if they so wish, not unlike the Ancient Romans who were widely accepting of other deities, even almost universally openly embracing them. So, for example, a Sikh Scientologist can continue to wear a turban or follow the Khlasa, a Muslim Scientologist can fast during Ramadan, a Christian Scientologist can celebrate Christmas and a Jewish Scientologist can continue to abstain from pork without it being deemed to interfere with the duties of being a Scientologist. In fact, Scientologists are specifically instructed to respect the religions of others with the Church’s own “Moral code” stating: “The way to happiness can become contentious when one fails to respect the religious beliefs of others.”

For this reason, the Church openly takes part in seasonal Christmas celebrations, going as far to sell seasonal Scientology related gifts to members of the church such as at one point selling a CD player they inexplicably peddled for $500 dollars because they call it a “Clearsound Listening System” instead of something like a Walkman.

Like other religions, there are important days Scientologists are encouraged to celebrate including March 13 (founder L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday), May 9 (the day L. Ron Hubbard’s book, “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health” was released in 1950) as well as the day the first Church of Scientology was founded in your country of residence. In addition, the church also celebrates New Years Eve on December 31st, encouraging members to use it as an occasion to reflect on personal achievements.

Now, contrary to popular opinion, Scientologists don’t worship a giant prehistoric alien called Xenu, although the Intergalactic Tormentor does seemingly play a crucial role in the Church. For anyone unfamiliar with the story of Xenu, here’s a cliff-notes version of the alleged story for your edification.

Many millions of years ago an intergalactic space dictator called Xenu killed billions of his own people by dropping them into the volcanoes of Earth and vaporising them with hydrogen bombs. The souls of these aliens survived, however, and were captured by Xenu who, for lack of a better term, brainwashed them all by forcing them to watch movies which implanted various pieces of false information such as imagery of Christ on the Cross as well as the creation stories of almost every other major world religion. Scientology posits then that the souls of these aliens, called Thetans in Scientology literature, live on and inhabit the bodies of all living things, causing both mental and physical anguish. It is the belief of Scientologists that humans can harness the legendary power of the Thetan soul inside of themselves to attain various superhuman abilities with the ultimate goal of most Scientologists being to reach the level of Operating Thetan. Upon reaching the level of Operating Thetan an individual is said to achieve a state close to godliness and, according to leaked documents will have abilities ranging from telekinesis to being able to just know when a hamburger is cooked perfectly.

All this said, the church has notably never publicly acknowledged the existence of Xenu. Further, official church documents do not claim that people will ever be given hamburger cooking superpowers and has in fact attempted to actively suppress information related to becoming an Operating Thetan or Xenu that has leaked in the past. The church notoriously also only grants this level of knowledge of the faith to people who reach the rank of OT3, a process that can cost many thousands of dollars and years of investment and devotion to the church. This is all something that stands in stark contrast to the creation stories of other world religions which are commonly known and openly taught.

Moving on from there, as it is the belief of many Scientologists that all humans are simply conduits for an immortal alien spirit, the most basic tenet of Scientology is simply to “survive”, first as an individual, then as a species and finally as a component of the universe itself. Scientologists then believe in something known as the “Eight Dynamics” which are defined as the fundamental aspects of life from an individual to a universe-wide macro level. The ultimate goal of Scientologists appears to be to understand life in relation to the Eight Dynamics and eventually reach the final, eighth level, which occurs when an individual Scientologist becomes one with the concept of infinity, simultaneously existing within all things… Or at least that’s our author’s understanding of the literature he read. This stuff is complicated and often a bit nebulous…

Moving on, which is hard when what we’re moving on from is a story about an ancient alien genocide using infinite hydrogen bombs in tandem with exploding volcanoes, how does one worship as a Scientologist? In short, there doesn’t appear to be any correct way to “worship” per se and individual Scientologists are encouraged to instead follow what it called the “Code of Honor”.

For the most part, members of the church are asked to keep in mind the Code of Honor while living their day to day lives, with this Code being fairly benign. In fact, most of the Code wouldn’t seem out of place plastered over a picture of a sunset being shared on Facebook by your grandmother. For example, the Code of Honor includes gems of wisdom like- “Never regret yesterday. Life is in you today and you make your tomorrow.”

And, “Be your own adviser, keep your own counsel and select your own decisions.”

However, some elements of the Code are altogether more, shall we say, unsettling given the reputation of the church and certain stories told by former members of how individuals are allegedly brutalised emotionally to make them more compliant. For example, an item like, “Never fear to hurt another in a just cause.”

Likewise entries from the Scientology Code of Honor like, “Never desert a group to which you owe your support,” and “Never withdraw allegiance once granted” have also caused some controversy among some.

On this note, individual Scientologists are purportedly expected to swear fealty to the Church and to allegedly sign billion year contracts when they join the Sea Org (a pseudo-military faction of the Church comprised of its most dedicated members) and that people who leave the church of their own accord have allegedly been harassed by current members for years after the fact. Although, to be fair on this one, openly leaving any religion can occasionally cause some harassment from those who are still participants. Humans are gonna human.

Whatever the case, this brings us to the issue of Suppressive Persons. “Suppressive Persons” is a somewhat vague term used by Scientologists to describe anyone who the church deems an “antisocial personality”, more or less an enemy of the church and its day-to-day operations. Anyone from Hitler to all psychiatrists make the list on this one. That said, officially the church’s position is that while it dislikes Suppressive Persons, it doesn’t necessarily bear ill-will against them. Unofficially, however the classification has been used as a scarlet letter to silence criticism and those who’ve been labelled SP’s by the church have, as noted previously, been allegedly stalked and harassed by more fanatical members of the church. A good example of this can be seen in the feature length Louis Theroux documentary, My Scientology Movie, which shows the titular documentarian being followed around by a camera crew allegedly sent to make a documentary on him by the Church. It’s all very meta.

In regards to psychiatrists, as Vice so aptly sums it up, Scientologists allegedly “really, really hate them” and have blamed the profession for everything from the death of George Washington to the 9/11 attacks. (If you’re curious, we cover what actually killed George Washington here.) The position of the church on psychiatry is perhaps no better summed up than by the fact that the church covertly co-founded a museum unimaginatively called “Psychiatry: An Industry of Death” demonising the profession.

In regards to social issues, the church is somewhat more liberal than other religions in some ways. For example, officially the church has no stance on either abortion of the use of birth control and contraceptives, stating: “The Church of Scientology does not mandate a position on these subjects. They are an individual’s personal choice and Scientology parishioners are totally free to decide for themselves.”

In addition, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard once made it clear to his flock that he had no interest in what they got up to in the bedroom and would no longer seek to control or limit the kind of sex individuals had. It should be noted here that, despite this, Hubbard had previously spoke out against both sexual promiscuity as well as so-called sexual deviancy, included in this homosexuality. Of course, people can grow and change, and change their minds, but those other comments still provide a bit of controversy to this day.

Regardless, in more recent years, the church has taken a far more liberal stance, stating that they don’t discriminate based on gender, sexual orientation, race or creed. To quote: “Because people are spiritual beings, gender of a minister is not an issue in Scientology. Scientology is a meritocracy. There are no “glass ceiling” limitations based on race, gender, ethnicity or similar criteria for individuals who serve as ministers or as executives in the Church’s ecclesiastical management.”

That said, this official stance has been challenged by some who’ve since left the church and it has been claimed that homosexuals are allegedly frequently abused for their sexuality and there are allegations the church has attempted to “cure” gay members. Likewise, many former female members of the church have alleged being exposed to astonishing levels of sexism and misogyny during their tenure with the church.

In the end, in theory Scientology is a remarkably pliant and liberal religion which offers and individual almost unprecedented freedom among religions to set their own moral compass as long as they strive to live a good life. In reality, however, it has been strongly alleged that this isn’t really the case in practice, with the official teachings marred by the reputation of the inner workings of the church itself. What’s the truth of any of this? We’ll leave that for discussion in the comments below as we don’t want to get sued…. Allegedly… 😉

On this note, the author of this piece, Karl Smallwood, actually tried calling the Church of Scientology to inquire about their beliefs and get some official quotes, but didn’t really get very far because the church representative spent most of the time encouraging Mr. Smallwood to visit a local church to speak to a representative in person rather than answering questions over the phone. Being an author here at TodayIFoundOut, it should be noted that this is impossible owing to being kept chained in a basement, where our glorious leader, may he reign forever, graciously gives us nutrient supplements and coffee so that we may continue our noble work of educating the world. Our author also notes he took one of the Church’s fancy online personality tests, but couldn’t access the results because the Church of Scientology would only give them out in person, and the nearest office they had was 60 miles from the basement he is kept in. While a church representative would be welcome to come to us, Mr. Smallwood notes he would not recommend this, as it’s likely said representative would find himself also chained up in the basement and recruited for the expansion of our writing team.

On the note of recruitment, it should be noted that nobody really knows how many authors we have here at TodayIFoundOut, nor how many Scientologists there are and the church itself has repeatedly been accused of massively inflating figures related to its membership. On this note, while the church claims membership in the tens of millions, more conservative estimates based on leaked information from high ranking members of the church place the number of practising Scientologists at less than 50,000. Worldwide.

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy our new popular podcast, The BrainFood Show (iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, Feed), as well as:

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The post What Do Scientologists Actually Believe? appeared first on Today I Found Out.

from Today I Found Out
by Karl Smallwood - May 12, 2022 at 04:15PM
Article provided by the producers of one of our Favorite YouTube Channels!

How Dangerous are Rubber Bullets and Stun Guns?

Ashley K asks: How dangerous are rubber bullets?

Utilised the world over, rubber bullets and stun guns are controversial additions to the arsenals of police forces and militaries due to their tendency to do the exact opposite of what they’re designed to do, rather than be non-lethal, occasionally killing the people they are leveled at. But how dangerous are they really?

As for rubber bullets, invented by the British Ministry of Defence in the 1970’s, rubber bullets have been a near-constant source of controversy ever since. For example, during The Troubles – a decidedly British sounding name commonly given to a conflict between the British Army and Irish paramilitary forces that occurred in the 1970’s – rubber bullets killed an estimated 17 people. This was the first time rubber bullets were ever utilised on a large scale, yet, despite the many deaths, they somehow still caught on as the defacto “non-lethal” option for armies and police forces around the globe.

To help mitigate the whole lethal force issue, British soldiers using them during The Troubles were instructed to fire them at the feet of whomever they were trying to incapacitate. The idea being to bounce the rubber bullet off the ground and strike a target in the legs somewhere. As you can probably imagine, bullets fired in this manner didn’t always bounce as intended and reports of people being struck in, shall we say, more sensitive areas of the body were commonplace throughout the conflict.

Of course, many soldiers ignored this ground bouncing recommendation entirely, aiming for a target’s centre or mass instead of firing the bullet at the floor as instructed. This further compounded the whole death and serious injury issue. As an idea of the kind of injuries rubber bullets are capable of causing, along with killing numerous individuals during The Troubles and beyond, rubber bullets also left many disfigured, paralyzed and even blinded.

In 1991 the MOD responded to criticisms about the lethality of the supposedly non-lethal weapons it was deploying in the conflict and found that, along with rubber bullets being far more dangerous than they’d anticipated, the specially-made guns used to fire them were wildly inaccurate. How inaccurate you ask? Well, one study found that rubber bullets would fly about a foot off course when fired from a distance of less than 90 feet. In response, the British Army replaced the weapon used to fire rubber bullets, but not the bullets themselves.

Since then, technology has progressed somewhat and today rubber bullets are commonly made of other materials such as plastic or cloth filled with ball bearings. As such, although the term “rubber bullet” is commonly used as a catchall term for this kind of ammunition, baton round is a more accurate term used by police forces and militaries. This said, rubber and rubber-coated bullets are still commonly used in many parts of the world.

It should further be noted that modern rubber bullets and baton rounds are no longer designed to be fired at the floor to avoid random ricochets, though they are still designed to be fired at a targets’ lower body and are also often designed to slow down significantly upon being shot- the idea being that when the bullet strikes a target, it will do so with enough force to cause injury, but not death or permanent injury.

Despite this, studies indicate that, in practise, rubber bullets and baton rounds are still quite inaccurate and capable of inflicting serious harm. Unsurprisingly from this, a 2000 study conducted by Israeli researchers found that injuries sustained by people struck by rubber bullets were all over the map with injuries being reported everywhere from the head to the feet. As will come as a shock to exactly no one, shots to the head were noted as being especially dangerous, with 2 people in the study dying more or less on impact as a result of being struck in the head by a rubber bullet.

These were results that were supported by a meta-analysis of other studies into the lethality of rubber bullets and other forms of non-lethal ammunition in 2017 conducted by researchers at the University of California. According to the research, so-called “non-lethal” projectiles are dangerous to almost ludicrous degree. For example, one poignant statistic gleaned from the meta-study was that of the 1,984 individuals researchers found who’d been hit by a non-lethal projectile, 1 in 6 were left disabled in someway as a direct result of being struck by it, while 1 in 33 of people struck by non-lethal projectiles died as a result. On top of this, the researchers noted that this particular latter statistic may not be truly representative of the danger non-lethal ammunition poses largely because it’s not standard practise for many police and military agencies the world over to register deaths caused by non-lethal ammunition. Thus, it’s thought the actual fatality rate is probably higher.

Further, the researchers concluded that non-lethal ammunition should probably never be deployed against civilians due to its inaccuracy at range and tendency to ricochet and hit random, often innocent bystanders who are just minding their business. In addition, Rohini Haar, the co-author of the paper, explained that trying to compensate for this by simply firing non-lethal ammunition at close range ultimately drastically increases the odds it will cause serious injury or death.

But here’s the thing, this isn’t something unique to rubber bullets and it’s noted that virtually every “non-lethal” weapon used by police and militaries around the world today can not only cause serious injury, but kill if used outside of the hyper-specific scenario they are designed to be utilised in. Even something as seemingly innocuous as so-called pepper spray, for example, has killed countless people, with asthmatic individuals noted as being especially at risk of death if they inhale the noxious mixture. Meaning in any given crowd should a asthmatic person happen to be in it or in the vicinity when the crowd is sprayed, the authorities may has well used their guns, with the mere fact of having that condition possibly making having the asthmatic condition a death sentence.

Moving on, tear gas has also been linked to numerous deaths around the world. As an aside, along with the gas itself being dangerous and in some cases, lethal, if inhaled for a prolonged period of time, the canister containing the gas can hilariously also be lethal in its own right as it is often fired at high speed into a crowd with little regard for where it’s going to land.

As for other surprisingly lethal “non-lethal” weapons, both tasers and stun guns have been linked to hundreds of deaths in the U.S. alone since their introduction. On this one, there have been several reports showing the use of high voltage stun guns, like the Taser, (known in the medical world as electronic control devices (ECD’s) can occasionally cause cardiac arrest. Arguably, the most famous of such reports was published on April 20, 2012 in the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation.  In it, Dr. Douglas Zipes, at the Indiana University School of Medicine, reports on cases involving loss of consciousness by people who had ECD’s used on them.  His conclusion was;

ECD stimulation can cause cardiac electrical capture and provoke cardiac arrest due to ventricular tachycardia/ventricular fibrillation. After prolonged ventricular tachycardia/ventricular fibrillation without resuscitation, asystole develops.

As you might expect, when Dr. Zipes published his paper, there was a large amount of controversy surrounding the topic.  After all, it was long reported by manufacturers of ECD’s that their products were non-lethal, with these entities generally stating something to the effect that while the voltage associated with their use was high (usually between 20,000 and 150,000 volts), the amperage (around 3 milliamps) was too low to cause any permanent damage.

Law enforcement professionals were even sometimes instructed to use the devices on themselves before they were qualified to use them on the public.  Cops everywhere thus began laughing at any new-guy that had to be qualified on the weapon.

In any event, in the report, Dr. Zipes was able to show that certain people are more susceptible to having this high voltage/low amperage electricity cause cardiac problems, such as those that have structural heart diseases, are taking medications or drugs that leave the heart irritable and susceptible to external stimulation, and those exposed to long or repeated shocks by an ECD.

Placement of a ECD’s darts was also a contributing factor.  For any electrical impulse to capture a muscle, it must cross through that muscle.  This is why you see defibrillator paddles and pads being placed on either side of the heart when a doctor or paramedic attempts to externally shock a patient.  If a person had the ECD’s darts land on their chest, they are at greater risk of having that electricity pass through the hearts muscle. Dr. Zipes states the question isn’t if ECD’s can cause cardiac arrest, but how often it happens.

As a result of this paper, clinical data and animal studies, some ECD manufacturers have changed their stance on the non-lethal nature of their products.

Law enforcement officials from around the world have taken notice and begun to change their policies on the use of ECD’s.  For instance, in September of 2012, the Cincinnati Police Department changed its rules mandating, “Frontal shots are prohibited except in situations of self-defense or defense of another.”   Most who have changed their policies are quick to point out that ECD’s protect and save countless lives every day.  The numbers of those saved drastically outweigh any risk associated with using the devices.

Of course, beyond heart complications on this one (and indeed some of the other non-lethal weapons), it’s also noted that some deaths and serious injury occur from otherwise healthy individuals falling and hitting their head or the like. Again the exact number of deaths caused by such weapons are hard to discern as police and military agencies don’t tend to make this information public, if they even record it at all, but a 2017 investigation by Reuters found that when it comes to getting zapped, over a thousand Americans have been killed by tasers alone since their widespread adoption by police in 2000.

Amnesty International more or less agrees with in the ballpark of this number. For those advocating for stun guns, it should, again, be noted that, depending on which publication you read, ECD’s are said to have saved around 75,000 lives and reduce the risk of injury to those the devices have been used on by approximately 60%. With many noting the issue is perhaps not the devices themselves, but that occasionally those wielding them treat them a little too cavalierly as “non-lethal”, something, again, many agencies are rectifying by better training for those given the devices to use.

And this, of course, goes with all non-lethal weapons. While not nearly as innocuous as manufacturers occasionally present them as being, they still can be valuable tools when used in specific situations where their use is warranted and the availability of this tool is superior in safety to more extreme tools that would have otherwise needed to be deployed. The controversy, of course, tends to come when they are used in situations where an even lesser tool, perhaps even just de-escalating words, may have been warranted had the individual using the non-lethal weapon properly considered the danger of using said slightly misnamed tool.

On the note of terminology, it should come as no surprise that labeling a weapon as non-lethal does not necessarily require the thing be non-lethal. For example, it is the official stance of the United States Department of Defence that there is no obligation for weapons classified as being non-lethal to have “a zero probability of producing fatalities or permanent injuries”- an idea that is reiterated in the official literature of other governments who utilise non-lethal weapons we consulted.

Thankfully, for those of us who are a bit obsessed with semantics, it has become common practise among many agencies to refer to things like rubber bullets and tasers not as “non-lethal weapons” but as “less than lethal” weapons in acknowledgment of the fact they can absolutely cause serious injury, though still giving the implication that they won’t cause death.

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy our new popular podcast, The BrainFood Show (iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, Feed), as well as:

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The post How Dangerous are Rubber Bullets and Stun Guns? appeared first on Today I Found Out.

from Today I Found Out
by Karl Smallwood - May 12, 2022 at 11:43AM
Article provided by the producers of one of our Favorite YouTube Channels!