Friday, March 12, 2004/ Issue
No. 34/ © 2004 by Andreas Ohrt
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week: Science Studies Near-Death
Towards the Light: One in ten cardiac-arrest patients report
"near-death experiences". Now a large-scale study
aims to find out what's going on.
Sees Light at End of Death's Tunnel: The existence of an
afterlife is a mystery that has plagued religion, philosophy
and psychology since their conception - until now.
Immortality: One of the most controversial interpretations
of the many-worlds theory of quantum mechanics implies that
a conscious being, once alive, can never cease to exist.
Scientist: Power of the Paranormal
week's edition of New Scientist (cover date March 13, 2004)
includes a special feature titled "Power of the Paranormal".
Unfortunately, these articles are not yet available on the web
(I will pass them on to you as soon as they are posted) but you
might like to head down to the magazine shop to see the latest
scientific thinking in this arena.
are the stories in this week's New Scientist:
ON THE EDGE OF THE KNOWN WORLD
Why are we no nearer to knowing whether paranormal powers exist?
POWER OF BELIEF
Believers in the paranormal are more likely to get good experimental
results. Some say this is the ultimate proof; others that it
is a fatal flaw.
The better the evidence for ESP gets, the harder opponents dig
in their heels.
Towards The Light
Jeanette Atkinson was 18 years old she was admitted to hospital
with deep-vein thrombosis and seven pulmonary embolisms. At
9pm, Jeanette remembers the light changing, and she had the
sensation of floating out of her body, down the ward and past
the nurse station. The light changed again, and she found herself
entering a long black tunnel. "It was turning like a corkscrew
and at the bottom of this tunnel were these most fantastic lights,
just like a child's kaleidoscope," she recalls. "I
was going towards these lights and it was wonderful, it was
peaceful, and then all of a sudden, a voice said to me: 'Come
on you silly old cow, it's not your turn yet.' And I was back
in my body. Back in pain, with a crash team round me. I don't
remember anything else after that."
had a strange but by no means unique experience. As many
as one in 10 patients who recover from cardiac-arrest report
a near-death experience (NDE), a term that came into common
use in 1975 after the American physician, Raymond Moody, published
the seminal book on NDE, Life after Life. It sold more than
13 million copies. Everyone wanted proof of eternity, and Moody
seemed to supply it. Since then, much of the excitement has
waned. People have made up their minds: either they believe
NDE to be real, or they think it's just New Age mumbo jumbo;
opinions have become entrenched. Nevertheless, serious scientific
research has been going on in the USA, the UK and Holland.
the UK, Dr Sam Parnia, of Southampton University, and Dr Peter
Fenwick, a neuropsychiatrist, are about to embark on a large-scale
study that will, among other things, look at the phenomenon
of out-of-body experience (or, to use the medical parlance,
"veridical perception"). They will place objects out
of the line of sight of cardiac patients and ask them to report
on what they saw during their out-of-body experience. Smaller
studies have so far proved inconclusive. Dr Parnia and Dr Fenwick's
study will cover at least a dozen hospitals in the UK.
people who have an NDE have reported similar experiences: a
feeling of floating out of the body; a journey through a dark
tunnel; a light at the end of the tunnel; feelings of indescribable
joy, love and peace. Sometimes they meet a supernatural being,
maybe Jesus or Buddha. There may be a reunion with deceased
relatives or friends. There is often a review of their life.
At some point on this journey, they get a strong pull to go
back, because it's not their time yet. These experiences are
fairly consistent, regardless of culture, age or religious conviction.
people have all been dead, in a clinical sense - in other words,
they have no pulse, and their pupils are fixed and don't react
to strong light. Of course, they're not brain dead. There's
no coming back from brain death. So are they really dead? This
has been a bone of contention throughout the whole NDE field.
Surely this is just a dream? An hallucination caused by a brain
starved of oxygen and sugar? But Dr Parnia points to studies
that have shown that during cardiac arrest and advanced cardiac
life support, global brain function ceases. EEG studies have
shown that electrical activity in the brain ceases at least
10 seconds prior to the heart stopping, and doesn't show any
activity for up to two hours after the heart has been started
course, there's nothing to say that these experiences don't
happen during the recovery phase. This is one of the arguments
Dr Parnia wants to verify, by hiding his test objects in places
that are only visible from above. "The key to solving this
mystery lies in the accurate timing of the experiences,"
he says. "If it can be proven that this period of consciousness
has indeed taken place during cardiac arrest, it will have huge
these experiences are transcendental, psychological or physiological
is still open to debate. What is certain, however, is that NDEs
are life- changing. "I don't fear death any more,"
says Jeanette. "For me, death is a progression of life.
You go on to somewhere better."
first near-death experience was more real than ordinary life,"
says Dr Blackmore. "You feel as though you've woken up
for the first time and that this is real and ordinary life isn't.
But good science will explain those experiences to people and
help them to value them, without making false leaps into paranormal
Dr Parnia and Dr Fenwick may never prove that the mind is separate
from the brain, but even if they don't, their study could provide
other benefits: "We may also be able to discover the biochemical
pathways that convey the sense of joy that accompanies NDEs,
and in so doing harness their power to treat patients with severe
depression," says Dr Parnia.
the full article here: The
technology the U.S. Government almost banned!
messaging is powerful. In fact,
subliminal messages were almost
banned by the
U.S. Government in the 70's, stating
"give individuals too much
of an edge".
the power of subliminal messaging:
Sees Light At End Of Death's Tunnel
By Sarah Stanton
Arizona Daily Wildcat
existence of an afterlife is a mystery that has plagued
religion, philosophy and psychology since their conception
- until now.
seven years, Gary Schwartz, a UA professor and director
of the Center for Frontier Medicine in Biofield Science,
has been conducting afterlife experiments and research
that he believes prove the survival of human consciousness
you look at the totality of the data, the simplest and
most parsimonious explanation that accounts for the
largest amount of data is the survival of consciousness
hypothesis," he said.
experiments are performed in a lab with a medium, a
sitter and Schwartz. A medium is someone who believes
that he or she can communicate with the dead, and a
sitter is a person who wishes to gain knowledge about
a deceased loved one.
medium receives messages from the dead and then relays
them to the sitter, who tells Schwartz if the information
is correct or incorrect. These messages can include
the deceased's cause of death, memories that include
the deceased and the sitter and "signs" for
the sitter that indicate the deceased is around him
the experiment, Schwartz analyzes the data and determines
the accuracy of the medium's reading.
this process, he rules out information that the medium
got about the deceased before the experiment or that
the medium got with clues from the sitter. Schwartz
also rules out any information that may have involved
cheating or fraud.
the UA, Schwartz is also performing experiments to determine
the nature of the afterlife. In this research, the medium
asks the deceased a series of 30 questions, including,
"Where are you? What do you see? Do you sleep?
Do you have sex?"
says the data from these experiments are "extremely
interesting," but more data needs to be collected
before any conclusions can be drawn.
acknowledges that it can be difficult for people to
believe that consciousness survives death, and that
mediums can communicate with the dead.
have something called 'PESD,' or Post-Education Stress
Disorder. I was taught throughout school that this stuff
is impossible, and I think a lot of other people were
too. But how much data do you have to see before you
accept a new vision?" Schwartz said. "The
psychology department is to be commended for honoring
academic freedom and for allowing science to function
as it's meant to function, which is allowing the data
to speak for itself."
Quantum immortality is the name for the speculation
that the Everett many-worlds interpretation of
quantum mechanics implies that a conscious being
cannot cease to be. The idea is highly controversial.
idea comes from a variant of the quantum suicide
thought experiment. Suppose a physicist standing
beside a nuclear bomb detonates it. In almost
all parallel universes, the nuclear explosion
will vaporize the physicist. However, there is
a small set of alternate universes in which the
physicist somehow survives. The idea behind quantum
immortality is that the physicist is only alive
in, and thus able to experience, one of the universes
in which a miraculous survival occurs, even though
these universes form a small subset of the possible
universes. In this way, the physicist would appear,
from a personal point of view, to be living forever.
There are some parallels in this with the anthropic
people regard this idea as nonsense, and argue
that this outcome does not fall out naturally
from the many worlds interpretation of quantum
mechanics. They say that in the vast majority
of universes, the physicist would cease to exist
and therefore the most likely experience of a
physicist standing next to a nuclear explosion
would be the experience (or lack of experience)
of ceasing to exist. The counterargument to this
is that lack of experience is not itself an experience.
critics argue that the continuity of consciousness,
and the possibility of it enduring forever, are
actually assumptions in this scenario, and ones
with no physical basis. They also claim that the
logic of the thought experiment would suggest
that a conscious observer can never become unconscious,
and therefore can never sleep. A counterargument
to this is that there may indeed be parallel universes
in which one never falls asleep; however, the
subset of universes in which this happens is vanishingly
small compared to the subset of universes in which
one falls asleep and later wakes up again. Therefore,
given the assumption that consciousness will continue,
it is far more likely to continue into the latter
set than into the former.
of the idea point out that while it is highly
speculative, there is nothing in the notion of
quantum immortality that violates the known laws
quantum immortality is motivated by the quantum
suicide experiment, Max Tegmark, one of the inventors
of the quantum suicide thought experiment has
stated that he does not believe that quantum immortality
is a consequence of his work. His argument is
that under any sort of normal conditions, before
someone completely ceases to exist they undergo
a period of non-quantum decline (which can be
anywhere from seconds to minutes to years), and
hence there is no way of establishing a continuous
existence from this world to an alternate one
in which the person continues to exist. However,
the idea of a "non-quantum decline"
has no basis in any known laws of physics.
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